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University of Saskatchewan interim president urged to halt budget cuts

SASKATOON - More than 800 students, staff, faculty and alumni at the University of Saskatchewan want the school's interim president to stop budget cuts under an overhaul known as TransformUS.

They say in a letter sent to Gordon Barnhart that there has been little consultation or transparency.

The letter says that a TransformUS committee included only three students, that lead academics have criticized it and that the recent firing of a professor who spoke out against cuts makes the process untrustworthy.

The professor was offered back — and accepted — his tenure position, but he is not being reinstated as head of the School of Public Health.

Barnhart was appointed last week after president Ilene Busch-Vishniac was fired and has said he needs time to review finances before deciding how to move ahead.

The group that started the online letter is asking for a response from Barnhart by June 6 and wants a public meeting soon after that.

"We appreciate that you have stepped into a difficult task and that you are not responsible for the many things that have gone wrong at the University of Saskatchewan," reads the letter from the group that has dubbed itself DefendUS.

"Nevertheless, you have been given the responsibility of leading the University of Saskatchewan at this time. We hope that you will act quickly and decisively to restore the faith and trust of the U of S community and the people of Saskatchewan in U of S leaders."

The university released a plan last month that includes cutting jobs, reorganizing administration and dissolving some programs to try to save about $25 million.

The cuts are part of a bigger goal to address a projected $44.5-million deficit in the school's operating budget by 2016.

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