Nfld. & Labrador

'We've hit a wall': MUNFA president says further cuts risk shrinking university

Ken Snelgrove says trying to expand the university with fewer dollars to spend will be a challenge in the coming years.

The university was asked by the provincial government to save $2.7 million per year for the next two years

Ken Snelgrove is the president of the Memorial University Faculty Association, which represents about 850 full-time employees in St. John's and Corner Brook. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The president of the union that represents Memorial University's faculty warns years of cuts are already having an impact — and further cuts will put programming at risk.

Ken Snelgrove, president of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association, says MUN is at the same level of spending it was a decade ago.

"The grant from the government is the same it was 10 years ago, yet the university is expanded in lots of ways … so we still need to support all of [those] new things, but with much fewer dollars," he told The St. John's Morning Show on Friday.

Earlier this week, outgoing MUN president Gary Kachanoski asked the provincial government to recalculate planned cuts to the university's budget. Kachanoski told CBC the Department of Advanced Education has asked the university to find an additional $2.7 million in savings per year for the next two years.

Kachanoski called the move "disappointing," since the university has seen four consecutive years of budget cuts already. Snelgrove, whose association represents about 850 full-time faculty members, agrees.

Snelgrove says continuing to cut spending at Memorial will continue to affect the infrastructure of some buildings, where health and safety issues have been a concern.

"In some buildings, people fear for their safety," Snelgrove said, citing asbestos in the university's science building.

According to Kachanoski, MUN spends about $7 million a year on maintaining infrastructure, but should be spending between $23 million and $24 million.

Snelgrove says only so much cutting can be done before things like core programs start to take a hit.

"I think that we've hit a wall," Snelgrove said. "I don't think we can continue to cut without reducing the size of the university, that things have to start to disappear."

"We've been taking it out of infrastructure and we've been reducing infrastructure spending at Memorial … and that's resulted in these [concerns] to keep the programs going," Snelgrove added.

"The programming … has already been impacted. At a lot of our programs at Memorial right now, there's only one permanent faculty member assigned. We can't keep going like this."

This hallway in MUN's science building was closed in 2017 because of asbestos. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Snelgrove said revenue will be an important issue for incoming president Vianne Timmons.

"I think it's important that she build strong relationships," Snelgrove said. "And certainly we need to look to revenue generation. Bringing in students from other places, keeping our student populations up … there could be opportunities there for revenue generation."

The university's finances will be front and centre in the coming months, as the collective bargaining agreement between MUNFA and administration expires Aug. 1, while other labour agreements expire April 1.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said MUNFA's collective agreement ends April 1. In fact, it ends Aug. 1.
    Feb 14, 2020 4:14 PM NT

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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