Friends of NSCAD

NSCAD Plan Update and Government Response – Karin Cope (Friends of NSCAD) and Marilyn More (NDP Gov’t) on CBC Radio



Friends of NSCAD denounce “impossible” new demands set by Provincial Government on NSCAD University

A recent letter from the provincial government makes a new set of demands on NSCAD that appear to be designed to make it significantly harder for Canada’s most renowned and venerable arts university to survive as an independent degree-granting institution. In fact, the Nova Scotia government appears to be shifting the nature of its demands on the cash-strapped university from deficit reduction to debt elimination. Faculty member Gary Markle was quick to point out that “the NDP government itself would fall on such a requirement, as would most other governments, businesses and households. We don’t know why they seem so intent on destroying an institution that is a global leader in its field.”

Dated 10 January 2013, the government’s “NSCAD Deficit Funding Support Letter” promises funds to cover NSCAD’s operating deficit for the current year of $1.364 million in exchange for a) elimination of the cost of servicing the debt, b) a promise to investigate closer “collaboration” with other universities and, c) by 15 March, the submission of a new 3-5 year financial plan.

The letter goes on to spell out several additional terms that the new March 15 NSCAD plan must include. These terms seem to the Friends of NSCAD to point towards several difficult, or even impossible-to-survive scenarios, including the following:

1. Selling the Granville Campus in order to raise funds to retire the debt, despite the fact that this move will do away with many university offices and classrooms, while failing to eliminate the debt;
2. Reducing requirements for space, equipment and salaries by eliminating already stressed departments, faculties, technicians and programs, thereby further reducing the university’s offerings and assets;
3. Merging in all but name with Dalhousie or St. Mary’s (a move that typically results in loss of programs and degree-granting status for the smaller party);
4. “A formal commitment by the NSCAD Board,” by March 15, to abide by items 1-3, and “to fully implement them,” despite the fact that the government itself has funded feasibility studies for some of these undertakings that will not yet be completed;
5. Raising funds by levying additional new fees on some of Nova Scotia’s least well-off students, while reducing educational resources and opportunities available to them.
(Detailed explanations of these terms, and facts and figures regarding each scenario are included in a document appended to this one and entitled “NSCAD Deficit Funding Letter Explained.”)

“The government seems intent on killing NSCAD,” said Friends of NSCAD spokesperson, Karin Cope. “After encouraging us to relocate some of our facilities to the Port, they are now penalizing us for the debt that move incurred. But all levels of government need to recognize the degree to which NSCAD furthered provincial, private, metro and Port Authority interests by creating and maintaining vibrant, populated, safe regions in the downtown. Surely we can find a way to quantify this vital service to all levels of government and private enterprises, and together, sort out how NSCAD might retire its debt.”

Max Haiven, a post-doctoral fellow at Department of Art and Public Policy at New York University who also teaches at NSCAD, agreed: “The provincial government can ensure Nova Scotia’s place as an important player in an emerging global economy in which the arts and education play a significant part, or it can ensure that Nova Scotia is increasingly identified, nationally and internationally, with backwardness, a pollution economy, and shortsighted ventures. Unfortunately they seem to be doing the latter. They could, however, take the lead in developing new opportunities for art, craft and design in Nova Scotia.”

“BC just allocated $113 million towards a new campus for Emily Carr University, as part of an overall strategy to build the arts and creative sectors of the BC economy,” Dr. Haiven continued. “As BC Premier Christy Clark has argued, ‘the world has changed. And not only can you make a living with a degree in fine arts, we need people with a fine arts background if we are going to succeed and achieve as a country.’”

“Why doesn’t the Premier of Nova Scotia understand this, and support, rather than destroy the wealth he has in his back yard? NSCAD is already one of the world’s great institutions for the arts.”

The Friends of NSCAD call on the provincial NDP to reverse its course and recognize and support the critical and creative edge that NSCAD offers Nova Scotia. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors to NSCAD University bring to the table a profound and well-educated understanding of the role and processes of creativity in building the economy of both the present and the future. It is time to enhance and build upon this expertise, not dismantle it.

The Friends of NSCAD is an ad hoc group formed in 2011 in support of a strong, independent and sustainably funded NSCAD. The group, which counts thousands of members, consists of alumni, students, faculty, staff, creative professionals and concerned members of the public.


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