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Students Are Fighting Back Against Cuts To The Women’s Studies Program At Mount Allison University

Mount Allison University insists the program is still alive.

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Students at Mount Allison University stood in silent protest Friday after a professor told students the future of the women's and gender studies program is in jeopardy.

Lisa Dawn Hamilton

The program at the small university in New Brunswuck currently has 44 students enrolled. Each of them received an email from associate professor Lisa Dawn Hamilton, who is also the acting director of the program, saying its budget had been cut:

The Dean of Arts informed me today that due to decisions made in the budget process the university has cut the budget for the WGST program next year. This means that, currently, there are no plans to offer any WGST courses in the coming academic year.

The minor is completed by taking four core women's studies course — one per year — in addition to electives. Those classes had been taught by Marie Hammond-Callaghan, but she passed away in November. Without the funding for a new full-time professor to teach those classes, the program can't offer them.

Hamilton suspects the school took the vacant position as an easy target for budget cuts, but now the situation has ballooned into something much larger.

After an uproar on campus — including a petition that has reached more than 6,000 signatures — the school released an "FAQ" webpage addressing the controversy.

The school's FAQ says no final decisions have been made about the program as of yet, though there are "significant budget challenges."

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Students also received a letter from Dean Hans Vanderleest saying the university "has not announced any intention to cut this or any program." Mount Allison has not responded to a request for further information from BuzzFeed Canada.

"The program still exists, yes, but the funding for the program has been cut," Hamilton told BuzzFeed Canada.

As for students currently enrolled in the minor, Hamilton said Vanderleest told her they could fulfill the requirements with courses from outside the program.

"But if you're saying you have that minor, but don't have core feminist theory class, you don't really have the minor," said Hamilton.

Hamilton and her supporters have now created their own website to counter the university's position.

Student and faculty activists outside the #MountAllison board of regents meeting protesting the #WGSTcut

"When I sent the email to students I expected them to complain. I didn’t expect there’d be a petition and all this media attention," said Hamilton.

"I’ve been really impressed with the organization and how impassioned students are about cutting a program — a marginalized program already."

The school has now offered to fund two part-time teachers, but Hamilton is still holding out hope for a full-time staff member.

#MountAllison students protesting the alleged defunding of #WGST

At this point, supporters now think the cuts are no longer just about cost savings.

"I think the finding cuts in themselves aren’t ideological, but the fact that they don’t value this program enough to keep that position is idealogical."

Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

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