Departments around the University of Calgary issued a collective sigh of relief after learning planned budget cuts for each of the next three years will not be necessary.
The announcement was made by U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten during his annual speech to faculty, staff and students. Increased government commitment to the U of C's base operating grant has made the cuts unnecessary, Weingarten said Thu., Jun. 2.
"When we were looking at our budgets two years ago and last year, our best sense was that unless something happened in terms of government funding, this university and, in fact, every other post-secondary in the province was looking at somewhere in the order of three to five per cent budget cuts each year simply to pay the bills," said Weingarten. "These anticipated cuts will simply not have to happen; that's good news."
In October, U of C administration drew ire from across campus when the budget committee called on all departments to reallocate five per cent of their budgets into a reallocation pool. Of the five per cent, three per cent was allotted to pay down the university's budget deficit, with the remainder slated to go into a reallocation pool used to fund priority areas.
Weingarten noted the government's pledge was too late to prevent this year's cuts, adding 2005-06 budgets have already been allocated. He also said the U of C will remain committed to the two per cent fund reallocation. Concerns remain for the U of C Faculty Association, which has condemned the cuts from the beginning.
"These things are always very confused," said TUCFA President Anton Colijn. "The president, senior administration and the budget committee are committed to a reallocation pool. In that sense units will again face cuts, except those agile enough to acquire some of the reallocation."
"It is a cut for some and not a cut for others," said Colijn.
During his presentation Weingarten challenged the perception that the financial climate at the U of C was responsible for a loss of staff and faculty, noting the net number of faculty members has increased during each of the past five years.
"Despite many things you read in newspapers, here is the actual data," quipped Weingarten in front of a slide showing the number of faculty departures and hires since 2000. "Not a bad thing sometimes to have attitudes and opinions driven by data. Over a five-year period we have increased the faculty at the U of C by over 250 people."
Colijn believes other factors must be considered, however.
"The numbers are indeed increasing," said Colijn. "But quite a few of the newly hired people are in specific research chairs. A new person coming in may contribute very much to the research part of the university, but very little to actual teaching."
Students' Union President Bryan West agreed, noting most new faculty are funded by external donations for research chairs.
"I think I can say with some certainty that the growth for the university has been in the research area and not teaching," said West.
Weingarten's hour-long presentation began with a history of the U of C campus and moved on to outline a number of current initiatives of the university, including the creation of a fully wireless campus within 18 months, a new digital library, a Child Development Centre on west campus and downtown campus development. Weingarten also pledged to create an Experiential Learning Centre to address increasingly outdated science laboratories on campus.
He also noted cash fundraising in the 2004-05 year was the most successful in the U of C's history, with the university surpassing its goal of $30 million by nearly $10 million. The total fundraising target for 2008 is $80 million.
"Our plan is to increase the enrolment at the U of C by 7,000 students by the year 2010," said Weingarten. "In order to do that we need to build these infrastructure projects."
Weingarten stressed the importance of budget reallocations and risk in order to accomplish these goals.
"If we wait at the U of C to implement things until every issue associated with that thing is understood, we wouldn't do anything," he said. "We tolerate risk because we are prepared to go forward."