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Dark Days At The University of Alberta

Posted in University-of-Alberta on August 23rd 2013 by Randy Reichardt

Hard to know where to begin. With the announcement below from President Samarasekara, a new era begins for the University of Alberta, one in which what was once a university with a goal of becoming one of the top 20 in the world instead will become one in which it will slowly descend into an overpriced community college with what the Right will still consider to be overpaid, privileged, and “entitled” staff. How proud Premier Alison Kleinford -er- Redford, and Minister Tommy Lukaszuk must be today.

Let us begin with the #pcaa’s original promise of a 2% increase, which changed to a 7.2% decrease after the election. So much for election promises, but when, really have any election promises ever been kept? Now add onto that a further “overall 7% reduction in expenses relating to the core academic enterprise and an 8% reduction in the cost of services supporting those core functions. To sustain this balanced position over the long-term, we also agreed to plan for additional overall reductions of 2% in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.”

Let’s average the 7% and 8% in tandem reductions to, say, 7.5%, and do the math: 7.2+7.5+2.0+2.0 equals an 18.7% reduction in the UA budget through to 2017.

Make no mistake, my friends – this means the reduction of some and the end of many programs, the eventual further layoffs of dozens if not hundreds of staff, and a continuing reduction of services. Forget any more salary increases. (Hell, I can hear many of you laughing uncontrollably right now. More power to you all.) I mean, we’re all just a bunch of overpaid, lazy motherfuckers anyway, right?

To those of you constantly whining and bitching about our out-of-control administrative costs, this goes WAY beyond any of that. This is the Alberta Government picking the U of A up and body slamming it to the floor, hard as hell. It might as well be described as the government telling the University to start amputating parts of itself. It is gutless, spineless, without merit, unwarranted, and cowardly. But hey, who am I to question the wisdom and foresight of our beloved, well-educated premier, and what’s his name, the minister responsible for #abpse? And don’t talk to me about how the U of A is making these decisions itself. The Alberta Government blindsided all post-secondary institutions, and is now sitting back and watching the resulting chaotic re-organizational clusterfuck that is expanding like a plague on a daily basis.

I could go on, but I’m just blowing hot air now. I surrender to the whims of Little Tommy Lu and his minions. I wave the white flag. I celebrate 30 years on campus next month. Not sure I’ll be in any mood to commemorate the moment.

Remember in the 90s, when we referred to Klein’s minister, Steve West, as “The Terminator”? I’d like to call Little Tommy the Terminator of 2013, but that would probably be insulting to former Minister West.

In the end, the only ones who lose, and will lose hard, are the students. As for attracting the best and brightest to this campus, and retaining those who are here, now I’M the one who can’t stop laughing.

And to think Mr Lukaszuk still apparently believes that the students will not see any difference in the quality of education they’ll start to receive in a couple weeks: “They will continue to attend some of the best institutions in Canada and will not notice any appreciable change on campus,” he said.  “Students have many more bona fide problems to worry about. I can assure them they will receive a second-to-none education. There won’t be any hardship.”

Looking into his eyes must be like staring into the eyes of a chicken. But he gets the last laugh, as he watches #abpse implode upon itself. The only think I really don’t know is how wide his shit-eating grin must be at this moment.

23 August 2013
Budget Update from President Samarasekera

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Following many months of analysis and discussion, the deans, other members of the senior leadership team, and I met Thursday to undertake a critical task—to review and discuss strategies that have been under development and to come to agreement on what our community must do to reach a balanced, sustainable position by April 1, 2015.

We recognize the urgency of the situation and agree that it is in the best interest of our university and the morale of our community to accelerate our original plan. Given the direction the Board has now received from the ministry, we must take decisive action in the immediate term, so that we can turn our attention to long-term academic and administrative transformation. The next few months will not be easy, especially because several units and faculties already have experienced lay-offs, program suspensions, position closures, and other impacts from the cuts contained in the 2013-2014 budget.

During yesterday’s meeting, we reached many important decisions, with the university’s core mission of providing excellence in teaching, research, and service for the public good in the forefront of our discussions. Primary among the decisions made is that to balance the operating budget for 2014-2015, we must make a further overall 7% reduction in expenses relating to the core academic enterprise and an 8% reduction in the cost of services supporting those core functions. To sustain this balanced position over the long-term, we also agreed to plan for additional overall reductions of 2% in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

I want to be clear: these are major cuts and every member of our community will feel the impact. We will continue to streamline administrative functions, reduce redundancies, and seek new or untapped sources of revenue. We will maintain our commitment to excellence and do all that we can to minimize the impact on student access and experience.

However, we will not achieve the goal of a balanced, sustainable position by April 1, 2015 without further suspension and closure of programs, courses, and course sections, some in degree programs that are unique in Campus Alberta. Although Alberta’s young population continues to grow, and with it, student demand for university education, we will be unable to admit the full number of applicants who are well-qualified and well-prepared for success here. We will lose valued employees through voluntary and involuntary severance. We will permanently close many vacant positions and will all feel the resulting reductions in service.

The outcome of the Voluntary Severance Program may influence the approach individual faculties and units take to achieving their share of the necessary reduction. After the September 16 VSP deadline, we will assess the result on units and faculties and determine the precise percentage of the cut allocated to each faculty and unit. Until then, the deans and VPs will be finalizing plans so that they can be ready to move quickly once we know exactly where we stand.

Let me tell you the timeline we prepared:
• Aug. 30: Provost’s Office will send a letter to the deans, confirming the percentage cut above and affirming other details of the action plan.
• Sept. 6: Martin Ferguson-Pell and Phyllis Clark will hold a Campus Forum (12-1 pm, ECHA L1-490) to provide details on the 2013-2014 budget to date and to provide a basic budget primer for the 2014-2015 budget.
• Sept. 16: Deadline for application to the Voluntary Severance Program.
• Sept. 16: Annual budget presentation to General Faculties Council.
• Sept. 19: I will deliver the State of the University Address (11:30 am – 12:30 pm, Convocation Hall) at which I will present a new 3-year action plan for academic and administrative transformation. To register, please go to:
• Early October: First draft of 2014-2015 budget prepared.

Throughout this process and beyond, we are committed to providing as much transparency and clarity as possible. Going forward, we will share the deans’ letters, action plans, and budget primers with our internal community. I will post a regular update on our progress every Friday.

Let me close with a simple observation. The University of Alberta has a proud, 105-year history of educating the leaders, highly-skilled professionals, and highly-engaged volunteers who are active in every sector of this province. UAlberta research has fueled the province’s economic growth and prosperity for more than a century and research done today will continue to be the source of innovation and discovery. We are facing grave challenges right now, but this university can withstand them. With a shared commitment to excellence and leadership in teaching and research, we will—as a community with a proud history—find the right way to preserve and advance the UAlberta far into the future.