Just days after a public dispute erupted over budgets at Mount Royal University, the official in charge of academic spending has abruptly left the school.

It's not clear whether Kathy Shailer — the second-most powerful administrator after the president — was asked to leave, left on her own, or was fired, but one faculty chair says it had to happen. 

"She had lost the trust and credibility with the faculty, with the deans and with the chairs, with the people she had to work with on a daily basis," said policy studies professor Duane Bratt.

Controversy

Shailer had unveiled a five-year academic plan that was rejected by the General Faculties Council and then sent an email to the dean of each department reportedly asking for $4.3 million in cuts to academic budgets despite increases in provincial funding.

CBC News could not independently verify the content of that email.

MRU offered no comment on the departure other than to say it had nothing to do with recent budget disagreements between faculty and administration and that it would not comment on personnel matters. 

Bratt said the assertion that Shailer's departure had nothing to do with the budget talks wasn't believable and said Shailer's email put the university in a "crisis situation."

Budget process

He said there was a clear budget process in place to allow for more transparency with staff that involved meetings between deans, chairs and the provost.

There were two of those meetings for his department, he said, and there was a big one scheduled for April 6, days prior to the April 14 provincial budget after which "decisions would have to be made."

"In the middle of that this landmine shows up, where it just blows up the whole budget process," said Bratt. "That was the direction that I got, that was the way I interpreted it, was that it was not an increase in the 2015-16 budget to 2016-17, it was $4.3 million in cuts."

He said faculty were given less than a week to find those savings.

Public debate

The result of the email played out in the media between the president of the faculty association, Marc Schroeder, and the president of the university, David Docherty, who said it was all just a big misunderstanding and there would be not cuts. 

"We are not seeking budget cuts, but rather, rationale around requested budget increases," Docherty said in a statement issued last week.

Docherty also scheduled a budget town hall for March 29 in order to contain the debate, while the faculty association scheduled a confidence vote against Shailer for March 30.

"So to say that that is not connected to the budget town hall on Tuesday, the non-confidence vote, the email — I just don't accept that," said Bratt.

The town hall will proceed as scheduled and there's sure to be more than dollar amounts to talk about.

"I think there's still a lot of questions, but she was in an untenable situation, she could not stay," said Bratt.

Next steps

The faculty association is taking a wait-and-see approach to determine its next steps with administration. 

"It really depends on what we hear at the town hall tomorrow and over the next couple of days," Schroeder said. 

"I certainly would like to be fair to administration and I would like to give them a chance to explain the current state of our finances at the town hall and clarify any initiatives around changes to class size and so forth, or to clarify for us that those initiatives are not happening."

He said he was "not aware that there was any sort of justification for measures that would have had such a negative effect on the classroom experience," and that multiple conversations with the provincial government indicate funding increases for post-secondary will be close to inflation during these "economically challenging times."

Schroeder said he's hopeful for "a return to an environment where faculty and administrators can actually work together."

With files from Diane Yanko