Students spoke out this week after it was revealed that administration at the University of Calgary spent $8.1 million on renovations for executive offices as post-secondary funding is being cut and budgets are tightened. The renovations include a private staircase and bigger offices for university vice-presidents.
U of C Senate student representative Dave Beninger acknowledged that upkeep is necessary, but said he thinks these renovations were over-the-top.
“When the budget was cut last March, the university spent the next nine months telling people that there was no fat in the budget to be cut out,” Beninger said. “Yes, some of the spending was necessary — around $3 million of it. But there are tons of buildings used by students across the school where the money could have been better spent.”
Renovation plans for the offices are 20 per cent larger than what is normally allowed under U of C design standards.
Former SU arts representative Jack Mills had strong words about the money spent.
“If you want status and image, try working in the private sector,” Mills said, “but if you chose to be an administrator, and the steward of other people’s money, a little humility would be nice.”
Vincent St. Pierre, who was the student representative on the Board of Governors last year, voted in favour of the renovations. He defended his decision, saying fancy offices are sadly necessary when the university has to ask private donors for cash.
“About half of the money was to bring it up to code. The other half was to make it into a presentable space where the university can shake down corporate Calgary for money,” St. Pierre said. “You need to spend money to make money.”
University administration also defended the renovations this week, arguing that the old offices were outdated and did not “appropriately reflect the university’s status and image,” the Calgary Herald reported.
Renovation plans were approved before the March budget cuts, though work did not begin until after they were announced.
Earlier this week, Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk defended U of C administration, saying the renovations were a necessary part of maintaining public assets.