Athletics hopes to withstand cuts

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

No alarm bells are sounding just yet, but major cuts to Wilfrid Laurier University’s budget may affect the department of athletics and recreation in the coming years.

The most recent development came this month from Laurier’s vice president of finance and administration, Jim Butler, who informed each department there would be projected cuts to the overall budget of five, eight and 10 percent.

“These are models that we are asking people to follow. Nothing is determined yet. We just want to know what the effect is on differentiated cuts,” said Butler.

Butler indicated that the cuts themselves are not surprising, as the school has been planning them for the past two years due to multiple factors.

However, they were recently intensified due to the dip in enrolment this year.

Enrolment has plateaued in the past couple of years and was the main reason for the projected cuts to begin with.

According to Butler, the university was 500 students short of the budget in June. They recovered 250 of those students, but still did not reach their goal for the year, and there will be financial consequences of that.

“We will be between $2 to 3 million short in this fiscal year depending on the size of the eventual enrolment shortfall,” Butler said. “The total impact is a permanent cut of that amount, plus the original cut of $12 million planned for fiscal 2015-16.”

“Thus the permanent cut to base budget could be $15 million in the next 16 months.”

These cuts are to the university budget as a whole, but the extent to which the department of athletics and recreation is affected will be determined by the Integrative Planning and Resource Management process, which prioritizes the universities funds.

Director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter believes that even though the cuts are coming, the department should walk out of the process with little damage done.

He explained that this is due to the contributions that athletics makes to the school in terms of recruitment.

“I am very confident that we will come through the IPRM process,” he said. “A big reason why [students] come here is for our facilities. They come here because there is a good spirit and emotional tie with the Golden Hawk.”

However the overall cuts are significant, so even if athletics is highly prioritized, it may be facing a year of spreading its resources thin. According to Baxter, this is nothing new for the department.

“We’ve been in the black for quite a number of years,” he said.

“We have made our targets revenue wise and maintained services even at times when we have to make cuts. However, we certainly don’t want to re-visit any time when we had to make any hard decisions,” he said.

In 2011, budget constraints forced the department to cut its men’s and women’s varsity volleyball teams, affecting 30 student athletes.

However, Baxter said his number one priority is to make sure students are not affected by the current cuts to the school.

“We have very resourceful people within the department here. There is a staff that gives us ways in which we will make sure that we provide the full spectrum of opportunities for every student,” he said.

While athletics is prepared for possible cuts, Butler cautioned that the road ahead could be tough for the university.

“This is not usual. We’ve been in a growth mode since the late 90s,” he said.

“Make no mistake that is going to be a difficult cut to try and deal with.”

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