Leaders talk dollars and sense at operating budget town hall
The Operating Budget Town Hall meeting was held on Tuesday, November 29 in the Board and Senate room in Needles Hall, with more than 1,200 attendees tuning in via Microsoft Teams.
Delivering updates and sharing their thoughts were James Rush, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, and Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor. Nick Manning, Associate Vice-President, Communications, served as host and provided moderation for the Q&A session.
Provost Rush started things off with a presentation outlining the current operating budget and some of the financial pressures that have resulted in the projected $15M deficit for this year. Systemic factors including tuition fee caps, erosion of government funding, as well as inflation and market volatility, are a few ongoing challenges that the University has been navigating over the last five years.
Dr. Rush also highlighted the work of the Blue-Ribbon Panel on Financial Sustainability in the Post-Secondary Education Sector, including its recommendations of a multi-year tuition framework to replace the current freeze in tuition; a one-time 5 per cent tuition increase followed by subsequent year increases set to the maximum of 2 per cent or Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is greater; and a 10 per cent increase in per-student funding (WGU value), followed by subsequent increases set to the maximum of 2 per cent or CPI. Dr. Rush noted that the government’s initial response to the Blue-Ribbon panel stressed the need for institutions to find greater efficiencies in their operations as the government considers its next steps.
The provost also shared some scenarios to illustrate the potential financial outcomes for the University if Blue-Ribbon panel recommendations are implemented along with institutional budget reductions.
“The situation that’s projected is dire but we’re not falling off a cliff tomorrow,” president Goel said in follow-up comments after the provost’s presentation. “So, we want to get this information out there because this is something that we want to work on collectively,” he continued.
There was a robust Question & Answer period following the provost’s and president’s remarks, with questions selected from those provided at registration, questions from the floor in NH 3407, and questions asked in the livestream chat.
A question that was top of mind, both in the questions submitted in advance and those asked in the live chat, was about the prospect of layoffs given the financial picture presented by the president and provost. President Goel noted that the University would be considering efficiency measures, and other ways Waterloo can control costs and increase the revenue stream, but “things like program closures and layoffs would have to be a last resort, if we were to get two or three years out without government grant or tuition increases, or if we’ve exhausted efficiency efforts,” president Goel said.
Other questions asked during the Q&A included topics such as how budget cuts would be carried out equitably across campus, whether the employee pension plan was at risk (the short answer is no: pension funds are in separate trust accounts and have different governing regulations than the University’s budget), the continued impact on international students, finding efficiencies, new residence construction, and others that are posted on the Provost Office website.
Another question was asked about how the fiscal environment would impact the next round of salary negotiations, in light of the fact that the current salary agreements for faculty and staff are nearing their expiration dates. Provost Rush said that the salary negotiation process is well-defined and driven by many factors, some of which include competitor salaries, inflation, and affordability. He affirmed that the University would work with its partners at the negotiating table, as salary decisions are not independently decided by the University: “There will be nothing changed in the process and there will be a collegial exchange, based on what’s right for the organization at the time.”
Watch the town hall video recording on Provost Office website.
Employees mark years of service at special event
The vibe was festive and reflective on Tuesday, November 28 as more than 231 people gathered at Federation Hall to celebrate employment milestones. Attendees were a mix of honourees and their managers who were there to celebrate and support their direct reports.
Chief Human Resources Officer Michelle Hollis spoke at the event, referencing bits of historical trivia and pop culture events for each milestone year being celebrated, from 1978 to 2018. Employees were recognized for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and even 45 years of service.
Special photo areas were set up for attendees to have their pictures taken, including a branded photobooth where people could get a hard copy printout of their photo to take home with them.
If you'd like to have your voice heard about what the University is doing, or should be doing, to make it the kind of place you'd want to work at for decades, you can fill out the Employee Engagement Survey, which began hitting staff and faculty inboxes in mid-November, sent from KF Surveys Canada. All individual responses will be strictly confidential and only aggregated results will be provided back to the University. If you would like to learn more, please visit the Employee Engagement Survey website and contact HRhelp@uwaterloo.ca if you have questions about the survey.
The survey closes on Friday, December 8.
Celebrating 50 years of Kinesiology Lab Days
By Jenna Braun. This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in Waterloo News.
When the registration period opens for Kinesiology Lab Days, dates sell nearly as quickly as Taylor Swift concert tickets.
Within just a couple of minutes this year, all the available spots were full for Ontario high schools to sign up students to attend the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences’ (KHS) live labs for an interactive experience in university-level education.
Approximately 1,700 grade 11 and 12 students from 54 high schools with an interest in science, physical education and kinesiology, are taking part in Kin Lab Days this year. Participants travel from regions across the province to attend, including Windsor, Oshawa, Peterborough and the Greater Toronto Area, in addition to local schools.
“This year is special because it will be more of a celebration with some extra swag and prizes, and we have a new lab we didn’t offer in previous years,” says Rob Hicks, operating manager and a Kin Lab Days organizer. “We want to show how multidisciplinary kinesiology is and to offer a hands-on learning experience where complex concepts are taught in a way that’s easy to understand.”
From examining real human brain specimens to controlling a car with muscle activity, all labs are led by current KHS undergraduate and graduate students.
“It’s a great opportunity both for the high school students and for our students who get to experience teaching and leadership,” said Hicks. “I’ve been participating since around 2013 and it’s a very fun environment.”
Students explore human musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, neuroscience, injury prevention, biology, chemistry, sensory inputs and more.
Geography professor receives Massey Medal
Dr. Ellsworth LeDrew, professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, has been awarded the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's Massey Medal.
"Geographer Dr. Ellsworth LeDrew has pioneered new uses for remote sensing data, allowing us to better understand how key climate processes work," the award citation reads. "Over four decades of research, Dr. LeDrew has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and more than 256 conference proceedings."
"Among many roles, he served with the Canadian Remote Sensing Society as both President and Vice-President, founded the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network and the Polar Data Catalogue, and is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo, where he taught and researched since 1977. The insights that Dr. LeDrew has brought to his field are matched by his qualities as a leader and a mentor to both his students and peers."
Dr. LeDrew received the award at a ceremony held on November 15 at the headquarters of the RCGS in Ottawa, which was followed by the annual Geographica Dinner at the Canadian War Museum.