February 6, 2006      
A Time for Transformation

Given the following summary of our current challenges:
a. Dispiriting financial projections for the coming years, leading to a projected, accumulated deficit of $8.9 million by fiscal year-end 2007-08; (see article "Difficult Financial Times Ahead in this issue)
b Recurring inefficiency of cost-cutting to tackle the underlying issues;
c. Discouraging demographic projections for university aged students in our primary market (QC);
d. An increasingly competitive environment for recruiting and retaining students and faculty in Canada;
e. Governmental (all levels) commitment to invest in health care rather than education;
f. University priorities of finance, governance, community relations and value-added learning;

Bishop’s must significantly transform the ways in which we conduct the daily operations of our University. Maintaining the status quo is no longer financially viable as we need to counteract the growing gap between expenditures and revenues. We simply cannot afford our financial commitments based on our current funding model. I hope the campus community will view this as stimulating and as an occasion to explore new possibilities. We should all be concerned as this is a serious issue, but it also represents an exciting opportunity. Each and every member of the Bishop’s community can and will have an opportunity to talk about the future of Bishop’s University.

I recently made presentations to Senate and the Executive Committee about the imperative of transformation, and both bodies will play a crucial role as we move through the process. A number of other initiatives are central to the process:

1. Defining and Promoting Bishop’s: This sub-committee of Senate, chaired by Dr. Wickens, recently tabled a rewritten mission statement and a declaration of principles defining a sound and liberal education. Passed at Senate on January 30th, the document now goes to Executive Committee for approval. This mission statement should be used as a guide for plans proposed and decisions taken to ensure we continue to fulfill our mission.

2. Governance: This ad-hoc committee of Corporation, lead by Philip Matthews (President), will continue to meet and modify their proposal on the governance structure of Bishop’s University until such time as it, or a proposal from any another group or individual, is examined by Corporation. This review is intended to provide greater clarity, transparency and responsibility to the decision making processes at Bishop’s. Expect a next draft on governance to be circulated in February 2006. (See story below for more on Governance)

3. Strategic Planning: A working group (composed of Vice Principal Rittenhouse, Dean Bequet, Dean Johnson, Chief Librarian Sylvia Teasdale and Registrar Yves Jodoin) began meeting in the fall to discuss the methodology to be used in developing a strategic plan for Bishop’s University. Over the next seven weeks, members of the group will hold 43 meetings on campus with groups of 10 to discuss current issues and gain ideas about the University’s possible evolution over the next few years.

4. Capital Campaign: Last October members of the campus community were invited to submit funding requests to the Bishop’s University Foundation for a pending capital campaign. Pam McPhail, Executive Director of the Foundation, continues to receive requests. In reality a Capital Campaign cannot begin until the University has a clearer picture of its strategic plan. Once the strategic planning process has made considerable progress, a Campaign Priorities Committee will be struck to review the funding requests and, after wide consultation on campus, to recommend projects/initiatives for inclusion in a next capital campaign to the Executive Committee of Corporation and to the Foundation.

5. Full-time Pension: As a result of the government imposed solvency test Bishop’s University must put an additional $1.6 million per year into the pension plan for the next ten years. This payment accounts for over half of our accumulated deficit. The Bishop’s plan is one of two university plans in Quebec whereby the University assumes 100% responsibility for any funding shortfalls; at most universities deficits are resolved by both the employer and the plan members. Negotiations must take place to determine how we can collectively ensure the long term viability of the pension plan.

I encourage everyone to begin thinking about ways of transforming Bishop’s to make our University stronger. Think radically. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone to suggest new projects or ideas. Be ambitious! Challenges lie ahead for Bishop’s, but this is also an exciting period in our history – one that will shape this University for the future.
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