Administration defends budgetary policies

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

An audience member asking administration a question

Shaun Ding

SEEKING OUT ANSWERS. Several hundred Western staff, faculty and students peppered Western’s administration with questions regarding the school’s budget at a town hall meeting yesterday afternoon at the Richard Ivey School of Business. The meeting was a follow-up to an initial town hall that took place during the first week of March.

In the wake of a heated town hall meeting earlier this month, Western administration held another yesterday to continue discussing the university budget in light of the economic crisis.

Western is expecting losses of approximately $41 million in operating revenues between 2008-09 to 2010-11, Western President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport said at the last meeting on March 3.

At the previous meeting, where several hundred students, faculty and staff were in attendance, emotions flared regarding Western’s seemingly dire financial situation.

Concerns were raised over potential job losses and tuition hikes, and many fingers were pointed at the policies of Western’s Board of Governors " particularly its investment of non-endowed funds and policy to sustain a $2.5 million operating reserve.

At the town hall yesterday, held at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Davenport addressed the previously raised issues.

Western has reviewed its capital expenditures, Davenport said. While projects such as the University Community Centre renovations cannot be halted, Western is hoping to use the recently released federal budget infrastructure money to finance the program.

Davenport also discussed the one-year salary freeze being mandated for 26 various senior administration positions.

This is one element of Western’s plan for budgetary restraint intended to reduce the chance of layoffs for its employees. The expenditure trends of the past, Davenport explained, are not sustainable given the decline in the growth of revenue. Currently, compensation represents about 76 per cent of operating expenditures at Western.

Davenport added that, subject to Board approval, Western could run deficits over the next few years while respecting the $2.5 million operating reserve minimum. This could be achieved through running projected deficits of $11.3 million and $10.6 million, respectively, over the next two years.

Despite these announcements, administration came under fire again.

“Based on spending not found in the budget, is there any need for layoffs this year?” Mike Dawes, associate chair of the mathematics department, asked.

Davenport assured there is no disrespect between the Board and the university community, but said it does not mean there may not be a need for layoffs.

A representative from the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association questioned why the school cannot borrow more money.

“In terms of borrowing money, we’ve borrowed about $230 million so far,” Davenport responded. “Most money doesn’t belong to the operating budget, it belongs to other areas such as [construction and research grants].”

One member of the crowd berated Davenport personally: “You Paul, you " I don’t know how you can sleep at night.”

Despite the tension of the meeting, Western’s administration made it clear they will be striving towards alternatives that reduce the chance of layoffs and tuition hikes.

More information on Western’s budget can be found at www.uwo.ca.

" With files from Colton Kaufman and Shreya Tekriwal

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