Blog 2

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.

The budget

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:

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech

Dominic Giroux

Blog 1

Chers collègues/Dear colleagues/Boozhoo/Aanii/Kwe kwe,

C’est un plaisir pour moi de vous accueillir sur mon blogue. This is day seven for me as president of Laurentian University.

You may ask: “Why a blog?” First of all, blogs are efficient as they allow for direct and timely communication. Secondly, many of you have commented on the need for the president to foster greater internal linkages: linkages among departments, faculty and administrative staff, English- and French-language programs, teaching and research activities, students, and the broader university community.

Thirdly, in observing the university sector over the past few years, I have found that many university presidents “speak up” mostly on financial issues, usually to highlight the “underfunding.” (I have yet to find a sector or an institution that is “overfunded!”) Of course, I will be open and transparent about some of the financial challenges we are facing, like all other universities. But I will also try, through my blog, to reinforce the unique and inspiring mission that unites all of us, highlighting how we – collectively – are making this university an outstanding place to learn. J’utiliserai ce medium électronique pour résumer ce que j’apprendrai lors de mes premières semaines de travail, partager mes observations et réflexions et tester avec vous mes théories émergentes.

J’aimerais vous remercier pour votre accueil chaleureux. My wife, Barbara, and I are thrilled to join the Greater Sudbury community, as we begin the countdown for Laurentian’s 50th anniversary. On the home front, our five-year old, Simon, resumed his JK classes last week, and he loves his new classmates and teacher. Meanwhile, our two-and-a-half-year old, Amélie, is fighting a cold. As many of you know, this is somewhat of a “homecoming” for Barbara, since she is a Laurentian alumna herself – she completed her BA in 1990 and B.Ed. in 1991. Born and raised in New Liskeard, Barbara served as school principal in three elementary schools in Borden, Aurora, and Ottawa and is now on leave while Amélie is at home. So, moving to Greater Sudbury is bringing us closer to our in-laws, which is great!

My first order of business is to get to know you. Tel qu’indiqué dans mon discours à la communauté universitaire en janvier dernier, je compte rencontrer la majorité des départements académiques et de soutien dans les prochains mois. Plusieurs rencontres sont déjà à l’horaire, et j’invite les chefs des départements qui n’ont pas encore fixé un rendez-vous à communiquer avec mon bureau. We may twin some smaller departments to make the scheduling more manageable. À date, j’ai eu le plaisir de rencontrer le corps professoral et le personnel de l’École des sciences de l’éducation, du School of Education, du programme de formation des sages-femmes, de l’École des services sociaux pour les autochtones, et de l’École de la santé dans les milieux ruraux et du nord. I have also met with faculty who served on the Presidential Search Committee and have started meeting with representatives from student, faculty and staff associations on campus.

The Executive Team

Mon arrivée le 1er avril, ainsi que le départ de Susan Silverton, vice-rectrice à l’enseignement et à la recherche (affaires anglophones), ont créé un léger effet domino en ce qui a trait à certains postes de cadres sur le campus. To summarize:

· Robert Bourgeois, has returned to his home position of vice-president, administration, with our thanks and gratitude for his stellar leadership as acting president during the period of transition since Judith Woodsworth’s departure in July 2008;

· John Isbister, dean of the faculty of social sciences and humanities, who served as acting vice-president, administration, since August 2008, has agreed to serve as acting vice-president, academic (anglophone affairs), until the selection process is completed for three vice-presidents under the new organization structure approved by the Board of Governors on February 20. This interim appointment ensures stability in the faculty of social sciences and humanities, led by acting dean, Linda Ambrose;

· Patrice Sawyer, dean of the faculty of sciences and engineering, who served as acting vice-president, academic (francophone affairs), since the departure of Harley d’Entremont, continues to serve in this role until the selection process is completed for three vice-presidents under the new organizational structure. This ensures stability in the faculty of sciences and engineering, led by acting dean, Rizwan Haq.

· The dean of graduate studies, Paul Colilli, took over the duties of acting associate vice-president, research, since the departure of Liette Vasseur. He continues to serve in this dual role until the selected process is completed for the position of vice-president, research and graduate studies, under the new organizational structure.

In future blogs, I will share with you what I have been up to since my arrival in Greater Sudbury, as well as my immediate areas of focus. I will also discuss the 2009/2010 university budget.

Entre-temps, n’hésitez pas à m’envoyer vos commentaires, vos réflexions, vos opinions et vos questions concernant mon blogue ou autres sujets, par courriel. Par exemple, quels thèmes aimeriez-vous que j’aborde dans mes prochaines entrées de blogue?

Depending on the volume of responses to my postings on this blog, I will do my best to respond individually to emails. Otherwise, I will endeavour to address the most frequent comments, insights, or questions in my subsequent blog postings.

Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques!


Dominic Giroux

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