This is an extra special non-council live blog! This town hall is being held to address the recently released College Task Force Interim Draft Report, which outlines both long- and short-term solutions to the University’s financial situation.
The purpose of next hour, we are being told, is for the task force to listen to us and to address our concerns. Our comments will shape the document’s final form.
Two of the members of the task force will be taking minutes.
Q: A student asks whether the decreased enrolment is a one-year fluke or a trend.
A:Apparently, this is an international trend, It is not an isolated incident.
Q: Daniel Brandes asks about whether the budgeting for music programmes have been looked at. Is this a place we can save money?
A: About $45 000 is spent each year on the chapel choir and music program. The choir is a huge draw for King’s- students come here to be a part of the choir. This is something we do to say “King’s-y”- if we weren’t spending money on this program, we’d need to be spending it on another initiative. The choir also makes money through fundraising. It is supported by the people who love it. The task force feels that this program is worth spending the money on.
The task force also acknowledges that this needs to be part of the conversation.
Q: What are our retention rates for students staying after FYP or their first year?
A: We have not been keeping as many students as we would like to be keeping. The registrar’s office says that we have an 80% retention rate between first and second year- this includes journalism.
Q: Regarding the energy retrofit, how long would it take to recover this money? Why is there a discrepancy between the two mentions of the amounts that could be saved by this action?
A: The numbers we have are the level of precision we’re working with. Within the first full year, we could regain all the money spent with retrofit, by making our use of water and energy more efficiently.
Q: Regarding the $2.28 million, what will happen to it?
A: We need to know the business case for this money. It needs to be to help with our future sustainability, not just what needs doing right now. The finance committee will need to recommend a course of action to the board, where it will be voted on.
Q: Have we considered decreasing pay for sabbaticals?
A: We considered whether sabbaticals should not be given as benefits but should rather be paid for by the faculty member. There is a question about the capacity of programs to support sabbaticals.
Q: On page 8, the document says that cross the board cuts should not be carried out. How will we determine this? Why?
A: We passed the ball on this. We want the board to determine this.
Q: Students are in a tight spot right now. On page 3, there is an assumption that tuition fees will continue to go up, and that they would go up by more than 3% if they weren’t deregulated. It’s troubling that student aid is not one of the possible ways to put money that we find.
A: The task force has not fully worked through the issues of student fees and student tuition. We agree that students should be a top priority.
Q: What does it mean to eliminate sessional instructors from humanities?
A: We replied to 142 student letters regarding this issue. We haven’t thrown these faculty members under the bus. Essentially it would mean that the instructors would not have their contracts renewed.
Q: A larger discussion to have is: how are our programs structured? Are we giving students what the need/want?
A: This is a big issue. It is not possible to absorb a huge cut to our academics.
Q: Why is the choice being presented as a one or the other way, regarding the sessionals and a salary cut?
A: This is just an example, a way of showing one of the ways we would have to think.
Q: At King’s, we value our options, our uniqueness, what makes us special. I see a lot of negative options here, and not many positive. I don’t think that we should cut things arbitrarily, we might as well just sell out to dal then.
A: Having specialized professors is important. Cutting professors will affect the student experience and enrolment. We need to keep our options.
Q: Does the estimated savings of laying off sessionals account for a loss of revenue and students from not having these sessionals and their courses?
A: No. There will be impacts on revenue. This is the kind of judgement that the budget advisory committee needs to make. We haven’t costed out the other side. We are missing a kind of dimensionality about how 2014-15 affects the future. this is just a draft and many issues are multidimensional.
Q: On page 12, what does is mean to “take the full draw” for Divinity Services?
A: we have not been making full use of the money available for the divinity endowment. We’ve only been making use of $40 000 a year, rather than the full $80 000. We have extra money here. It’s been a discovery of things we’ve lost sight of. We’re trying to make our finances more transparent.
Q: Does the divinity fund belong to the college or the chapel?
A: The college set aside these funds a long time ago. The college holds them as a trust.
Q: What kind of priority is creating transparency in the divinity funds?
A: Huge transparency. We’ve been trying to work on this for years now.
