Tuesday, October 01, 2013

On Voluntary Severance

The results of the University of Alberta’s Voluntary Severance Program were announced today.  This program offered money (up to twelve months salary) as an incentive for employees to leave the university.  Today it was announced that 121 staff members -- 83 Faculty, Faculty Service Officers, and Librarians, and 38 Administrative Professional Officers – were approved for leaving under the terms of this program.

This has to be one of the darkest days in the University’s history.

A closer examination of the details underlying this news is even more depressing.  My own faculty, Arts, is the worst hit with 30 losses.  A huge amount of experience – in the form of 53 full professors – is leaving the university.  This is expertise that will be nearly impossible to replace, even when the university is in the financial position to do so.

This was a point that I made last April (The Best, the Brightest, and the Alberta Budget).  I argued that the government was mistaken in its belief that it could attract and retain the best and brightest in a climate of reduced funding and of salary restraint.  That earlier blog quoted the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education’s belief that all was well:  “I would be very surprised if any professors are actually seriously thinking of leaving any university in Alberta”.

The news today – only five months after Minister Lukaszuk’s quote above – clearly shows that he was seriously mistaken.  Today one university has lost, in my view, a distressingly large number of staff, including a surprisingly large number of faculty members.

It is particularly disheartening and disturbing to see that 31% of these faculty losses (24 positions) were junior faculty members (assistant or associate professors).  These are individuals who have very productive career years ahead of them.  I wonder how many of these individuals are moving on to positions in other universities that are outside of Alberta. 
Their departure is a clear sign that things are going from bad to worse in Alberta’s postsecondary system.  Their voluntary severance needs to be interpreted as an alarming indicator about the poor state of Albertan universities.  It will certainly viewed as such by anyone outside of the province considering studying or working at one of these institutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment