by The Honourable A. Brian Smith
October 1, 2023
Vancouver Island University Must Explain Why It Is Suspending Elder College Operations
VIU is suspending its support for Elder College as of December 31.
So says a report from CHEK News as reported by Nanaimo.net.
The headline reads :
‘VIU cuts ElderCollege support after 30 years, cites ‘current financial position’
The report goes on to say:
‘VIU’s ElderCollege has over 3,000 students and teachers and offers about 90 courses a semester.’
Interestingly the report states
‘VIU isn’t saying what the savings are by cutting ElderCollege, but Peterson (Elder College Board Chair) says the teachers are volunteers and students pay for courses.
VIU does provide three part-time staff members and some classroom space, but many of the courses are on Zoom.’
This University says on its website”
‘VIU is a public university on the west coast of Canada——-‘
Public means it is being supported by the public —-the taxpayer!
The largest single revenue source in 2022 according to the University’s audited financial statements was from the taxpayer at $72 Million .The second largest was from the students themselves in tuition and fees at $58 million.
So the citizen has a right to know and the University an obligation to be accountable to the public.
Elder College on their website identify as:
‘VIU ElderCollege is world-wide. VIU ElderCollege was established in 1993 with a purpose of providing life-long learning opportunities for people who are 50+ in the communities from Ladysmith to Bowser for the courses held in person, and world-wide for our online courses!
Life-long learning is widely recognized as important to an enriched and stimulating lifestyle and good mental health in today’s rapidly changing world.
VIU ElderCollege is supported by a volunteer Board of Directors. Courses are taught by volunteer instructors with the support of VIU staff and resources.’
Citizens should be demanding a full accounting.
Keeping the information secret as to what money is being saved here and by what means such a decision was made needs to be made public. What other alternatives were considered? Was the Board of Elder College consulted ? The present students?
Given the especially ‘elder’ demographic of the area served by VIU this is especially disturbing.
And the fact that the teachers at Elder are volunteer and all students pay for their courses ?
VIU provides three part-time staff and some space. But many courses are on zoom .
Given these facts , surely in a Public University with a revenue of $150 million annually savings and financial discipline should be possible to ensue Elder College’s continued existence.
Universities preach transparency and accountability and serving the public. This move fails on these measures.
Removing educational opportunities is contrary to the mission of a public university . In order for such a decision to have any meaning and credibility a full public accounting is needed.