June 30 2009

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

I would like to provide you with a staffing update, including important changes in the President’s Office, the Public Affairs and Institutional Research units, as well as an overview of measures being implemented to contain our 2009-10 deficit to $4 million as per the budget approved by the Board of Governors in April.  Containing spending is never easy.  There is an old African proverb that says “when the water hole shrinks, animals look at each other differently”.  With this blog posting, I want to fulfill my commitment to maximize transparency in the university’s decision-making.

Mise à jour au niveau du personnel

Le directeur de la recherche institutionnelle, Louis Mayrand, ainsi que le bibliothécaire en chef, Lionel Bonin, prennent leur retraite cette semaine.  Plusieurs d’entre vous avez participé à leurs fêtes de départ.  Nous remercions Louis et Lionel pour leur contribution à l’université Laurentienne et leur souhaitons beaucoup de bonheur au moment où ils amorcent cette nouvelle étape de leur vie.

Nous accueillons à nouveau Leila Wallenius à la Laurentienne, cette fois à titre de bibliothécaire en chef.

Nous sommes ravis que Huguette Blanco agisse comme doyenne par intérim de la Faculté des écoles professionnelles, d’ici à ce que le processus de sélection soit complété pour une nomination permanente dans ce poste.  J’aimerais remercier  Anne-Marie Mawhiney pour son importante contribution à titre de doyenne au cours des sept dernières années, de même que pour les conseils judicieux reçus à titre de nouveau recteur.

Derek Wilkinson a accepté d’agir comme doyen par intérim de la Faculté des sciences sociales et des humanités, en remplacement de Linda Ambrose qui a décidé de retourner à ses anciennes amours, soit l’enseignement et la recherche.  Pendant ce temps, John Isbister poursuivra son affectation à titre de vice-recteur aux études et Provost par intérim.

I remind you that the organizational changes described in my May 12th memo take effect on July 1st : Serge Demers, John Isbister and Patrice Sawyer are assuming their new portfolios as Acting Vice-Presidents; Sheila Cote-Meek is becoming Acting Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Programs; Tom Gerry is becoming Acting Dean, Laurentian University @ Georgian programs; Laurentian International is being transferred to Student Affairs; Athletics, Active Living and the Instructional Media Centre are being transferred to the Vice-President, Administration.

Now that Patrice Sawyer is taking over as Acting Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies, I would remind all departments that external funding applications should be reviewed by the Research Office prior to submission, including applications to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), FedNor and the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC) of which I am a now a board member.  These three organizations in particular expect sign off from the President prior to consideration of an application.

Additional Restructuring Measures

The new organizational structure approved by the Board of Governors in February featured a new position of Chief of Staff to the President, overseeing staff formerly in the President’s Office and in Public Affairs.

In light of the university’s financial situation, I have decided to convert the existing position of Director of Institutional Research into the position of Chief of Staff.  This new position will oversee the staff formerly in the President’s Office and in Public Affairs, as originally contemplated, but also institutional research.  The recruitment for this new Executive Team position, reporting directly to the President, will begin shortly.

As a result of this restructuring, the position of Director of Public Affairs is being eliminated.  I would like to thank Michel Béchard for his contribution at Laurentian and wish him much success in his future endeavours.

Shauna Lehtimaki agira à titre de directrice de la recherche institutionnelle par intérim, tandis que Tamás Zsolnay supervisera directement l’équipe des relations publiques de manière intérimaire, d’ici le recrutement d’un(e) chef de cabinet.

Tel qu’indiqué dans ma note du 12 mai, l’équipe de direction allait évaluer la pertinence d’apporter des changements organisationnels mineurs visant à accroître l’intégration des fonctions de certaines unités, par exemple en matière de recrutement des étudiants.  Il avait été indiqué que certains changements pourraient entraîner un changement de superviseur(e) pour certains chefs de service.

I am hereby confirming that the following changes are being made :

•    Effective immediately, Suzanne Brunette, Manager of the Student Awards Office, will have a “dotted line” reporting relationship to the Vice-President, Francophone Affairs, Student Affairs and Recruitment, while continuing to report to the Chief Financial Officer;

•    Effective immediately, Angela Recollet, Manager of Native Student Affairs, will have a “dotted line” reporting relationship to the Vice-President, Francophone Affairs, Student Affairs and Recruitment, while continuing to report to the Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Programs;

•    Diane Roy, Manager of Admissions, will no longer report to the Registrar but will rather report directly to the Vice-President, Francophone Affairs, Student Affairs and Recruitment, effective September 1st.

