Mount Royal University says faculty misunderstood $4.3M in budget adjustments
'We are not seeking budget cuts,' president says after faculty head expresses concerns in radio interview
The Mount Royal University Faculty Association says the school's administration has asked for $4.3 million in spending reductions that professors fear would diminish the quality of education, but the university president later countered that their worries are based on an "unfortunate misunderstanding."
"The magnitude of the cuts were quite a shock," faculty association president Marc Schroeder said Thursday morning on The Calgary Eyeopener, adding that he only learned of the budget proposal on Wednesday morning.
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Schroeder said MRU administration sent an email to the deans of each faculty on Tuesday, asking them to find reductions totalling $4.3 million for the 2016/17 budget and giving them a deadline of March 29 to reply with proposals.
When the faculty association found out about the emails on Wednesday, Schroeder said professors were "very surprised," especially given that the provincial government has recently increased funding to post-secondary education.
But MRU president David Docherty said the faculty association has got it wrong.
"We are not seeking budget cuts, but rather, rationale around requested budget increases," Docherty said in a statement issued early Thursday afternoon.
The faculty association appears to have misunderstood the message to deans, he added.
"We realize there was insufficient context in our recent budget communication to academic units, which led to an unfortunate misunderstanding of the budget context."
"No one is asking for cuts for next week," Docherty later told reporters at a press conference.
"No one is asking that over the weekend that we look and actually cut positions, cut programs, cut courses, cut units — none of that is happening."
The university president blamed the misunderstanding on the email between the provost and deans being misconstrued when it got into the hands of the faculty association.
"Some documents got released that cause justifiable concern among some people because it was taken within a small context as opposed to a larger context," he said.
The email related to the second draft of the university budget, in which Docherty said $4.7 million in requests for increased academic spending were identified and deans were asked to justify them.
"This is just part of the budget discussion and the budget-building exercise," he said.
The university won't present a final budget to its board of governors until May or June, Docherty added and it will have to wait until the provincial budget is released on April 14 before finalizing the numbers.
To further address the confusion, Docherty said MRU will hold a town-hall meeting for students and staff to learn more and ask questions about the budget on Tuesday next week.
The town hall had originally been scheduled for mid-April, he said.
In his radio interview, Schroeder said professors were particularly worried about increased class sizes and less contact time with students.
"Mount Royal has a very proud history — over 100 years long — of student-centred education," he said.
"We take great pride in our undergraduate teaching focus and our small class sizes and the opportunity students have to know their instructors and be mentored by them."