Budget cuts lead to loss of TAs

Provincial cuts, enrolment decline affect tutorials and markers as well

Shonara Gibson is studying for her third-year Spanish class in the free tutoring office. (Photo: Celina Ip)

For Dalhousie students learning Spanish this year, there will be: no more tutorials, no more TAs and no more markers.

Jessica Burrage is a second-­year student studying nursing. She took Spanish classes last year and is continuing to learn the language this year. She was confused when she saw no tutorials marked on her schedule.

“I loved having tutorials last year, I was actually wondering why we didn’t have them this year. I think it’s helpful to have any more opportunities to speak in Spanish because we live in an English province so we can’t really speak the language outside of class so much,” said Burrage.

The tutorials were part of cuts this year that included the elimination of more TAs and markers in the many departments.

The Spanish department at Dalhousie and all other departments within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have received many cuts this year. These reductions and many others are outlined in the report of the university’s Budget Advisory Committee for the 2013-2014 year. These cuts were put in place following a  3 per cent reduction in provincial funding. Funding received through students’ tuition has also decreased as enrollment to this faculty has continued to decline over the years. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences had a 4.1 per cent decrease in enrollment from 2011/2012 to 2012/2013. This was the largest decline compared to all other faculties.

In order to compensate for this shortage in funding, the Budget Advisory Committee decided it was necessary to make these cuts.

“It’s understandable that the university would say, well, less money should be distributed to that faculty. What the university decides to do with the money is completely a political choice,” said Katherine Fierlbeck, the chair of the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies.

Now, students taking Spanish classes will no longer have those extra 10 hours per term that tutorials offered.

Three hundred students are registered in the introductory first-year course and as many as 60 are enrolled in other first-year and upper-year courses. But these enrollment numbers are just not high enough for the university to put funding towards tutorials.

So without these extra hours of practice, students have to find other ways to compensate.

One service that has been helpful to students is the free tutoring service facilitated by volunteers from the Spanish Society and students from the experiential learning course. It is offered for a few hours every Monday to Friday.  Students will receive help with grammar but not the exposure to the language and opportunity to learn about the culture that they received from the tutorials.

“A large proportion of costs rests in faculty salaries so these are costs that can’t really be changed,” said Fierlbeck. “The only thing that we can eliminate are workers who are on a contractual basis: TAs, markers, LTAs.”