Student apathy kills town hall

By Chris Beauchamp

Student apathy won the day as a planned University of Calgary budget town hall was cancelled due to virtually zero attendance.

Despite an e-mail announcement being sent out by the Students’ Union to every U of C student, virtually nobody showed up, said SU Communications Director Bev Hills.

The event, hosted by the Students’ Union, was scheduled to occur in MacEwan Hall Tue., Oct. 12, and would have included a presentation from the U of C budget team and an open question period.

“The ins and outs of university budgets are a source of mystery to many in the academy,” said U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten in an internal message to all staff. “This sense of mystery sometimes leads to cynicism and sometimes to wonder why budget challenges never seem to disappear.”

The message goes on to mention “three key numbers” needed to understand budget issues at the U of C. Every one per cent increase in salary and benefits equals approximately a $3 million increase in expenses. Every one per cent increase in government grants equals approximately a $2 million increase in revenues. Every one per cent increase in tuition increases revenues by approximately $1 million.

“Whatever your preferred solution, there is no magic here,” said Weingarten in the message. “Most people believe that no single source of revenue increase or expense reduction will be able to fulfill the mandate of balancing the books. Some combination of these factors will be necessary.”

According to a copy of the Power-Point presentation to be used at the town hall, the combination to be implemented for the 2004‑05 budget, includes maximum fee increases, reduced level of service, 200 non-faculty staff positions closed with 50 redeployed, funding redistributed to priorities identified in the 2003-07 business plan and $45 million in unfunded requested priorities.

“I’m not an advocate for the university, I’m an advocate for students,” said SU President Bryan West. “But I believe personally that the university is trying to do the best job they can with the resources provided to them. Tuition is really a symptom of a larger problem in university financing.”

The fault lies with government support, noted West.

“They don’t want to provide base funding,” he said, adding that base funding would mean a long term commitment to post secondary funding increases. “They don’t get a building out of it. They don’t get a press conference or a plaque to hang somewhere. But it’s the only place where money can come from to fill the void.”

University support staff are represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. AUPE Local 52 Chair Albi Sole could not be reached for comment regarding the 200 support staff jobs cut.

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