July 13, 2010
This Isn’t Specifically About Books
If you are at all connected to Academia in Toronto, you might have read one or both of these two reports about the University of Toronto’s proposal to amalgamate a number of their programs into one big “School of Languages and Literatures”. We’re told this is some kind of utopian idea which will save $1.5 million while losing nothing but “administrative costs”.
U of T has been amalgamating classes and programs for some time now, and let me tell you what it looks like at ground zero: Fewer classes are offered with higher enrolment caps. Fewer professors teach with the help of more TAs (graduate or, sometimes, keener undergraduate students). Imaginary degrees are offered which you can make up out of classes from diverse departments, but rarely can a cross-disciplinary degree student get space in other-department courses. Money is the problem; no money to hire faculty or run departments so we all have to make do with fewer teachers, bigger classes, and slave-waged TAs and sessionals. What can you do? No money means no money. Right?
I have been an undergraduate at U of T on and off for 11 years now. When I first enrolled in 1999 I took JEF100, “The Western Tradition”. There were, at best, 30 students in my class. I would attend tutorials once a week with 6-10 students. There were many sections of the class available, each taught by a professor aided by at least 1 TA. The school year was 26 weeks long, excluding exams.
This year U of T is offering instead ENG150, “The Literary Tradition”, capped at 480 students. Tutorials will likely be capped at 40 students, and headed by teaching assistants. Two sections are offered, both taught by the same professor who will be assisted by a small army (12-14) TAs. The school year is now 24 weeks.
11 years. This has happened across the Humanities at U of T. There is a book to be written (and there are books being written) about what’s happening to Humanities departments across the Western world, but right now I just have one question: where did the money go? Why, inside of 11 years, has the money directed to a course like JEF100/ENG150 been cut (it looks to me) to a tenth of what it was? Tuition is higher than it was in 1999. Enrollment is up. Where has the money gone? WHERE IS THE MONEY???