Towards a New Campus in Downtown Barrie

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

We have seen a lot of momentum building this month in Barrie around our plans for a Laurentian campus in downtown Barrie. This has been fueled by the commitment made in the election platform of the Ontario Liberal Party to “build three new, leading-edge undergraduate campuses”, but especially by the Toronto Star story in which Laurentian’s proposed Barrie campus was named as one of the three eventual campuses in question.

Last night, I had the opportunity to present an update to the Barrie City Council. You can view my Power Point presentation here. I also tabled an Economic Impact Study prepared by KPMG. This was a follow up to a presentation I made to City Council on May 10, 2010.

During my presentation, I informed City Council that the Laurentian Board of Governors had approved in June a $14 million pledge towards a new Laurentian campus in downtown Barrie. This investment will be funded from a portion of the additional revenues which the university will eventually keep by no longer delivering programs through Georgian College’s University Partnership Centre. One of the five strategic goals of the City of Barrie’s 2010-2014 Strategic Plan is to create a vibrant and healthy city centre. One of the strategies identified to achieve this is to encourage a city centre postsecondary education presence.

As per current capital benchmarks from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, a teaching facility for 2,500 FTEs would cost approximately $60 million, plus land and ancillary facilities.

During my presentation, I shared with Council a draft Memorandum of Understanding outlining proposed commitments from the University and the City. The University is seeking the City’s support in its $40 million application to the province in June 2010 for the expansion of its existing satellite campus in Barrie, as well as a matching $14 million pledge from the City.

A decision from Council is expected in October or early November. The initial response was very favourable.

I also shared with Council that the University had established a community-based steering committee to lead the project of the downtown Barrie campus. The committee will include representation from the university (Board, Executive Team, Vice-Provost, student and faculty representatives), the city (Council and senior staff), the community (downtown residents, downtown business improvement area, hospital, school boards, business, media, etc), as well as volunteer experts in urban planning, architecture, real estate and facilitation.  The purpose of this steering committee, which will be chaired by Janice Skot (President and CEO of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, former CEO of the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Centre and former CEO of the Laurentian Hospital in Sudbury) will be in the short term to provide advice on the downtown site selection and associated matters. In the medium term, the steering committee will provide advice on the overall project plan including communications and advocacy, have designates involved in the selection of the design team, and advise on the design of the campus.

How did things evolve in Barrie?

In February 2010, Laurentian’s Board of Governors approved its long-term capital strategic directions, which included the establishment of a Laurentian University campus in downtown Barrie.

In May 2010, I informed Barrie’s City Council of Laurentian’s long-term capital strategic directions. We received very enthusiastic feedback from Councillors.

In June 2010, all Ontario colleges and universities were invited to submit their long-term capital priorities for the next 10 years. Our #1 priority was the School of Architecture, which has since been approved. Our #2 priority then, which is now our #1 priority, is a Laurentian campus in downtown Barrie to serve 3,000 students (2,500 FTEs).

On May 6, 2011, several electronic brainstorming sessions to inform our 2012-2017 Strategic Plan were held in Barrie.  One session involved students, faculty and staff, while another involved community members. The dynamic Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman, made inspiring opening remarks at the community consultation on the importance of Laurentian University to the City of Barrie and its future.  A clear consensus emerged on the desire for a Laurentian University facility in downtown Barrie. The community consultation included close to 30 community representatives including Mayor Jeff Lehman, MP Patrick Brown, Ontario PC Party candidate and former City Councillor Rod Jackson, former Mayor Rob Hamilton, business and community leaders, and representatives from the City of Barrie and Simcoe County, the Royal Victoria Hospital, school boards, the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA), the United Way, La Clé d’la Baie en Huronie, Indigenous organizations, and the Barrie Public Library, among many others.

Laurentian University and Georgian College have been working for the past 2.5 years on the renewal of the existing relationship agreements, unfortunately without success.  While the College had agreed earlier in May to honor four specific parameters which the University and the Laurentian University Faculty Association had mutually agreed to in December 2009, and subsequently agreed to recognize and provide adequate space for the newly-recognized Laurentian-Barrie Student Union (LBSU), Georgian College confirmed to us in writing  on June 6th that it could not provide space for program growth or private offices for faculty members which is a requirement in our collective agreement. Most importantly, the College declined one of our key requests, which was to change the delivery model for the Bachelor of Social Work and the Bachelor of Business Administration so that all four years would be taught by university faculty. This is crucial to sustain our current accreditation with the Canadian Association for Social Work Education and to support the Faculty of Management in becoming the eighth business school in Ontario and the first in Northern Ontario to secure an accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. As a result, the status quo is not an option for Laurentian. We remain committed to having a productive working relationship with the College and in facilitating student mobility between our respective institutions.

On May 30th, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities delivered a speech at the Canadian Club in which he commented on “Putting Students First: Ontario’s Plan for Postsecondary Education”. As part of this plan, the province announced its intention to fund 60,000 new spaces in postsecondary education in the next five years (a direction which the Ontario PC Party also adopted in its election platform), negotiate strategic mandate agreements with each institution after the election and develop a new satellite campus policy which would lead to a competitive process for establishing new satellites.

The Board of Governors also held its own electronic brainstorming on June 24th as part of the 2012-2017 strategic planning process. The initiative which generated the highest number of votes was a strong presence in Barrie, including a new Laurentian University campus in downtown Barrie.

At that same meeting, the Board approved 14 guiding principles for the sustainability and future expansion of Laurentian’s programs in Barrie. The Board also approved that the University confirm to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities its interest in expanding its existing satellite campus in Barrie. Finally, the Board approved that the University approach the City of Barrie to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a Laurentian University downtown facility, inform the City of the University’s desire to make an eight figure commitment towards phase 1 of the project, and obtain a matching contribution from the City.

Our proposal for a Laurentian campus in downtown Barrie is already viewed as one of the strongest proposals in the province for the expansion of satellite campuses. A joint $28 million commitment from the university and the city, along with the proposed MoU, would significantly strengthen our $40 million application to the province.

As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca.

You can also join the 2,400 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech

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