The Vice-Presidents will solicit the services of a consulting firm to assist in developing in the coming weeks a new organizational model to integrate our human resources functions, which are currently spread in five areas (human resources, payroll, academic staff relations, community rights, legal counsel).  The hope is that the time saved through the elimination of unnecessary duplication will be reinvested in strategic functions such as organizational development, succession planning and employee engagement.

Budget Update : “Plan B”

On May 28th, I informed the Board of Governors’ Finance Committee that in the eventuality that our enrolment target of 482 additional students was not met in September 2009, a “plan B” would be required in the Fall to contain the deficit to $4 million in 2009-10 as contemplated in the three year “Plan to Regain Sustainability” approved by the Board of Governors in February.

I was instructed to immediately develop such a “plan B” and present it to the Board in June, which I did in camera on June 19th, after review by the Staff Relations Committee on June 17th.

First, I reviewed with the Board why Laurentian University was incurring annual deficits since the 2008-09 fiscal year.  There are three reasons :

•    Compensation costs, including pension contributions, have been rising faster than the increases in tuition fees and the increases in operating funding by the province.  I am not suggesting that tuition fees should increase more than allowed by the provincial government, since they have already tripled and been increased by a percentage three times greater than inflation over the past 19 years.

•    Faculty and staffing ratios have not been reduced proportionally to the decline in enrolment since the departure of the double cohort, partially because of graduate expansion and workload reductions for faculty.  Our enrolment (FTE) went down 11% since 2006-07 – which was predictable and not surprising with the departure of the double cohort.  If our number of faculty and staff had gone down 11% since 2006-07, there would have been 45 fewer faculty and 22 fewer staff positions budgeted in 2009-10.  I must point out that despite the departure of the double cohort, Laurentian has been the fourth fastest growing university in Ontario since 2000.

•    The university must absorb new annual financing costs of $2.2 million for the unfinanced portion of the expansion of the Ben Avery facility, the new School of Education, as well as a new lease at the Willet Green Miller facility – needed in part because of the accommodation pressures created by the trend noted in the previous bullet.

Assuming no increases in operating grants from the province, the three year plan approved by the Board of Governors in December 2008 and February 2009 called for :

•    A $4 million deficit in 2009-10 with $3.45M in cuts and $3.45M generated from 482 additional students;

•    A $2 million deficit in 2010-11 with another $2M in cuts and $2M generated from 273 additional students;

•    A balanced budget in 2011-12 with another $2.1M in cuts and $2.1M generated from 280 additional students;

•    Surpluses starting in 2012-13 to repay a projected $11.3M cumulative deficit.

Therefore, the scope of “plan B”, assuming no enrolment increase in 2009-10 and 2010-11, was to describe measures required to cut $3.45M in 2009-10 and another $4M in 2010-11.  This isn’t easy, considering that spending reductions have already been made and that 80% of the operating budget is tied in salaries and benefits.

Secondly, I reviewed with the Board where we were on admissions for September 2010 as of June 3rd :

•    Confirmed admissions for the 101s (grade 12 students) are down 4% or 44 students.  Historically, this group represents about 61% of our students and the information at this time of the year is usually very reliable (about ~93%).

•    Confirmed admissions for the 205s (undergraduate professional programs such as teacher education) are up by 19% or 30 students.  Historically, this group represents about 8% of our students and the information at this time of the year is usually very reliable (about ~90%).

•    Confirmed admissions of graduate students are up by 39% or 30 students.  Historically, this group represents about 4% of our students and the information at this time of the year is only about ~50% reliable.

•    Confirmed admissions of 105s (mature students) are up by 2% or 9 students.  Historically, this group represents about 26% of our students and the information at this time of the year is only about ~44% reliable.

Based on this information, we are expecting the enrolment to flatline or benefit from a very slight increase in 2009-10, a first in three years.

Vous vous demandez peut-être “quel est le plan” pour accroître nos effectifs de manière à surmonter les difficultés financières actuelles, lesquelles découlent du fait que le gouvernement provincial n’a pas la capacité de défrayer des augmentations aux budgets de fonctionnement des universités?

Nous devons d’abord nous rappeler que nous sommes toujours le choix numéro un des étudiantes et étudiants du nord-est de l’Ontario et de Simcoe-Muskoka en terme d’études universitaires.  Nous accueillons annuellement plus d’étudiantes et d’étudiants du nord-est de la province et de Simcoe-Muskoka que les universités de Nipissing, Ottawa, Algoma, Lakehead, Toronto, Queen’s et Hearst combinées.  Notre taux de rétention dans le Grand Sudbury est très élevé – 74% – probablement le taux le plus élevé de n’importe quelle université ontarienne avec sa clientèle potentielle locale.

