[getsmart-l] The University of Guelph will continue to offer a bachelor of arts in organic agriculture until at least 2014,

John O'Gorman jcogorman at sympatico.ca
Tue Jun 22 12:56:39 EDT 2010

Organic agriculture course survives U of G cuts

Kim Mackrael June 21, 2010 kmackrael at guelphmercury.com  
The University of Guelph will continue to offer a bachelor of arts in organic agriculture until at least 2014, despite not yet meeting a target to register at least 40 students in the major.

Organic agriculture was on a controversial list of programs and majors identified for cuts by the University's Board of Undergraduate Studies last spring, but was given a year-long reprieve to improve enrolment numbers. In February 2010, the Senate extended that reprieve for at least four more years.

Robert Gordon, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, said the program was given more time because the number of students who chose a major in organic agriculture jumped from four to more than 20 in the past year, a trend he believes will continue.

"We recognize these things take time to evolve," he said.

"Our goal now is to continue to grow the numbers and show the relevance and value of the major and what it provides."

Gordon said the school is also working to create more partnerships with industry and other academic institutions to better fund the program. This spring, the school announced a gift of $3 million from grocery store chain Loblaws to establish a research chair in sustainable food production.

But the university has no plans to reconsider the 11 other programs and majors it cut last year, said spokesperson Lori Bona Hunt. She said the cuts are part of an ongoing review of undergraduate education, and target programs with consistently low student enrolment. 

One of the programs cut at that time was women's studies. The decision to eliminate that major drew the ire of hundreds of students, some of whom stormed the university's administrative offices and staged a mock funeral for the program in protest. A Facebook group that was formed last year to denounce the cut still has more than 1,700 members.

Helen Hoy, who teaches English literature and women's studies at the University of Guelph, said the program might have survived if it was given the same opportunity organic agriculture was.

"We would probably have been able to make the same case that organic agriculture did if we were given the year (reprieve)," she said.

"But I think organic agriculture probably seemed more useful to some senators than women's studies."

Hoy and a group of other faculty and students have now turned their attention to developing a proposal to replace the cancelled women's studies program with a critical gender and sexuality major.

In addition to last year's cuts, the university decided this spring to eliminate its rural development and sociology major and cut minors in educational psychology and environmental studies. It will also replace an earth surface science major with environmental geoscience and geomatics. 

At the same time, the school will offer a new co-operative education option to its nanoscience major, and a new graduate diploma in food safety and quality assurance.

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