‘Glimmer of light’ budget praised

No cuts to University operating budget for the first time in six years

First-year students started their University education in a school year free of operational budget cuts.
First-year students started their University education in a school year free of operational budget cuts.

This year, for the first time since 1999, the University budget wasn’t cut. The Board of Trustees approved a 2005-06 operating budget of $283.9 million on June 13.

“This is an unusual year and [a] dramatic departure for funding,” said University Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane. “Although it is hard to see any benefits today ... there is a general optimism across the University.”

The budget actually increased by 6.1 per cent over last year, equating to an additional $16.4 million for the University. The University told The Queen’s Gazette this reflects an increase in spending in such areas as student assistance, library acquisitions, new construction and staff salary and benefits.

Pat Welsh, AMS academic affairs commissioner, said a large chunk of the funds will go to deferred maintenance, so students will not see direct changes.

“This is the first time in 10 years that individual departments haven’t had to make cuts,” he said. “This is a positive thing that students may not immediately feel, but it won’t be detrimental.”

Dan Smith, ArtSci ’07, said he is encouraged by the lack of budget cuts.

“I think [a] cut-free budget this year is very encouraging and hopefully will continue on in the next few years so students will be able to see where the extra money is going,” he said.

Lenora White, ArtSci ’07, said she is glad that money will be spent on construction.

“They can finally finish construction on [Gordon and Nichol Halls] that [have] been under construction for years,” she said.

Robert Silverman, dean of the faculty of Arts and Science, praised the absent cuts. “[This] is good news and I hope students know it’s good news and that it will impact them in a positive way,” he said.

Silverman said his faculty was able to add 11 new positions this year.

“A priority is to reduce the student-to-professor ratio and increase graduate enrolment,” he said. “[This has] given off a fair amount of flexibility for what we can do for the department.”

Silverman said the lack of cuts means Arts and Science departments will benefit from new faculty members, technological support and new administrative staff.

Kristen Riess, ArtSci ’08, said she is looking forward to the possibility of more professors.

“I think if they had more faculty members, there would be a more broad base to draw experience from,” she said. “It’s definitely a good thing.”

Steve Millan, director of finance and administration for the School of Business, said the lack of budget cuts is positive for his faculty.

“This is the first year that I can remember that we haven’t had a budget cut,” Millan said. “Certainly if we don’t have to find savings, then we don’t have to reduce services or try to find more sources of funding to maintain those services.

“It brings a promise of more stable funding, which allows us to better plan for future program enhancements, as opposed to looking for places to cut and save money.”

This year’s budget will allow for continued investment in the Business Career Centre and technology, Millan said.

“It has enabled us to maintain the class sizes at where they’re at so they haven’t increased,” he added.

Tom Harris, dean of Applied Science, said the budget is good news, adding he had been expecting more cuts.

“Overall, it was a good news budget compared to the alternative,” he said. “It would have been grim for everybody across campus if it hadn’t happened.

“Within the faculty, before the provincial government announcement, all faculty [members] were anticipating budget cuts.”

Harris said his faculty had experienced cuts in the past years, although these were not due to a limited budget.

“Within the faculty of Applied Science there have been budget cuts to the faculty office and department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,” he said. “The reason is that we’ve had a dramatic drop in enrolments—we’re at 50 per cent of where we used to be.”

The decline follows a seven-year period of growth in engineering enrolment across the province, Harris said.

Harris said the faculty of Applied Science will have no additional spending or new faculty members hired because of the budget.

“We are in a position where half of the faculty was hired in Aug. 1999 and we have essentially completed our hiring for the next few years,” he said.

Harris added the University announced the creation of 24 new positions in a variety of faculties as a result of additional money from the province. Harris said Applied Science is hoping to receive some of those positions but not see their effects for a while.

“This year’s budget will have few dramatic effects on classes for engineering students,” Harris said.

“We’re hoping that students will not see large differences, that’s what the expectation is,” he said. “With reinvestments and if we can get some of these new hires, students may [eventually] see new faculty members. Students would see either smaller sections or new course offerings.” In the faculty of Health Sciences, the new budget will help repay debts and control fees for medical students, said David Walker, dean of Health Sciences and director of the School of Medicine.

“Hopefully we will see some of the pressure removed from the upward movement of fees [for medical students],” he said. “Nursing and rehab have had significant budget problems and have an enormous debt.

“Now without the cuts this year, it will be easier to repay the debt, which is good news, but won’t translate into immediate changes.”

Walker said small class sizes will not change and they will not be hiring any new faculty.

“[Health Sciences] can’t hire faculty on the basis of [the] one year we didn’t have budget cut[s],” he said. “As we’ve seen millions of dollars in cuts in the last few years, one year on the face of 15 is not going to make a huge impact.

“What happens next year and five years from now will tell the tale.”

Walker said despite the limited changes to Health Sciences, he is optimistic about the new budget.

“It is a glimmer of light, in a long dark tunnel,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Dean McKeown, school manager of the School of Computing, said this year’s budget will benefit the school’s growing graduate student population.

“There will be an eventual need for extra staff, given [that] the number of students is only increasing,” he said.

Rosa Bruno-Jofre, dean of the faculty of Education, said she is optimistic about this year’s budget and the hiring it will allow.

“Not having to cut four per cent from our operational budget gives us hope and a degree of normalcy,” she said. “We are hiring two or three new tenure-track faculty members this academic year.

“Possibly a fourth [faculty member] next year depending on the guidelines we receive for the next budget.”

Bruno-Jofre said she is concerned about the impact of further cuts.

“If you continue with the cuts, what happens is you cannot maintain a critical mass of professors because you cannot hire, eventually people leave and you cannot replace them,” she said. “There is a very firm relationship between budget cuts and quality.”

Herb Steacy, chair of faculties and services with the School of Physical and Health Education, said the lack of cuts has little effect on his department.

“We’re not really affected, [the school’s] future is based on the Queen’s Centre,” he said.

Welsh said he is optimistic about the possibilities of this year’s stable budget.

“Reinvestment long term will be where we see quality,” he said.

—With files from Christina Bossart and Tamsyn Burgmann

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