Q: I am concerned about the timeline. The college task force has inherited some things from the LTFPTF, and these will need to be approved, and approved by the board, etc etc. When will we really see results from this document?
A: Typically the budget goes to finance committee for March. We are willing to hold an extra meeting after.
Q: How can we be sure our institution is being transparent?
A: There was an audit, was in the Chronicle Herald, and are very willing to share the history with anyone who asks. We have worked hard to put the checks and balances in place. The report is available and there are many people available to talk to with information.
The operating budget is online on our policy page.
Q: Some collective bargaining processes are happening faster, some slower. When will we have all the answers from all the different offices?
Q: (I wrote this question, so it’s verbatim) Students, as you are hopefully aware, are constantly fighting for increased funding to universities with initiatives like our day of action, happening in one week. I do not see any mention of government funding in this document, aside for the energy retrofit grant and one mention on page 7 of the fact that the government is “no longer a likely source of funds.” Has the task force completely given up on government funding? As a student who is directly influenced by tuition increases, this does not seem right. Does the admin or the task force have any plan to solicit the provincial government for increased funding? Is there any chance of our admin standing with students to demand funding?
A: It’s a constant struggle. The collective group of university presidents meets with the government frequently. We have 4 or 5 meetings with government recently. There is an ongoing work in this area. We are glad that students are asking for money publicly, while university presidents are working privately. We do not feel that it is possible that the government will increase funding.
Q: Can we distinguish more clearly between long- and short-term solutions?
Q: Is the question of the price of tuition not being considered in this document? it is mentioned on page 4, but not elsewhere. There are 100s of dollars of ancillary fees that are in the control of King’s admin.
A: Tuition is not something we are talking about primarily, at the moment. The fees were on the table but were moved off the table. Our work is not finished. We weren’t listening enough to the students. Emily Rendell-Watson says that, as a student who sits on this committee, she feels that educations accessibility is not being brought up enough at the task force. If we put more effort into reducing tuition fees and ancillary fees, we have a better chance of welcoming and retaining students.
COMMENT FROM THE TASK FORCE: On page 13, there can be two different readings. We can either we maintaining our parity but stopping for two years- giving back the money that was missed in the frozen years when it is unfrozen. This means we are delaying the payment rather than setting it back. The other option means that the faculty would be set back every year going on, and we would lose parity.
Q: We need to work on keeping students and re-enrolling. Those who are in their 5th, 6th, etc. years are going to leave because it is unsustainable to keep coming back.
A: This is being looked at by the task force.
Q: What’s the logic behind where we go into debt and where we don’t?
A: We invest money in the places that we know we can pay back.
Q: How are we going to bring transparency to the board when we have no staff on the board, only 3 students, and closed board meetings? (followed by a round of applause from the room)
A: We operate under a statute that is hard to change.
Q: Why can we not open board meetings? To all the people in this room, transparency is
A: If we have open board meetings, no one will be able to express their opinions honestly, because they will be published.
Q: We feel that students are not being listened to at board meetings.
Q: I’d like to thank the task force for the specification about not decreasing staff salaries for those who make less than a certain amount.
A: You’re welcome!
Q: It seems that decisions are made at closed meetings and during the summer when students are not going to be around. This task force is just making recommendations, why is everyone just making recommendations?
A: Students are everywhere that decisions are happening. This is a planning document that works within a set of assumptions. The bursar provides scenarios based on a set of assumptions. We try to work within realistic expectations.
Q: There seems to be an assumption here that a per-course prof is the same value as a sessional. This is not true. There is a lot that gets lost in the assumption that any person can come take a class and it will inspire the same kind of interest and engagement from students.
A: We are not saying these are the same in any way. We are working with the task force with the understanding that these two types of teachers are different.
Q: When can we see the recommendations from this document?
Q: I’m worried about the treatment of students. If this doesn’t improve, i know that I and many friends will most likely be leaving.
A: Thank you. Let’s all work together on this.
Thank you so much to everyone who came! This is was a charged and helpful meeting. Thank you, especially, to the students who came and spoke out in support of accessible education and lowering fees.