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Academic Excellence? | UNB faculty want answers and solutions to upcoming cuts

UNB faculties want answers, but not from their students.

Last month, the academic departments at UNB were informed in a notice from UNB vice-president academic Tony Secco that they will be facing $1.2 million in cuts in the 2014-2015 year.

“Accordingly, I have been asked by the UMC [University Management Committee] to accept 1.5 million of ongoing budget target reductions in my portfolio for the 2014-15 year,” Secco’s note read. “Of these deductions, 1.2 million relates to budgets of the faculties and departments (excluding any student service components).”

Already facing cuts for the past couple of years, the news of further cuts to academics has left faculty concerned about UNB’s future. Department chairs formed an academic council that has been meeting every Thursday since early February.

“The reason why we are getting together is that a lot of departments and faculties are really on the edge, that can’t sustain anymore cuts. We have cut as much as we possibly can,” said earth sciences chair Cliff Shaw at the council’s meeting last Thursday.

Shaw presented numbers and statistics at Thursday night’s meeting. He said they were compiled using the information openly available on UNB’s website and through Right to Information requests.

The findings are concerning.

According to the university-wide budget for 2011-2012, tuition revenues were projected to be around $52 million for the year. But according to UNB’s revenue report for the 2012 fiscal year, organized following CAUBO guidelines on the UNB website, the revenue was $72.338 million from credit courses, $7.391 million on non-credit courses, plus $291,000 in other fees. This means there appears to be a $28 million difference from what was originally projected.

Their findings also showed that between 2004 and 2014 all departments at UNBF, with the exception of biology, earth sciences, kinesiology and nursing have lost staff, while the number of some administration has increased during the same time period.

Some of these increases are in the office of the vice-president of research, which gained 19 administrative positions, and the office of the president, which gained nine. The UNB College of Extended Learning also gained nine new administrators and the office of the Saint John vice-president gained 20.

Though it appears hiring for some administrative positions has gone up, the number of administrators for student-related services has gone down. Between 2004 and 2014, Student Affairs has lost three employees, and ITS and Residence Life have lost two.

The council’s findings also show that since 2007, the amount of money allocated to staff, support staff and faculties has gone down.

However, UNB president Eddy Campbell to the faculty told faculty in a letter that many of the non-faculty positions added were funded through other sources outside the university.

“According to our careful review, 84 non-faculty term positions that were added were made possible by funds from various sources outside the university operating budget usually referred to as ‘soft funding,’ ” Campbell’s letter read.

Campbell also argued that the added administration positions were needed.

“Most of these people are providing direct or indirect support to faculty in their research, teaching and service efforts,” he said.

The council will be meeting with UNB vice-president finance Daniel Murray, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks. They have also sent in their numbers to Murray’s office so he could point out any discrepancies.

The numbers and trends have raised concerns about what the university will look like in decades to come. They argue that the university is allocating money away from its “academic vision.” If continued, they believe UNB could look like a very different place decades from now: A university with few staff and students simply paying money to get their degrees.

“It’s very clear, these guys aren’t stupid and we know that. They know this is happening,” said Gary Saunders of the biology department at the meeting.

“A very clear question for the vice-president finance is going to be ‘[When] did you actually plan to stop this?’ ”

The amount of cuts in past years has some faculty members questioning who is running the university. Shaw said as the numbers stand, it looks like it’s the vice-president finance.

“That’s what frightens me. Is that how we have somebody that doesn’t care about education, who’s never stood in front of a class of students, who’s never taught a course . . . he’s running the show,” Shaw said.

The council believes it’s time for students to be aware of the cuts and the possible long-term consequences of them.

“For me, it’s to give out information that people are paying for a service and yet a large quantity of dollars they are paying for that service are going to something that they didn’t anticipate,” Shaw said.

“They anticipated paying student fees for to learn . . . they didn’t anticipate to be paying student fees to build a Currie Center and 15 new administrators.”

UNB Student Union vice-president internal Jenn Connolly was one of the students present at Thursday’s meeting. She told the Brunswickan she found the faculty’s findings disturbing, particularly where administration is being hired.

“. . . To me that seems very questionable and makes me wonder exactly what they’re doing and why they’re needed,” Connolly said. “It’s not only professors who are not being hired back, you look at the student affairs and services that are very important and affect students as well . . . there other facets in the university for students, and they are not being looked at either.”

Another fact she found questionable was the discrepancy in tuition revenue projections.

“There’s 28 million dollars of our tuition that’s not going towards tuition-related things,” Connolly said. “And as someone paying for a service, that worries me. Because I’m obviously not getting everything that I’m paying for.”

Connolly said the UNBSU plans to go over academic council’s findings with the incoming executive, and hopes to see a change in student engagement surrounding the issue.

“I really hope to see a big push from the Student Union and the new executive on getting students engaged in what’s going on in the university and getting them interested in the transparency or lack thereof surrounding the UNB’s financials,” she said.

For those wanting to learn more, students are welcome to attend the academic council’s meetings held every Thursday at 5 p.m. in room 104 in the Geology and Forestry building.

More of the council’s findings are below: 

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