Educational institute or financial enterprise?
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 10:10
This week I was made to consider a notion which I have long suggested to other students, but which the vast majority of the student body seems to be entirely unaware of. While I generally make an attempt at keeping these ideas within a small portion of the population, given some recent events I think it is probably worthwhile to bring them to the forefront; a discussion of the educational versus the financial purposes of Brock University.
I am sure that for those that are reading this you will immediately side with the former and attempt to build a case based around the fact that you are taking courses, you’re getting an education (a separate and oft debatable point) with the ultimate purpose to build yourself into a more informed, intelligent, critical and actively engaged citizen. While I can assure you that those core principles, which the administration would have you believe are the driving force behind the University, are far more of an ideology than a reality.
In a meeting a few weeks past, for an entirely different purpose, an issue was raised by several faculty members that although the enrollment for the spring and summer semesters is increasing, many courses will not be offered because they are not ‘financially viable’. Despite the fact that this is a position of advocacy adopted by BUSU on behalf of students and the fact that students want this, the simple fact remains that if the revenue does not outweigh the expenditures it will not be an avenue worth pursuing. It is worth noting that a discussion of a break even was mentioned though not considered as it needs to be an investiture that is guaranteed to turn a profit.
This leads to my second example, the structure of lecture versus seminar. I am sure that most of you have noticed a couple shifts in course structure take place over the last few years, and if you haven’t then allow me to inundate you with some observations and experiences of my own. Overall, many courses have done away entirely with seminars, and instead replaced them with three hour lectures, as a way of cutting costs. More importantly if you look closely at your syllabuses you will notice that there are far fewer sources for marks and grading than there have been previously. The reason is simple: the fewer assignments there are, the fewer that need marking. This means less hours are required to mark student submissions and thus far less marking staff. I find myself currently enrolled in two second year courses which have three sources for marks: midterm, final paper and the exam. Now, do you believe that as a student you are going to receive constructive feedback that you can use from one assignment to the next in that course? Tell me that as a student, less feedback, less interaction with your peers and professors is all for your ‘educational’ benefit.
The ultimate goal here should not be misunderstood to be a critique of the system. While that would be favourable, this is far too short of an article; this is merely a recommendation that students not be under any illusions as to what the fundamental priority is of post-secondary academic institutions like Brock. It is revenue generation, it is balancing budgets, it is being financially viable. University is about my favourite phrase “Maximizing Profits and Minimizing Losses”; if it were about education, we as a society would stand up and find a way to make it free.