Chers collègues/Dear colleagues/Boozhoo/Aanii/Kwe kwe,
Since my first blog posting, I have received more than 20 emails providing very positive feedback. At this stage, it looks like we have to work out a few technical glitches. Several of you encountered difficulties in accessing the blog, especially from off campus, while one person wondered about subscribing to my blog through an RSS feed. These issues should be resolved shortly.
One of you commented on how I chose to alternate freely between English and French, finding it difficult to read and suggesting a full translation instead. While I don’t resist this idea, blogs are meant to be posted in a timely fashion and written in a personal style. So for now, I will avoid alternating languages too often, but will hold on the full translation.
Le 9 avril, j’ai eu le plaisir de visiter la librairie du Nouvel-Ontario, Le Grand Ciel Bleu, sur la rue Durham, en compagnie notamment de Sylvie Landry, Gratien Allaire, Diane Démoré et du très sympathique libraire, Robert Beauchamp. Par la suite, j’ai assisté à mon premier dîner mensuel de la francophonie du Grand Sudbury. Dans les deux cas, j’ai été très impressionné par le dévouement et l’étendue du leadership communautaire francophone dans la région.
On dit souvent que le « monde est petit ». Or, la directrice artistique et générale du Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, Geneviève Pineault, de même que le directeur général de l’Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne, François Charbonneau, sont tous deux d’anciens collègues de classe au secondaire!
I have also met with Jim Ketchen and Lise Seguin, presidents of LUFA and LUAPSA, to set the right tone and establish a positive working relationship with university associations. More meetings with representatives of university associations are planned for the weeks ahead.
Last Friday, the Board of Governors approved the 2009-10 Budget, as proposed by the Budget Committee. The budget had been previously endorsed by the Board’s Finance Committee and had been presented to the Senate.
I have named this budget a “No big surprise budget,” since it reflects year one of the three-year plan approved in February 2009 by the Board of Governors for the university to regain sustainability. Last December, I took part in budget deliberations at Queen’s Park as Assistant Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (I had to declare a conflict of interest after the announcement of my appointment at Laurentian). Based on those deliberations, let me assure you that we could have faced far worse circumstances if the provincial government had not opted to run a deficit in the years ahead.
The university’s projected deficit for 2009-2010 is $4M, down from $5.3M for 2008-2009. The cumulated deficit is projected to rise to approximately $9M by the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. (Keep in mind that in addition to reducing the deficit, the university had to absorb cost escalations.)
The approved budget contains no lay off for permanent staff. No program is being eliminated, although applications are temporarily suspended for two programs with low enrolment (with a combined average annual enrolment of nine students).
There is no doubt that we are facing challenging times on the fiscal front. The internal Budget Committee, chaired by Robert Bourgeois, will now have to develop a plan to reduce spending by another $2M in 2010-2011 and a final $2M reduction in 2011-2012, while absorbing cost increases, in order to enable us to balance our books once again in 2011-2012. Unlike for school board budgets, the government is not increasing funding to universities to offset increases in compensation costs, pension-plan shortfalls, or the impact of declining enrolment.
The most immediate task is to develop a “Plan B,” in case we don’t achieve our target to recruit 482 additional students for September 2009 – which is a very ambitious target. These additional students would generate an additional $3.4M in revenues. In a future blog posting, I will share some of my thoughts on student recruitment. Feel free to email me your suggestions on this matter.
If the target enrolment isn’t met this September, we will need to implement further in-year spending reductions for the 2009-2010 academic year. I have asked the Budget Committee to bring forward recommendations for a “Plan B” no later than June.
This plan should include a process to review the sustainability of a greater number of programs. John Isbister has been asked to develop this process, which will be transparent, include objective criteria and opportunities for input, and comply with collective agreements.
The GTA and SRF
One of the issues discussed at the Board’s Finance Committee and at Senate was the proposed reduction to the university’s Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) program and the Summer Research Fellowships (SRF). Student representatives voiced their concerns very effectively, in a constructive way.
The internal Budget Committee had explored the effect of reducing the number of recipients of the GTA instead of reducing the allocation per recipient. At the time, there was a consensus within the university community that reducing the number of GTA recipients would contradict Laurentian’s commitment to improving access to graduate studies.
Je suis très fier de me joindre à une université qui est devenue, au fil des ans, une institution vibrante pour poursuivre des études supérieures. Le nombre d’inscriptions est passé de 374 en 2002 à 705 cette année. Les demandes d’admission pour septembre prochain aux études supérieures sont en hausse de 11%.
Historiquement, la Laurentienne a en effet opté d’offrir ces allocations à tous ses étudiants de deuxième et troisième cycles, y compris les étudiants étrangers, ce qui n’est pas le cas dans la plupart des autres universités ontariennes. La valeur des allocations à la Laurentienne se situe néanmoins dans la moyenne des autres universités de la province.
Le budget proposé pour les PAE en 2009-10 se chiffrait à 2,4 millions de dollars. Évidemment, plusieurs autres types d’appui financier sont disponibles pour les étudiants, tant de l’université, du gouvernement que d’autres sources.
Lors de la rencontre du comité des finances du Conseil des gouverneurs tenue le 9 avril, nous avions promis de nous asseoir avec les représentantes et représentantes des étudiantes et étudiants au niveau des études supérieures afin de discuter de ces mesures. C’est ce que le comité du budget a fait jeudi dernier. Après discussion au sein de l’équipe des cadres supérieurs, nous avons alors proposé une solution de rechange :
- The Vice-Presidents, the Executive Director of Advancement, the University Secretary/Legal Counsel and myself have voluntarily agreed to return to the University in 2009-10 any economic increase that may have been contemplated to our base salary;
- We have proposed a significant reduction in the amounts earmarked for search-related expenditures for the recruitment of three Vice-Presidents;
- We will re-direct one-time funding of approximately $132,000 for the Graduate Student Endowment Funds.
This reallocation of funds will allow us to top up the GTA to the existing level. This plan is for 2009-10 only. We will need to explore other avenues and work out more permanent strategies.
With respect to the Summer Research Fellowships, we will explore the possibility of allocating available funds on the basis of need i.e. OSAP criteria.
I am pleased we have reached this positive conclusion. There are tough times ahead, but I want students, faculty and staff to feel that they can be heard and respected in the decision-making process, and that the measures being implemented are perceived as reasonably fair under the circumstances.
I welcome comments and questions on the topics related above, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org