Canada was heralded as "cool" by a highbrow international magazine a few years ago, but that popularity has dimmed in the ivory towers of the University of Vermont.
The school has yanked funding from its Canadian studies program because interest has sagged in recent years. Only three students at the U of V now major in Canuck.
Faculty members fear the university's Canadian content could soon disappear into the mists of the Green Mountains.
"Symbolically, [the cut] speaks very clearly to the fact that this administration simply doesn't care deeply about the study of Canada on this campus," history professor David Massell said in an interview from the Burlington campus.
Paul Martin, the fittingly named director of Canadian studies, says losing the $35,000 annual allowance will force the program to close its office, shave research assistance and cancel its annual trip to Ottawa.
"That's a heavy loss for us," he said yesterday.
Prof. Martin says the cutback could also spark the Canadian embassy in Washington to chop its annual grant. It awarded $9,500 to the department in 2007.
"As a Canadian who has witnessed the students get so enthusiastic about Canada ... to see the impact that even the small amount of funding that we get has on that whole process, to see that be imperilled, is definitely a personal blow," he said.
The university, meanwhile, says it shut down the administrative centre but the program will live on.
The "the fittingly named director of Canadian studies," Paul Martin, writes the blog As Canadian As Possible... under the circumstances. Martin writes:
Founded in 1964, the University of Vermont's Canadian Studies Program is one of the oldest, most respected programs in North America. It's reputation and long, productive history was what lured me to UVM five years ago and has continued to attract new tenure-track faculty such as Professors Amani Whitfield, Shelly Rayback, and Pablo Bose, all of whom are doing fascinating, cutting-edge research on Canada.
Although the University administration is justifying their cuts to our office with the argument that we only have three majors and two minors in our program and very few connected faculty, this does not accurately reflect the student and faculty involvement in our program. As of 2007-08, we have 10 tenured and tenure-track faculty and three lecturers teaching courses on Canada, and our program today is the strongest it has been in years. In the past year alone, our associated faculty from the departments of History, Geography, Romance Languages, English, Political Science and Anthropology taught 22 courses with either full or partial Canadian content, reaching close to 600 students.
Last year, 65 of our students and 15 Canadian Politics students from Saint Michael's College travelled to Ottawa as part of our legendary, annual field trip to Canada's capital, a trip that has run every year since the mid 1950s. Our program also hosts many high-profile events across campus, such as the visit to campus in October by the Grand Chief of the Council of the Quebec Crees, who spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the Livak Ballroom about the relationship between the Cree and the Governments of Canada and Quebec whose massive hydro projects have flooded traditional lands in order to provide electricity to Quebec and much of New England.
I recall driving by that little building on Main Street in Burlington, long ago, when I was visiting Allan in Vermont. I always thought it was cool to see the Maple Leaf flying, long before I ever dreamed I'd live in Canada. I wish Paul the best of luck.