Canada: Gatineau university threatens to cancel English courses

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jan 12 17:02:45 UTC 2007

Gatineau university threatens to cancel English courses

Written by Marlee Wasser
Thursday, 11 January 2007

Many members of the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais community in
Gatineau are fighting an administrative policy proposal to ban courses in
English, calling it a backward step for the institution. Jan Saint-Macary,
head of the schools MBA program in financial services offered in English
and French said such a move would go against the schools mandate as a
member of the Universite du Quebec system.

He said the university shares the systems mission, as stated on its
website, to fight against exclusion. It goes against the evolution of
Quebec society, said Brian Gibb, director of the Regional Association of
West Quebecers. Its a huge step backwards, back into the 1970's. The policy
proposal, outlined on the university's website, would not prohibit the use
of a language other than French in research projects, studies abroad,
language courses or joint endeavours with other universities. Jean
Vaillancourt, the schools rector, clarified that only programs for credit
conducted in English are targeted for elimination.

The proposal really is geared towards keeping the university open to all
language use in research, international co-operation and the interactions
between the university and the external community, but to tighten up the
offerings in the credited programs, he said. There are currently six such
targeted programs, all at the graduate level and all business-oriented, in
which Vaillancourt said 277 students were enrolled at last count in
November. Each of these programs has a French counterpart. The
university's Board of Directors invited members of the university
community and general public to submit comments on the policy Dec. 14.

The consultation process will end Feb. 16 and Vaillancourt said the board
should finalize an official linguistic policy in the spring. Saint-Macary
criticized the consultation process, calling administrations unwillingness
to take anonymous opinions into consideration and their failure to publish
an English version of the document in question undemocratic. Vaillancourt
said people should feel comfortable expressing themselves in a transparent
and honest manner. He said, however, that those unwilling to have their
name divulged can submit a signed document and request that it not be
posted on the website.

Only the university's Board of Directors and the study commission, both of
which Vaillancourt is a member, would read such comments. An anonymous
comment, really, what value can we give it if we do not know who wrote it
and why? he asked. Vaillancourt added that anyone feeling intimidated by a
member of the board or study commission can speak to him and anyone
feeling intimidated by him can speak to the president of the board. As the
institution is one of several post-secondary schools in Canadas national
capital region, Vaillancourt said the proposed language policy is a first
step in the strategic positioning of the university.

If all the universities are the same and offer the same thing, their
reason to be has to be put in doubt. Whereas if the offerings are
original, the culture is original, if the programs are original, [...]
then you are serving the population well, he said. Vaillancourt added that
Gatineau's taxpayers are better served by an institution offering an
original educational experience. Duplicating what other people do is not a
good way of spending public money, he said. Saint-Macary does not agree
with this line of reasoning. Who wants to go somewhere where you offer
less? he asked.

Then, laughing, he inquired, Who would want to go to a place that says, we
don't put cheese on our pizza, so come here? Theres nothing attractive
about it, its silly. Would you go to a university because they say [they]
don't offer courses in Spanish? Ooh, thats great, let me go there. I don't
want to have any Spanish-speaking people around me. Its silly. How would
that increase the appeal of the university? Saint-Macary said that if the
board approves the policy currently under consultation, it would be a
serious blow to his program. It cuts us off from our environment, which is
on both sides of the [Ottawa] River, with employers, and so on, he said.

Because the university is only 25 years old, Saint-Macary said it is
important for the school to remain visible to a network of employers.
Vaillancourt said students from the French versions of the programs
targeted for elimination have no more trouble finding work of equal
quality than those in English programs.


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