U of C budget 2003-2004

By Natalie Sit

The new University of Calgary budget promises many changes in the upcoming year including larger class sizes, reduced course selection and more layoffs.

The university hopes to reduce spending by $30 million to eliminate a possible $22 million deficit. To do so, the U of C will absorb restructuring costs of $8.7 million for 2003/04 and $8.2 million for the following year.

U of C Vice-President External Roman Cooney justifies the two-year plan because it decreases burden on the university.

"The tradeoff is we could run a deficit over a larger time," explained Cooney. "The province is supporting us eliminating the deficit over two years. If we reduced it to one year, it puts more pressure on the university."

Throughout the university, there are groups who feel the budget is a disservice while others feel it is a good budget in terms of available resources.

Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist acknowledges there are positives and negatives in the budget for undergraduate students. One of the positives she points out is the realization with the budget that large faculties are overwhelmed and need more money. Gilchrist is also glad to see the university "keep their word" on 30 per cent of differential fees going towards scholarships. However, Gilchrist does have some concerns.

"There’s $500,000 for undergraduates and $2.3 million for graduate students [for increased support] and then compare the number of students," said Gilchrist. "Divide money among students and it’s a huge disparity. There’s not enough focus on undergraduates."

Graduate Students’ Association President Jeff LaFrenz feels the budget is a reasonable compromise considering the situation. He believes, in general, funding to post-secondary education must increase. But he does have concerns with a proposal to have graduate students teach more classes.

"It’s good for experience, especially at the PhD level," said LaFrenz. "But it’s bad because it takes time away from research."

Students are not the only ones concerned with the budget. Alberta Union of Public Employees Chair Dan Tilleman sees the budget as a "reacting" budget and could negatively affect employees.

"The vast number of staff cuts have fallen on AUPE staff," said Tilleman. "Indirectly, it affects the remaining staff because workloads are going up. There’s certainly a fear when the axe will fall again."

U of C Faculty Association President Dr. John Baker also believes the budget will negatively affect faculty in the form of a four per cent cut next year and a three per cent cut in academic units.

"[The cuts] will be done on a differential basis," said Baker. "Some will receive budget back and presumably some won’t. And for those who are not restored it’s very serious. Many are angry and fed up."

Baker and Gilchrist are both concerned with increasing class sizes. Although, Cooney promises money will go to faculties with large class sizes such as Science and Social Science, some classes which could accept more students might do so.

"The document makes clear there will be an increase in class size, a subsequent drop of sections, an increase in ‘normal’ teaching assignments," said Baker. "There’s a significant danger of a heavy workload. The faculty is fed up. This is a very lean university and struggling on a minimal budget."

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