Volume 96, Issue 62
Tuesday, January 21, 2003

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Science falls on deaf Western ears

By Jordan Bell
Gazette Staff

Bunsen Burners can create intense heat, but unfortunately they can't lay the heat on Western administration.

The Let's Talk Science Partnership Program, a campus organization since 1991, will be unable to continue operating for this semester, and the next academic year, due to the program's inability to secure funding from the university's central office or the individual departments of the faculty of science.

The program is comprised of 42 volunteer graduate students, most of whom are paired-up with 14 elementary and high school teachers in the London area, said co-ordinator Amy Cook. The students conduct a brief lesson on a particular science topic, once per semester or sometimes even once a month, she explained.

In addition, the program undertakes numerous charitable activities, including a yearly excursion to Camp Trillium, a camp devoted to cancer patients, as well as mentorship programs, Cook said.

"It's an extremely important program," Cook said. "It gives students the opportunity to get involved with a science program and the children in the London community a chance to get excited about the science and research going on at Western."

The program is a smaller branch of the national organization Let's Talk Science, based out of London, she said, adding the organization recently attempted to bring funding for the program at Western in line with funding levels at the 15 other university sites across Canada.

Let's Talk Science requested that Western match the organization's previous level of support in the form of a stipend of $5,000 – equivalent to that of a teaching assistant – for the second semester, as well as continued support, Cook added.

"Let's Talk Science had asked for additional funding and, although they're a wonderful organization, we're not in a position financially to offer them any more money," said David Estok, director of communications and public affairs for Western.

Associate dean of the faculty of science Michael Owen said the Partnership Program approached the individual departments in the faculty of science during the summer, when their budget had already been set, adding the departments felt they could not support the program.

"They should take the case to Dr. [Greg] Moran [Western VP-academic], rather than looking for piecemeal support from the faculty," he said.

Ironically, Western – Let's Talk Science founding university – is the only site experiencing financial difficulty among the 15 members, according to Cook.

Cook said she believes the program just wasn't a priority to the university. "They didn't see it worthwhile to contribute to the program."

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