Volume 91, Issue 73

Friday, February 6, 1998



McGill toys with the idea of privatization

By Dave Yasvinski
Gazette Staff

A persisting $60 million operating deficit has forced administration at McGill University to consider privatization as one of its alternatives to the school's existing budget.

The school is currently reviewing four different options which the university's principal, Bernard Shapiro, outlined in a memo to the Board of Governors and the Senate. Notes on McGill's fiscal context and academic options were drawn from the memo, published on the university's Web site, which detail the options drumming up quite a bit of controversy.

The first alternative is to cut staff and professors while freezing tuition. Increasing the number of students by 4,000 and still freezing tuition is next on the list, while the last two alternatives are more radical and are causing concern.

They both involve large tuition increases but one involves privatizing the university by reducing the number of students to 5,000 from the current 30,000 and increasing tuition fees to $10,000.

Joe Zachon, public relations officer at McGill, said they are merely possibilities. "None of these options are being considered in a preferential way. It's a starting point."

Zachon added Bernard has not given support to any of the extreme options which have only been set out as conceivable possibilities.

Anna Kruzynski, academic affairs coordinator for the McGill Graduate Students' Union, said there may be other alternatives to privatization which are not being considered. McGill has a $500 million endowment fund which yields approximately $71 million annually – over half of which the school re-capitalizes every year.

Kruzynski, along with a coalition from the university's community of staff and students, has devised an alternative budget for McGill using the endowment fund which she said has brought the democratic process back to budget making.

"We should use some of the investment revenue from the endowment fund," Kruzynski said. "We can understand the need to protect the fund from inflation but there is no need to re-capitalize way above the rate of inflation. This is being done on the backs of students."

"They have to consider it. They need to bring the budget before the Board of Governors and either use it, or explain why they won't."

Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic, said the Board of Governors has always been responsible in their budgeting to insure Western would not have an operating deficit. "McGill continued to spend at a level above the revenue they had coming in," Moran said.

He was sympathetic to McGill's financial situation pointing out the difficult situation of being a largely English-speaking school in a French province. "The perception is that this puts them at a disadvantage but for all of Canada it is vital that it remains a strong institution."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998