The university owes how much?

One of the major themes communicated by members of Brock Administration during the Student Town Hall meeting was that they have nothing to hide. Though this meeting served to inform the public about the financial status of the university and plans for sustainability, only 10 people attended the meeting on November 7.  The meeting is part of an effort to bridge the gap between Administration and students, staff and faculty at the university, specifically after the slew of changes implemented by the institution throughout the last couple of years. This year alone, Brock suffered many layoffs in multiple areas of operation, as a result of trying to cut back on the 2013/2014 $14.5 million deficit. Fortunately, Brock ended the year with only $765,000 in debt, a substantially smaller number in comparison.

Brittany Brooks/THE BROCK PRESS

Brittany Brooks/THE BROCK PRESS

However, over the last five years, Brock has accumulated a debt of $33.65 million, equating to $6.5 million per year. As the university continues to generate more expenses than revenue, the projected total expenses for 2014/2015 is $3.2 million. Administration remains optimistic and hopes that as a collective unit, they will be able to decrease this debt for the second year in a row.  Dr. Jack Lightstone, President and Vice-chancellor of the university, pointed out that Brock is not alone in this financial hole. He explained point blank that the government is broke, ultimately affecting the funding of other universities. Though the government hopes to balance out their expenses and revenue by 2017, Lightstone said that it seems unlikely to happen.

He also explained that Brock’s efforts to increase enrolment from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has become more competitive than ever and these efforts will continue to improve within the coming years. Dr. Neil McCartney, Provost and Vice-president of Academics, went into further detail and said that Brock will see a decrease in high school enrolment in Ontario due to a decline in the number of people between the ages of 18 to 25 and the fact that there are many other competitive universities in the GTA.

Similarly, one of the goals of the Niagara region is to sustain an environment that allows students to create and maintain businesses in the area. Unfortunately, with offshore private providers producing over 1,000 graduates per year in Teachers Education in Ontario, they do not actually operate within the province, which is ultimately detrimental for continued growth.

However, this is not to say that Brock has not had success, despite its remaining debt. Vice-president of Research Dr. Gary Libben explained that within the last 10 years, the Faculty of Math and Science created over 1,500 research publications; 2014 marked Brock as a recognized comprehensive university in Maclean’s Magazine; and two more faculty members were elected to the Royal Society of Canada this year, Dr. Elizabeth Sauer and Dr.  Jennifer Rowsell, alongside Dr. Tomas Hudicky in 2013.

As the construction of the Gateway residence on St.  David’s Road continues and we await the arrival of the Sir Isaac Brock statue, the administration is well aware of the rumours circulating on campus about the expense of both projects. Shari Sekel, Associate Director in the Vicepresident of Finance and Administration office, stepped in for the absent VP that afternoon, to clarify that both projects are not an extra expense to the university.  Sekel explained that the statue and the accompanying landscape in front of Schmon Tower is made possible by a generous donation from Dr. David Howes, while Gateway residence (for upper-year and graduate students), is a collaborative public and private project, which the university and the construction company are receiving little money from.

Other future plans for expansion include continued development of the East campus (East Academic, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s property) as well as an Atrium that will be built on the roof above the bus hub. Concept designs of this Atrium were quite impressive, illustrating extra study space for students and a fully functional Tim Hortons (with a toaster). This project is a possible commercial opportunity that will generate $5 million in revenue, however, it will not move forward until donors are secured.

A discussion panel followed their presentation, where students were able to ask questions and voice their concerns, providing Administration the opportunity to receive their input on the sustainability of Brock.  For more information about the financial status of the university and to learn about details pertaining to the 2014/2015 budget, visit the website at brocku.ca/outlook

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