You may have heard the news already that the University of Guelph is closing two of its regional campuses, Kemptville and Alfred. (If you haven’t, here’s the press release from the University). Both are located in Eastern Ontario, focusing on equine and agriculture studies, as well as mechanical and diesel programs. You can’t find these programs at any other college or university campus, not to mention the fact that the Alfred campus is the only Francophone agricultural campus in Ontario.
The announcement that these campuses are closing is devastating to the agricultural community, especially young people in Eastern Ontario. The next closest place to study agriculture is here at Guelph, though only degree programs are offered, not college-level diploma. For that, you have to go all the way to Ridgetown – at least a 9 hour drive between there and Alfred. Not to mention that these campuses don’t have the same facilities that Kemptville and Alfred does. Each campus has its own specific resources, but not every campus has the same one. I have a hard time imagining where the horses from Kemptville can be boarded in Ridgetown or Guelph.
Besides the awful loss to the ag community, I think the worst part about this whole thing is that a lot of people don’t understand why closing these campuses is a bad thing. Just from the conversation generated on Facebook, a lot of urbanites see this as a cost-saving measure, which is how the University is framing it. Some courses are duplicated between the regional campuses and Guelph. This has been remedied, though, by relocating the BBRM program to main campus for all 4 years (a move seemingly unrelated to the campus closings). Also, it’s been reported that Kemptville costs over $4 million to run each year, and Alfred is $2 million, while not bringing in enough money to be economically sustainable. To a person just looking at the numbers, it seems like a good idea to close the campuses in the eastern part of the province.
To a person who knows the importance of these campuses, however, it’s not about the money at all. These campuses offer a degree of higher education to those in rural area, with an agricultural background, that they might not have had at a university level. There are no substitutes for the programs or facilities at Kemptville or Alfred, and they won’t be created anytime soon – especially if the University is trying to save money. There is going to be a huge gap in agricultural education in young people because of these closings. There are rumours of trying to relocate to existing colleges elsewhere, but these things take a long time. There will only be more young people in Eastern Ontario without these options with each year that passes.
My only hope is that the University of Guelph understands what its done and works to stop these closures from moving forward. It seems that the university has forgotten its agricultural roots, and this decision is hurting the young farmers that we need. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
EDIT: There has been a petition created by Steve Clark, MPP of Leeds-Grenville, where Kemptville College is located. This petition is to ask Premier Kathleen Wynne, also the Minister of Agriculture and Food, to reverse the University’s decision to close Kemptville and Alfred. If you’d like to sign it, you can find it here.
Keep Calm and Farm On,
Emma — The Suburban Aggie