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Vancouver Island University board approves cancellation of music programs

Bachelor of music degree programs and jazz diploma program cut, some electives may still be offered
Vancouver Island University. (News Bulletin file photo)

The music is fading out at Vancouver Island University.

At a meeting at the Nanaimo campus on Thursday, May 23, VIU’s board of governors approved a senate proposal to cancel the bachelor of music in jazz studies, bachelor of music classical transfer programs and the jazz studies diploma program.

The university has faced financial challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a $9-million budget deficit in 2024-25. In an e-mail statement, Michael Quinn, VIU provost and vice-president academic, acknowledged the programs received much community support since word of potential cancellation; however, VIU is obligated to be fiscally responsible as a publicly funded university.

“These are difficult but necessary decisions that reflect a move towards VIU’s financial sustainability and ability to continue to offer programs that meet the demand and interests of our students and the regional workforce,” Quinn said.

The music classical transfer program has not added students since 2013, and new students haven’t been admitted to the bachelor of jazz studies since 2021, he noted, and the decision on the programs was “administrative housekeeping.” Further, enrolment for the jazz diploma was not enough “to warrant the starting a new program during times of fiscal constraint.”

“Cancellation of these programs does not mean the end of all music instruction at VIU,” Quinn said. “We will continue to explore opportunities to offer music courses as electives, including for education students interested in becoming music teachers.”

Sasha Koerbler, VIU music department chairperson, said good questions were raised to administration during the lengthy deliberation, but answers weren’t provided. She thought it seemed that the board might send the plan back to the drawing board, but ultimately governors decided on cancelling the programs.

Koerbler didn’t feel the department was heard.

“I’m disappointed about the decision. We all are…” she said. “We can’t believe that something like that could even happen.”

Koerbler is hopeful music classes will still be available at the university and she continues to believe that musical degrees and diplomas are beneficial.

“We will not be able to educate professionals anymore who are needed in high schools to teach music, to teach music bands, to teach choir,” she said. “You need a degree in music for that.”

She pointed to an alumnus who teaches band in Ladysmith and couldn’t find a suitable substitute on sick days.

“You can’t be sick, right?” said Koerbler. “If you are, your [students] will watch documentaries instead. They’ll do no music, because there’s nobody else to step in and do it.”

She added that it is unfortunate that jazz at VIU will cease considering that program’s history at the institution.

“It took a long time for jazz to reach the academia,” said Koerbler. “Officially, McGill was the first university, in 1981, to offer a four-year degree. By that time, Malaspina was doing it here as an associate diploma, a two-year degree. To eliminate this contribution … to me is unconscionable.”

VIU anticipates there will be five students in music programs at the end of the summer and the university is committed to helping those students reach their academic goals.

RELATED: VIU music dept. asks ‘why us?’ as cancellation pondered

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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