Manitoba

U of M board approves new budget, including $250K for sexual violence, anti-racism supports

The University of Manitoba is dedicating $250,000 in its new budget for sexual violence and racism supports.

Tuition to increase by 3.75 per cent in coming year, increasing revenue by $10.3 million

The funding will build on the existing services, providing more flexibility in prevention and response efforts, a spokesperson for the U of M said. (James Teterenko/Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Manitoba is dedicating $250,000 in its new budget for sexual violence and anti-racism supports.

The university's board of directors voted shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday to approve the new budget, which will also include a tuition increase of 3.75 per cent for the coming academic year.

John Danakas, spokesperson for U of M, wrote in an email the new funding for sexual violence and anti-racism supports will go to education, training and support to the school's existing program.

"This is entirely new funding, over and above normal funding for support services, such as counselling, for example," he wrote in an email.

The funding will build on the existing services, providing more flexibility in prevention and response efforts, he said. Existing funding for the various services that deal with sexual violence — including student services, counselling and security services — will continue.

"The University seeks to direct additional resources to an issue that all universities are dealing with and that consultations with students and the wider university community have identified as increasingly important," he said.

Some counselling and investigation services will continued to be contracted out, he added.

Sexual harassment investigations at the school have been in the spotlight in recent months, after two high-profile professors left the school amid allegations of misconduct.

Peter Jones retired earlier this month, after he went on leave from his position as the director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in December 2018 amid allegations including harassment and inappropriate relationships with students.

Peter Jones retired earlier this month, after he went on leave from his position at the U of M in December amid allegations including harassment and inappropriate relationships with students. (umanitoba.ca)

Steve Kirby, a former jazz professor, left the school in 2017 after an internal investigation report found he repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted sexual contact with a female student.

A 2018 sexual assault charge against Kirby was stayed in March.

Student union 'cautiously optimistic'

Jakob Sanderson, president of the University of Manitoba Students Union, said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the new budget.

Sanderson said he and Sarah Bonner-Proulx, the other UMSU representative on the school's Board of Governors, both voted in favour of this year's budget, which they didn't do last year.

"We do feel as though the university has made some significant strides in terms of providing the strategic direction that students are looking for and that UMSU is looking for," he said.

Acclaimed jazz musician Steve Kirby retired from the University of Manitoba in 2017 after an internal investigation report found he repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted sexual contact with a female student.

The union was encouraged to see the school's commitment to allocate an additional $500,000 to undergraduate student support — much of which Sanderson hopes will go to international students, who lost provincial healthcare coverage last year — and to combat sexual violence on campus.

"This past year there's been a number of incidents — quite high profile incidents — of sexual violence on campus that the university really needs to take, I think, drastic measures to address," he said.

Sanderson said he hopes to see the school set up a sexual violence resource and education centre, which would operate as a central hub for victims of sexual violence.

"For students that have been going through that kind of traumatic incident, whether it be student-on-student or faculty on students, having to self-triage and go to a number of different places to try and get the resources that you need can be very traumatizing and very difficult," he said.

U of M's Danakas confirmed in an email Tuesday the school shares UMSU's commitment to finding  the best way to provide prevention and response services on campus, including considering a centre.

Tuition hike half of what's allowed

Sanderson said UMSU was disappointed to see the tuition increase. But he said the school and students have been put in a difficult position by cuts in funding from the province. The Progressive Conservative government has scrapped the tuition cap, cut the tuition rebate, frozen funding to universities in 2017-18 and instituted a 0.9 per cent funding decrease the following year.

For an average domestic undergraduate student taking 30 credit hours in the Faculty of Science, the tuition increase will amount to about $158 more per year, Danakas said. For an international undergraduate student it will be roughly $614 more per year.

The tuition increase, which is expected to boost the school's revenue from tuition by $10.3 million, is half of what's allowed under provincial legislation. The provincial law, updated in 2017 to scrap a tuition fee cap, allows for a five per cent increase plus the current Consumer Price Index, which the school reported at 2.5 per cent.

Last year, the school increased tuition by 6.6 per cent, the maximum amount allowed.

The school's overall operating budget for 2019-20 will increase by $11.3 million, or 1.7 per cent, over last year, according to the document.

The provincial operating grant of $349.1 million — which accounts for more than half of the school's overall operating fund revenue — dropped by $3.5 million from last year's allocation, the document says.

The school's biggest expense, salaries and benefits, increased by $14.2 million or 3.1 per cent to $472.5 million.

The preliminary 2019-20 capital spending plan sets aside $64.9 million to continue projects from last year, including the Churchill Marine Observatory construction, and start new projects, including construction of a concert hall.

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