U of S deficit concerns focus on Emma Lake campus

November 20, 2012 - 5:03pm
Students and faculty attend financial town hall meeting at the University of Saskatchewan on Nov. 20, 2012. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio
Students and faculty attend financial town hall meeting at the University of Saskatchewan on Nov. 20, 2012. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio

Concerns from students and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan are loud and clear after the university suspended the Emma Lake Kenderdine campus last week.

On Tuesday, the U of S hosted a financial town hall meeting to discuss its upcoming budget cuts. The university has a projected $44.5-million deficit by 2016.

The decision to suspend the Emma Lake campus for three years to save about $500,000 came shortly before the announcement last Thursday, said Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn.

The campus is famous for its Artists' Workshop but also hosts a field work biology course. The class is a pre-requisite for the honours program.

"You are saving all of this money but who are you saving it for? Is it being put back to the students? Is our department going to see any positive changes for our future students or are we simply looking at, sort of, a death by 1,000 financial cuts?," said Kasia Majewski , the president of the University of Saskatchewan's Biology Club.

Majewski is one of a dozen people who took the opportunity to question Fairbairn and Greg Fowler, acting vice-president of finance and resources.

"We are going to have a bit of a logistical nightmare to accommodate those honour students who have been enrolled in the program for a number of years now," said Jack Gray, the head of the department of biology.

It is important that the university focus on this being not a death by 1,000 cuts, but zero in on big things and strategic things, said Fairbairn.

"A few big things and not so many little things across the campus," said Fairbairn, adding the biology 350 course has not been cancelled and will likely take place at a different field site.

As of Tuesday, permanent expense reductions of $2.5 million have been made and one-time expense reductions of $7 million have been chosen.

The university's budget comprises mainly of salaries and benefits. About 70 per cent of its revenue is from a provincial operating grant and 23 per cent is from tuition. The other seven per cent is where Fairbairn and Fowler are focusing on.

The university is considering following the Dickeson model to prioritize its budget cuts.

Budget reductions that are off the table include cuts across the board, early retirement buyouts, a hiring freeze and curtailing travel.

No stone will be left unturned, said Fairburn, including jobs or big ticket items like colleges.


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