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Friday, April 5, 2002

  • Some new spending and some cuts
  • Why UW's budget is under stress
  • About that pension fund holiday
  • 'The renaissance of religion'
  • Other notes, weekend events
Chris Redmond

Maple syrup festival | Daylight saving time

Fee statements go out today

Now that tuition fee rates for 2002-03 have been approved, fee bills for students coming to campus in the spring term will be going into the mail today. The finance office says they'll be mailed "to mailing/home addresses on record".

Fee payments are due by April 24 (cheque) or April 29 (bank payment).

Detailed information is available on the finance web site.

Some new spending and some cuts

[Chakma] UW's operating budget for the coming year, as approved by the board of governors on Tuesday, represents an attempt to make "structural" changes in the university's finances, says provost Amit Chakma (left). And while there are painful campus-wide budget cuts, total spending is still going up -- from about $222 million this year to $238 in the new year.

New spending in the coming year's budget includes $7.5 million for May 1 salary increases, $1.5 million for the immediate cost of teaching more students as enrolment goes up this fall, $2 million in higher costs for employee benefits, $1.3 million added to the scholarship and bursary fund, $600,000 for rising utility bills, $800,000 to "intensify income diversification efforts" through the development office, $250,000 for the Centre for Teaching and Learning Through Technology, $200,000 for the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, and various other items.

"We are attempting to position UW so we can achieve multi-year budget planning capability," Chakma said in his budget memo to the board. "And although, for the near future, we will not be in a position to present a multi-year budget plan due to the uncertainties with government funding, knowing our expenditures helps us plan better."

In the year that's just ending, UW suffered a 3.5 per cent budget cut, which was originally supposed to be a one-time measure. Many departments managed it with temporary savings such as not filling positions for a few months. But that cut is permanent now, and Chakma has imposed an additional cut of 2 per cent to balance the coming year's budget and help provide some funds for special projects.

The two annual cuts are the first general reductions since the massive budget-cutting in 1996 at the time of the Special Early Retirement Program, apart from a one-time levy in the fall of 1997.

Why UW's budget is under stress

Why should a growing university be short of money? Chakma talks about the "structural deficit" in this section from his budget memo to the board:
Current policies of the provincial government, as summarized below, have created an ongoing structural deficit problem for Ontario universities and provide context for UW's budget proposal.
  • Ontario has failed to provide full funding for all students currently enrolled in the university system. For Waterloo, this means approximately 10% of students do not generate any funding from the government and represents an estimated annual shortfall of $8M.
  • Waterloo receives no government grants to cover the annual $26M (in addition to the co-op placement cost) cost of operating our successful co-op program.
  • Government has not provided any "inflationary adjustment." With inflationary costs at universities running at about 4% in recent years, this automatically creates an annual 4% shortfall in the operating budget.
  • Government has capped tuition increases in regulated programs at 2%. With 30% of that increase mandated as set-aside for student aid, the net effect is a 1.4% increase in tuition fee revenues from ~65% of UW's undergraduate students.
In the recent past, we have coped with the deficit by admitting more students, leaving staff and faculty positions vacant, and taking advantage of a partial pension holiday.

As we turn now to address the structural problems of our budget deficit, we will continue our plan to restore pension contributions to the full level over the next two years and eliminate the pension holiday. (Last year with 40% contribution, the pension holiday amounted to $5.5M; the budget proposes to reduce it to $3.97M with 60% contribution.) As well, we have made last year's 3.5% budget levy of $5.36M a permanent cut, and are proposing an additional 2% cut which will eliminate another $3.14M from our structural deficit. The cuts could have been higher had we not received $6.1M one-time funds from Industry Canada for indirect costs of research.

In summary, the structural budget changes have been:

  • 2001-2002 3.5% budget cut: $5.36M
  • 2002-2003 2% budget cut: $3.14M
  • Reduction in pension holiday: $1.47M
These measures will provide only short-term relief. Although we have undertaken to increase our revenues through income diversification initiatives, government grants and tuition fee revenues will continue to be our major revenue sources over the next several years, and, unless government policies change, structural budget problems will continue.
And he concludes: "The proposed budget is our first attempt to deal with structural deficits. It is a budget which creates stresses, as will any budget requiring cuts, and has at root the serious potential of eroding the quality of education UW offers. However, it contains the necessary remedial action required for UW's fiscal health and initiates an important adjustment in the budget allocation process by linking activity with resource allocation.