Mais il y a place à amélioration, notamment dans le reste du nord-est de l’Ontario et dans Simcoe-Muskoka à l’extérieur du Grand Sudbury, où seulement 17% des étudiantes et étudiants universitaires font le choix de la Laurentienne.  Chaque point de pourcentage supplémentaire amènerait 41 étudiants de plus annuellement.

De plus, seulement 2% des finissantes et finissants de 12e année des écoles secondaires de langue française de l’Ontario à l’extérieur du nord-est, font le choix de la Laurentienne.  Chaque point de pourcentage supplémentaire amènerait 13 étudiants.  Il ne faut pas perdre de vue également qu’il y a autant d’étudiants inscrits aux programmes dans les programmes d’immersion française et d’Extended French au sein des écoles de langue anglaise de l’Ontario, que d’élèves inscrits dans les écoles homogènes de langue française.  Les inscriptions aux cours d’études et de langues autochtones dans les écoles élémentaires et secondaires de la province connaissent quant à elles une forte hausse.

With this in mind, we will pilot in September 2010, in the context of our 50th anniversary celebrations as a regional, bilingual and tricultural university, a new $5,000 Access grant ($500 in year 1, $1,000 in year 2, $1,500 in year 3, $2,000 in year 4) to our applicants from Northeastern Ontario and Simcoe-Muskoka outside Greater Sudbury, graduates from French-language schools, Extended French and French Immersion programs, as well as students who will have completed a credit in Native Languages or Native Studies in secondary school.  This will be offered in September 2010 to applicants to our four year undergraduate programs offered on our Sudbury campus.  It will replace the “bourse Franco” for our Francophone applicants from outside Greater Sudbury.  We will also offer regular weekend transportation at a modest price to Timmins, Ottawa, Sault Ste Marie and Barrie/Toronto.  These measures are aimed at addressing in 2010-11 the unique challenges of our target student population, since many are incurring additional costs to access to university studies.

Nous sommes en train de ré-examiner de A à Z notre processus d’admission.  Plusieurs universités sont capables de faire des offres d’admission aux étudiantes et étudiants de 12e dans un délai de trois jours, avant la période des fêtes.  Ceci exigera une collaboration très étroite entre le service de liaison et le service des admissions, lesquels seront désormais sous la gouverne du même vice-recteur.  Le nombre d’employés permanents au service de liaison sera majoré, en réponse au souhait exprimé par les orienteurs et directions d’écoles secondaires qui souhaitent établir un nombre accru de partenariats durables avec l’université.  La description de certains programmes dans les outils de promotion de l’université sera remaniée de manière à démontrer aux étudiants potentiels qu’ils peuvent se prévaloir d’options comparables aux autres universités.

However, these measures will not resolve our immediate fiscal challenge in 2009-10.  While reducing our spending, we need to pay close attention to the strategic goals we want to pursue, such as having strong national recognition, being a university of choice, fostering strong student engagement and being responsive to the communities we serve.

Realistically, what can we do to contain our deficit in 2009-10?  We can look at increasing fees without jeopardizing access to postsecondary education.  We can monitor more closely areas with potential for increased revenues/profits, such as our student residences and our Continuing Education programs.  We can pursue areas with the potential for greater synergies, such as the way we do human resources management at the university.  But ultimately, we need to share the burden of the reductions and we need to minimize long-term negative impacts of reductions (eg if they will seriously impact the achievement of our four key objectives or if the eventual cost of restoring an activity, if and when restored, is prohibitive).

Here are the measures that are being implemented :

•    Parking fees will be increased by about 21%, along with other ancillary revenues, generating $0.2M annually.

•    A temporary two year grant has been secured by the province, generating $0.1M annually.

•    Five existing faculty vacancies will not be filled in 2009-10, with 10 more vacancies projected in 2010-11 through retirements or resignations, for a total of 15 faculty positions.  This measure will reduce spending by $0.3M in 2009-10 and $1.8M in 2010-11.

•    Six term faculty positions will not be renewed in 2009-10, with 12 more in 2010-11, for a total of 18 term faculty positions.  This measure will reduce spending by $0.4M in 2009-10 and $1.5M in 2010-11.

