On a Friday in mid-summer, Kate Ross sat in her office on the third floor of the A&A building Googling tech problems and editing photos while listening to CKDU 88.1 FM. The masters students had left for the day, and the building was mostly empty. Moments later, she was summoned to a meeting in the director’s office. There, she was informed her services were no longer required.
Ross was a well-known journalism tech assistant at King’s and somewhat of a notorious figure in the quad – with hundreds of pairs of glasses, dozens of refurbished bikes and extensive knowledge of Apple products. That day, she was let go as a part of King’s “restructuring.”
Rock n’ roll. Deal with it. This is where we’re heading, folks.
The King’s so-called “restructuring” is a short-sighted hatchet job.
The most visible signs I’ve noticed:
1)Journalism tech assistant mysteriously let go
2)Printed version of the Halifax Commoner newspaper torpedoed, and with it the popularity of the upper-year journalism print workshop
3)The sale of a property owned by the school
4)The end of the line for the registrar and at least two communications staff.
None of these stand out on their own, but combined with the formation of the “College Task Force,” the poorly named “Strategic Plan” and disturbing annual financial reports, one thing is clear: enjoy King’s while it’s still an independent (sort of) institution.
I had to laugh when the school of journalism booted Kate Ross. On one hand, the school promotes “digital journalism” and on the other it cuts ties one of the most tech savvy employees it has… I mean, had.
Ross was not a journalist by trade. Despite not being classified as an instructor, she taught classes in photography, coding, and print and web design. Ross was one of a handful of journalism staffers who is proficient in skills needed for 21st century journalism.
King’s hired a replacement with a similar name, occupying the same office and a disturbingly similar role. This replacement graduated with a bachelor degree from the journalism school in 2013, just over a year before she was hired to replace Kate Ross.
This signifies where we are headed: cut costs and pretend nothing has changed.
The fact that King’s still offers a print journalism workshop is baffling. It’s an injustice to charge students to take a six-week course in a dead medium that they’d be wise to avoid. For the past few years, it went on as it always has, until this Fall when the 2015 graduating class abstained from ludditry (at least for one semester).
Finally, students were smart enough to know they were being had. Unfortunately, the multi-talented professor Dean Jobb – recognized for expertise in journalism, law and history – saw his role change from educator to recruiter. Yes, a full-time King’s prof and author of two widely used journalism textbooks was sent on the road to recruit any rubes foolish enough to consider a journalism degree in this day and age. I’m sad I didn’t get an invite to one of these spectacles.
Jobb should’ve been reassigned to another teaching or research role where his skills could have been utilized. Instead he spent six weeks re-enacting a Bob Seger song.
Jobb’s print workshop had no chance. My opinion is that it was torpedoed as a cost-cutting measure. The workshop must have ran a significant deficit from printing a newspaper, so I’m sure someone was quite happy no one signed up.
Oh wait, in the Fall, it was announced that the ‘print’ workshop would not be printing anything. That’s right. King’s expected students to sign up for a workshop where the finished product was something akin to a make-believe newspaper, while their colleagues broadcast actual radio and TV shows and publish articles online. This seems too foolish to be true, yet this is where we’re headed.
It’s mysterious that Ross was previously the assistant in the not-to-be printed workshop, back in the days when it was printed (up to 2014).
I’m not a mathematician, but to me, the solution was simple: offer the print workshop in one semester, instead of both, and actually print a paper. That’s half of the production cost.
As the print workshop returned in January from the Fall hiatus, Ross’ non-replacement-replacement seems to be assisting Jobb’s reincarnated web-only newspaper on a regular basis.
And the house went up for sale.
In the fall King’s rid itself of 6305 Coburg Road at nearly $100,000 below the assessed value of the property, records show.
Once again, I’m not a mathematician, but two things stand out:
1) Real estate that can be rented to students, close to a university, should be worth more, not less, than the assessed value
2) It’s never a positive sign when an organization liquidates capital assets that can be used as a revenue-generating asset (for example, as Dalhousie University has, offering off-campus housing).
Sure, the house goes a long way in balancing the $1.1-million deficit earlier this year. More must be done to make a lasting financial effect on the budget crisis.
Cutting the registrar likely helped.
Elizabeth Yeo and her $120,000 salary is no more.
The details of her departure are cloudy at best. She is said to be pursuing academic interests, but this too doesn’t pass the smell test. Why ditch a lucrative job with status and a chance to travel for more schooling?
Yeo will not be replaced. Her job will be split up between her former underlings and others. Those staff will not be in line to replace the now-amalgamated position.
But this is where we’re headed.
It’s only a matter of time, I believe, until nearly all of the financial and administrative services are folded or turned over to Dal.
Play Harry Potter and listen to the choir while you still can.
Food and residence may still make money for King’s, but Dal may need the beds. Soon we could see the quad have a new landlord.
I predict in 10 years, King’s will still be called King’s. The school will offer some of the same courses, yet will be little more than a department of Dal. That department will have the Dalhousie Student Union (God help us) and lack in-house administration, the Blue Devils, separate facility services, residences and dining hall – and several professors we all love.
Even tenure is not the Divine Right of King’s. That can be revoked.
In one year, the school is well on its way to being a shadow without consequence. This is where we’re heading.
Philosophers and journalists of the quad unite (if you’re not too busy).