"Though the budgetary challenges facing UW are undeniable, the proposed budget will move us forward in the spirit of our 1987 mission statement 'To reserve resources for innovation, even in times of financial stringency' by making investments in strategic areas of importance."

About that pension fund holiday

Chakma refers to $1.47 million that's needed because a "pension holiday" is gradually coming to an end. Here's how that works.

In 1997, when UW was facing a financial crisis, an obvious source of temporary savings was the pension fund, which was showing a massive surplus in the middle of a stock market boom. Jim Kalbfleisch, then the provost, worked out a plan to reduce the amount that UW and its employees were putting into the fund, which was then around $6.6 million a year from the university and $5 million a year from individuals. Premiums were reduced to 50 per cent of the normal level.

In 1998, with money still tight and the pension fund still flourishing, there was another reduction in premiums, to 25 per cent of their normal level.

Premiums have been gradually rising since early last year, when the rate was increased to 40 per cent of normal. Over the past year, the saving to the university alone -- the difference between 40 per cent and 100 per cent -- has been about $5.5 million.

As of May 1, 2002, premiums are to go to 60 per cent of normal. While UW will save about $4.0 million because the premiums aren't yet at their full level, that's $1.5 million needed this year that wasn't needed last year. Premiums are scheduled to rise again on May 1, 2003 (to 80 per cent) and on May 1, 2004 (all the way back to the level they were at in 1996).

With reduced contributions, and a faltering stock market, the big surplus in the pension fund is now just about gone. A report to this week's board meeting from the pension and benefits committee says there remains a $9.2 million surplus in the $673 million pension fund, as of January 1.

That confirms the need to go to 60 per cent of normal contributions starting next month -- more money off everybody's paycheque, and $1.37 from the UW budget for every $1 that employees pay in pension premiums.

"In light of recent market conditions," the report said, "the Committee intends to conduct a review of the state of the Fund in Fall 2002 with a view to determining whether the current plan needs to be more aggressive."

'The renaissance of religion'

"The Canadian religious scene has changed radically over the years, but in the recent past the news has sometimes been a story of decline," says a news release from St. Jerome's University announcing a speaker with a different take on things: "Reginald Bibby, well-known author and sociologist, says a wave of spiritual rejuvenation is sweeping Canada."

Bibby will deliver the 2001-2002 School Boards' Lecture, entitled "Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada," after his forthcoming book of the same name, tonight at 7:30 in Siegfried Hall at St. Jerome's. Admission is free.

Bibby is at the college as the central figure in a "Catholics in Public Life Forum" to be held at St. Jerome's on the weekend. Registration is this evening, and tomorrow is a full day of panels, discussion groups, liturgy and food. Themes for the day are "What Inspires Youth? What Inspires Us?" As a flyer explains, "World Youth Day invites all Catholics to reflect on what it is precisely that inspires youth and how it is tied to the very hope and future of the church in our country."

Registration for the conference is priced at $150, students $75. More information is available from St. Jerome's at 884-8111 ext. 2332.

Bibby, who speaks tonight and will take part in a panel tomorrow morning, is the author of widely read books on religion, youth, and Canadian society. They include Unknown Gods (1993), Fragmented Gods (1987) and The Bibby Report: Social Trends Canadian Style (1995). Restless Gods: the Renaissance of Religion in Canada has just been released.

Drawing on new research, Bibby argues that this "renaissance" makes itself felt in a heightened spiritual restlessness that has sparked new life in both old and new churches. "This ferment," says the St. Jerome's news release, "may partly reflect the high level of religious commitment among new immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as Europe. But it also includes high levels of belief among Canadians generally, of whom three-quarters say that they pray, and half report that they feel they have experienced God."

A professor of sociology, Bibby has taught at the University of Lethbridge since 1975. For the last 30 years he has been monitoring social trends in Canada through a series of surveys on adults and youth known as Project Canada. Taken every five years, the surveys have generated a picture of Canadian life with a special emphasis on religion and relationships between social groups.

The School Boards Lecture is the last event of the St. Jerome's Centre for Catholic Experience 2001-2002 season.


FAUW president: Catherine Schryer of the department of English has been acclaimed to another year in office as president of the faculty association. Election results for positions on the board of directors will be announced this morning as the association holds its annual general meeting, starting at 11:00 in Physics room 145.

