First-year NSCAD student airs her concerns about the university's uncertain future

First-year, Elizabeth Murley knows about the stresses of university but she didn't expect to be stressed out about her university.

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Elizabeth Murley works on a poster reading, "NS needs NSCAD." She's worried about her university's current money issues and its struggle to remain independent. (Photo: Kelly Graham)

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design student, Elizabeth Murley fears for the future of both her university and her education.

Murley, 19, from Corner Brook, NL, moved to Halifax for the sole purpose of attending NSCAD. She says NSCAD was the best choice for her because of its well-known reputation and its location in Atlantic Canada. 

When researching the university, she found it amazing that students come from as far away as Japan to study with a particular professor. Murley was especially excited to be taught by drawing instructor, Marilyn McAvoy, who drew the lounging image of Rose DeWitt Bukater in the movie Titanic. 

When Murley first applied to NSCAD, she didn't get in but she kept trying. In order to improve, she took some of the university's non-credit night courses. These classes are a part of the NSCAD's extended studies program. 

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You can find many students on NSCAD's campus wearing these. (Photo: Kelly Graham)

"I guess I couldn't have picked a worse year to start attending," Murley says,  "I'm worried that my school won't survive. I'm worried that my school might die."

Her determination paid off when her second application was accepted for this fall. Murley is now in her foundation year and she hopes to go into design. 

Paying for NSCAD's mismanagement

She says NSCAD's current financial problems are terrifying.

"I guess I couldn't have picked a worse year to start attending," Murley says, "I'm worried that my school won't survive. I'm worried that my school might die," she added.

The first year student says she's afraid that tuition might be raised above $7,000 per year in order for the university to balance its budget. Murley currently has a scholarship but worries that she won't be able to afford the tuition when it runs out. She says students shouldn't have to deal with the consequences of the school's deficit.

"We shouldn't have to pay for someone else's problem," she says. "We're already paying enough."

Didn't come to Halifax for a Dal degree

The option of merging with Dalhousie University does not intrigue Murley. She says she's worried class sizes will grow and students will lose one-on-one attention from professors. She says she loves the intimate feeling of her classes. She says she came to Halifax to get a degree from NSCAD - not from Dal.

"Right now we have a really good reputation and I don't think we'll keep that if we merge with somebody else. I hope NSCAD stays independent and I hope that it [will thrive] again," says Murley.

The possibility of strikes

The faculty union at NSCAD which includes professors, librarians and some part-time staff will vote this week on a tentative 18-month deal. Details of the deal have not been made public since it was negotiated on Nov. 11. Other library support staff, technicians and gallery staff are threatening to strike Thursday, Nov. 17. 

Murley says her professors are worried that if a strike happens, students will lose the work they've put into this semester and credit for class. Professors' salaries will likely be cut since they account for 76 per cent of the university's expenses.

If a strike takes place, Murley says the student union will unite with the faculty union. The student union urges students to show support for their professors by not walking across the picket line. The student body is unanimous about standing together with faculty members as one community while maintaining NSCAD's independence.

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