If you have paid any attention to the buzz around Brock lately, you are certainly aware that these happen to be rather trying times. While the world continues to be caught up in the radical tensions that grip us as a collective society, both south of the border and overseas, Brock remains divided and torn about the fiscal environment we find ourselves in.
Gone are the days of expansion opportunity, save for those that come through grants and the generosity of donors, and instead we find ourselves clutched in the tightened embrace of budget shortfalls. For those of you who haven’t been following along, fear not, with the constant ups, downs and roller coaster changes Brock has announced over the last two years, no one would blame you.
First, Brock had a projected surplus in 2012-2013, then with the arrival of a new Vice-President of Finance and Administration this was revised for 2013-2014 to be a deficit of $4.5 million, then the Board of Trustees mandated that this deficit be no greater than $7 million. After much re-evaluation, intense town halls meetings, a divisive program review and dozens of layoffs, this deficit was reported at approximately $3 million, and revised to less than $1 million for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Fairly impressive to move $13.5 million in the space of a year, but was it all too good to be true? Maybe, seeing as recently the university announced that this deficit was projected to be $17.9 million for 2015-2016 academic year. In the wake of this, it was announced that the administration of the university, in consultation with the Finance department, has no other option but to use across the board cuts. The Deans of each faculty have been told they have to reduce their budgets and overall costs by four per cent.
Now you might find yourself asking, ‘So what?’ or ‘Why does this matter to me?’ That is where the issue lies, depending on the way that this is enacted, it can potentially have a tremendous impact on the quality of education at Brock University. ‘But it’s only four per cent, that isn’t that much!’
While this may not seem like a high amount, many Dean’s face the strict limitation that over 90 per cent of their faculty’s budgets go immediately to salaries. How can we reduce our costs by four per cent without layoffs? How can we lay off individuals when many of them are locked in to long term contracts? Suddenly, the prospect of reducing budgets by this amount becomes ever more daunting, especially if we do not want it to impact the quality of our education.
Across the board cuts can have serious short term impacts, and even greater long term ramifications as they impact the reputation of the University. While Brock may not be alone in its budget woes, it may be alone in proposing this kind of solution. As you sit and ponder your overzealous New Year’s resolutions and the even more outrageous second term textbook costs, consider the changes that may come as a result of this announcement. Moreover, if you feel strongly that this proposal not be in the cards at Brock, write to your representatives, professors and the administration of the university imploring them to seek alternate solutions and opportunities to those that may come to damage the reputation of your degree.
*** Christopher Yendt is Chair of the BUSU Board of Directors