•    Fifteen existing staff vacancies will not be filled, with seven more vacancies projected in 2010-11 through retirements or resignations, for a total of 22 staff positions.  This measure will reduce spending by $0.75M in 2009-10 and $1.2M in 2010-11.

•    Nine term staff positions will not be renewed in 2009-10, with two more in 2010-11, for a total of 11 term staff positions.  This measure will reduce spending by $0.3M in 2009-10 and $0.4M in 2010-11.

•    A further reduction in “discretionary” non-salary operating budgets (eg excludes utilities, other contractual obligations) of about 18% will be applied in 2009-10 and 2010-11.  This measure will reduce spending annually by $1.0M.

•    A temporary “tax” will be applied against donations received through our advancement efforts.  This “tax” of $0.3M annually, to be implemented if there is no enrolment increase in September 2009, represents about 27% of the total cost of operating our advancement functions.  In other words, only a small portion of the cost of our advancement efforts would be applied temporarily against donations received.

•    The university would reconsider its lease in the Willet Green Miller facility starting in 2010-11, saving $0.9M annually.  In the meantime, the use of our existing spaces will be optimized, including on each of the five days of the week and the four evenings from Monday to Thursday.  Historically, space utilization drops significant on Thursdays and Fridays.  A redistribution of classroom and lab usage would significantly reduce costs to the university, since a cluster of classrooms could be converted into office and research space.  The university will continue renewing its existing lease in Willet Green Miller on short-term temporary basis until all other accommodation options have been explored.

The measures described above will save $3.45M in 2009-10 and $7.5M in 2010-11, allowing us to contain the projected deficits to $4M in 2009-10 and $2M in 2010-11.

The implementation of some measures may be reconsidered as other savings opportunities arise.  The internal Budget Committee will assess the impact of “plan B” especially on the level of administrative support in some units.  The redeployment of existing human resources may be explored, pursuant to collective agreement provisions, to mitigate the impact of “plan B” in some units.

If enrolment increases or if there are non-forecasted increases in operating grants in 2009-10 or 2010-11, the temporary tax against donations would be removed.  Other unanticipated revenues would be re-invested strategically, after consultation with the leadership group, in a way to yield significant improvements towards our four goals : having a strong national recognition, being a university of choice, student engagement and  community responsiveness.

Finally, I should point out that the three year Plan to Regain Sustainability doesn’t address any measure that may be required to address issues related to the university’s pension plan.  The average defined benefit pension fund return in 2008 in was -17%.  The Laurentian University pension plan significantly outperformed the average but still experienced a -12.9% return.  If a formal valuation of our pension were to be filed based on these result, the impact on our operating budget would be damaging.  A working group has been established by the Council of Ontario Universities to consider options and I represent university presidents on this group.  At Laurentian, we will be working with an actuary to define possible changes for consideration by pension plan members and the university’s Board of Governors.

J’aurai l’occasion dans mon prochain message sur mon blogue, en août, de faire le point sur d’autres développements des derniers mois, ainsi que sur ce qui s’en vient pour la prochaine année scolaire. Entre-temps, je vous invite à prendre connaissance, si vous ne l’avez pas déjà fait, du discours prononcé à la veille de mon « installation » comme recteur, le 1er juin, de même que de celui prononcé à la Chambre de commerce du Grand Sudbury et au Club Rotary le 22 juin.  J’ai également pris la parole le 10 juin devant les Clubs Richelieu de la région.  J’y résume plusieurs thèmes qui ont émergé de mes rencontres avec les départements, de même que des perspectives d’avenir axées sur quatre priorités : accroître la reconnaissance nationale de la Laurentienne, être l’université de choix pour notre clientèle cible, bonifier la vie étudiante et resserrer les liens avec les communautés que nous desservons.

Enfin, je m’en voudrais de passer sous silence le décès de Diane Daigle, à un bien trop jeune âge, après 35 années de service à l’université, d’abord pour l’École de commerce et d’administration et, plus récemment, pour le Service des installations et de la planification.  Je n’ai pas eu le privilège de connaître Diane mais j’ai été grandement touché, lors de ma visite à la coopérative funéraire ainsi que lors des funérailles le lendemain matin, par la forte présence de la communauté universitaire.  Ces événements, lourds d’émotion, sont venus renforcer chez moi la notion que la Laurentienne est bien plus qu’une université.  Nous sommes une communauté.  C’est notre marque de commerce auprès des étudiants, et cela se ressent aussi heureusement parmi le corps professoral et le personnel.

Je vous souhaite un été des plus agréables.

I welcome comments and questions on the topics related above, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech

Dominic Giroux