By Graham Slaughter
The Ontario government has announced they will add 42,000 students to universities and colleges this year by building more classroom spaces.
However, Ryerson received this funding last year for 319 more spots — less than one per cent of the new spaces.
Ryerson received $16 million last year through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. Ryerson’s closest neighbour, the University of Toronto, got $151 million – more than nine times Ryerson’s share. York University was given $35 million.
Ryerson used this money last year for renovations to the Image Arts building.
York and the University of Toronto’s projects will each open up about 1,670 spaces in new science buildings — five times more than Ryerson’s allotted spots.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy couldn’t confirm the 319 new spots, saying that Ryerson asked the government for around 2, 000.
“You’d think that just on balance, we would be in a good position because we’re in the GTA obviously, where the growth is, and we have the highest demand for number of places available of any university in Ontario,” said Levy.
“This is a continuing investment in Ryerson’s infrastructure,” said Tyler Charlebois, a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Training, colleges and universities.
Charlebois said, “If there’s a discrepancy between the numbers it’s because [the ministry of training, colleges and universities] has said we’ll fund 319, and Ryerson is opening up more.”
Robert Marshall, an instructor in politics and public administration, thinks the government invested less in Ryerson because of the university’s reputation as a polytechnic institute, and the government’s interest in creating science-based jobs.
“U of T and York are bigger schools with stronger and longer traditions and history of doing research,” said Marshall.
But Levy says that the science program is what Ryerson is interested in expanding.
“It’s no secret, we want to build the faculty of science, which is in the academic plan. But both the operating and the capital will have to be there in order for us to be able to do that,” he said.
In an email to the Eyeopener, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty briefly explained that increasing enrolment will “help Ontario meet the demands of the new economy. “
Liana Salvador, vice president education for the Ryerson Student’s Union, referred to this announcement as an “optical illusion” because Ryerson cashed in on the funding last year.
“They’re repeating stuff we already knew,” said Salvador.
A government press release on Dec. 27, outlined how boosting enrolment would make “a high quality education more accessible than ever,” but Salvador disagrees.
“When you’re considering going to a university, you don’t consider the buildings on campus. You think about whether or not you can afford it,” she said.
But Levy says that these are two different issues.
The funding that the government is discussing is to help additional students who want to attend post secondary.
“The funding that we’re talking about is necessary to increase the number of students that have an opportunity to attend post secondary,” Levy said.
Rather than revamping buildings and adding students, Pamela Palmater, an associate professor of politics and public administration, thinks Ryerson needs to invest in the people at the front of the class — the professors.
“You can’t put the cart before the horse,” said Palmater.
“You can’t add students and hire professors later. You need to do that up front.”
Marianna Angotti, a second-year film student who sits on the image arts course union, agrees.
“If they’re increasing enrolment, I`d like to see them consider hiring international faculty to better represent the multiculturalism of Toronto,” she said.
She said she hopes that the new spots won’t affect the unique professor-student relationship that results from small class sizes.
“It’s a really tight knit group and I don’t think it would stay that way if the start accepting more and more students,” said Angotti.
Photo: Lindsay Boeckl