I doubt if the Reverend Ebenezer Dadson, or any equally astute member of the Canadian clergy, could have conceived of a time when Christian churches were not everywhere across the land, many of them magnificent, all of them well-attended and respected. It simply could not even have occurred to Christians from the 1890s that even the most solid and famous churches would, in less than a century’s time, be sold and turned into condos, concert halls, nightclubs, torn down or left to rot.
It seems similarly fantastical to imagine today a near-future in which all of the country’s colleges, and all but the most sacred of our universities, sit empty, their buildings boarded up and in neglect. But, in the same way that cathedrals without congregations are difficult to maintain, lecture halls without students will be difficult to subsidize indefinitely. If the Catholic church in Quebec can get wiped out, there’s no reason to bet against the entirety of UBC looking like a Chinese ghost city in a few decades’ time. When people perceive that priests, professors or pastors are careerists looking for converts out of professional self-interest and not out of any real belief in the merits of what they’re teaching, there’s nothing to stop people from simply not coming anymore.
The collapse of academia will be a disaster for the country. Or, to clarify, it will be the conclusion to a disaster which seems already to have started. The Canadian post-secondary sector has already acquiesced, likely past the point of repair. The salaries of executives and administrators in this sector are as grotesque as the monstrous legacy buildings these millionaire former-teachers erect to prepare students to take their place in a society that has already failed them. People aren’t going to keep paying an institution that takes too much and gives too little in return indefinitely.