Other notes, weekend events

As we move into exam season for the winter term, students will be keeping strange hours and, inevitably getting hungry. In response, Mudie's cafeteria in Village I has begun a marathon: it opened at 7:00 this morning and will be open 24 hours a day for the next week and a half, through April 15 at 12:30 in the morning. On the menu today: fish and chips or cheese cannelloni at lunch, roast pork or Madras tofu curry at dinner. The cafeteria in Ron Eydt Village is also open ("we're getting ready for our renovations . . . take a look at our floor plans in the main entrance"). But across campus, Festival Fare, the cafeteria in South Campus Hall, has closed for the season, and won't reopen until September.

Speaking of exams: the English Language Proficiency Examination will be offered at 7:00 tonight in the Physical Activities Complex. Regular exams begin Monday and run through April 20 (with the possibility of an exam as late as April 22 if a day should get snowed out).

The week-long Graduate Student Research Conference winds up today, with presentations by dozens more grad students on such topics as plankton in fishless lakes in Algonquin Park, contact lenses and corneal swelling, early flowering in certain strains of flax plants, and female university students' perceptions of sexual harassment. The keynote speaker today is George Dixon, biology professor and dean of science, talking about "Oilsands Development in Northern Alberta: Assessing the Risk to the Aquatic Environment" (Davis Centre room 1302, 1 p.m.). The conference winds up with a banquet, awards presentations and dancing tonight in Federation Hall.

This morning brings a colloquium of some importance in the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology (LT3). The speaker is Jonathan Darby of Oxford University; his topic is "Beyond the Horseless Carriage: Second and Third Generation Models for e-Learning". Says Darby:

Classroom-based courses are at best an optimal balance between educational aims and practical possibilities. Online courses that blindly copy conventional courses result in inferior learning vehicles as the new media into which the course is translated adds fresh constraints on top of those that were already built into the course. 2nd Generation e-learning retains the same learning objectives as equivalent classroom-based courses but applies an optimizing process to the design process. 3rd Generation e-learning is any approach that exploits technology to address a learning need that was not previously addressable. It includes the personalization of courses to meet individual needs, concepts or preferred mode of learning; knowledge discovery learning; collaborative group work.
The talk starts at 10:30 this morning in Dana Porter Library room 329 (and space is limited, so it might be smart to call ext. 7008 to see if any seats are left).

A memorial service will be held today for Stephanie Chisholm-Nelson, a third-year chemistry student who died on campus March 5. The service is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome's University. Also today, I understand, a handsome white pine, newly planted beside the Earth Sciences and Chemistry building, will be dedicated to her memory.

Over the weekend, the Germanic and Slavic department presents a German-language play: Friedrich Dürrenmatt's "Der Besuch der alten Dame" ("The Old Lady's Visit"). Performances are at 2:00 and 8:00 Saturday in the Theatre of the Arts, and tickets are $6 from the Humanities box office, 888-4908.

Several people and groups with UW connections are on the list of nominees for the annual Kitchener-Waterloo Arts Awards, to be presented Saturday night at a gala in Kitchener's Walper House hotel. Fine arts professor Jane Buyers is in line for an award in the visual arts; Bill Poole, director of the Centre for Cultural Management, is a nominee in the open (administrative or voluntary) category; The New Quarterly and Michael Higgins of St. Jerome's University are also among nominees. Watch for results early next week.

A new group called 2Do Waterloo, encouraging social and recreational activities for people who work in the region's high-technology industries, has Federation Hall booked for a "high-tech battle of the bands" on Saturday night starting at 7:30.

The staff association sends a reminder that it's looking for people to fill various offices in the coming year, including president-elect (the person who will then be president of the association in 2003-04). Nominations are due April 19; the association office, phone ext. 3566, can provide more information.

Finally, an apologetic note: in yesterday's Bulletin I announced a noon-hour concert at Conrad Grebel University College, which turned out, in fact, to be an evening concert. I hope all those who wanted to hear the instrumental chamber ensembles perform managed to get back to campus in the evening and weren't too inconvenienced.



April 5, 1977: Banker Page Wadsworth is elected chair of UW's board of governors. April 5, 1993: Leaders of universities and other public agencies are called to a meeting in Toronto to hear about the imposition of the Social Contract.

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