Cuts approved by Laurier senate

As of this month, the proposal for a two per cent budget cut for the 2014-15 year was approved by senate finance and the finance and investment committee of the board. This means the university will be proceeding with the cut and budget managers are currently modelling the details.

The recommendation for the cut was first proposed by Jim Butler, vice president: finance and administration, at a Town Hall presentation in January. The cut was recommended due to the growing university deficit. Based on current projections, the university will also need to make a four per cent cut in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17.

Faculty deans have already begun to make decisions about how they will realize the cuts.

“One of the great things about Laurier is the fact that we’re rarely told what to do,” Glen Carruthers, dean of the faculty of music, explained. “The situation is presented to us and the deans are given the latitude to respond in whatever way seems appropriate.”

“There are certain things that can’t be cut,” Carruthers continued. “If you’re looking at full time salaries, there’s a collective agreement that determines what those salaries are.”

Both Carruthers and Paul Jessop, dean of the faculty of science, said that this limits their options for what can be cut.

In terms of the faculty of music, Carruthers highlighted four courses of action they are planning on taking.

“The other side of the coin is it doesn’t have to be entirely cuts. Increasing revenues is the other side of the coin,” he explained of one of their options.

They will also be adjusting their budget to reflect the actual amount of revenue, rather than having more conservative assumptions, shifting money within their budget and adjusting curriculum.

This will involve course rotations, having certain courses offered every two or  three years.

“So part of the process has been to look carefully at our curriculum and to make some adjustments which honestly – and I think others agree – are in no way detrimental to the student experience and in some ways are maybe a good idea,” Carruthers said.

This is something the faculty of science is also planning on employing, but Jessop said this will probably not happen until the 2015-16 academic year.

“I think for 2014-15 in the faculty of science, there will be very little impact on students,” Jessop said.

He said for 2015-16 and 2016-17 things will be more difficult.

Both Carruthers and Jessop noted that how the cut will be distributed across the university is still uncertain. Depending on what is decided, according to Jessop, this might cause problems.

“Does the faculty of science want to survive at the expense of the other faculties? Is it faculty against faculty for a shrinking pool of resources? I don’t think that’s wise.”

He explained it’s difficult for the university to do anything except equally distribute the cut, because otherwise “there’s winners and losers.”

For the faculty of graduate and postdoctoral studies, things work a little differently. Joan Norris, the faculty’s dean, explained that they are in charge of supporting the students, but it is the other faculties that control the graduate programs.

“It’s certainly a concern that if any of the other deans decide that a program is not sustainable and it might be a way to save some money then it will have an impact on our overall enrollment targets,” Norris said.

Norris went on to say that she doesn’t see that happening and thinks deans will find other ways to make cuts.

Michael Carroll, dean of the faculty of arts, declined to comment, explaining that the final decision on the budget reductions for next year will be made at the arts divisional council meeting taking place on March 7.

He did, however, speculate that there will be a small reduction in the number of courses offered next year. As well, they won’t be filling some of the full-time positions that have opened up through retirements or resignations.

Overall, none of the deans were daunted by the news of the cut.

“The wheels are not falling off … of this university,” Jessop said. “Not to make light of the difficulties, but we’ll manage. But we’ll have to adjust and it’s not going to be the same.”

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