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.
Governance Review Process
The Ad-Hoc Committee on Governance was pleased with the turnout and the comments of faculty and staff at the December 7th meeting on Governance held in Bandeen Hall. It was clear, however, that many do not understand the reasons for a review of governance. Perhaps the most revealing comment I have heard is “why is the Corporation involved in reviewing governance?” This is precisely why this review is taking place – there is a lack of understanding in how Bishop’s is governed. The Corporation, as the highest governing body of the University (as per our Royal Charter), is in fact legally responsible and liable for Bishop’s University. To quote from the ROR’s “The Corporation possesses jurisdiction and final authority in all the affairs of the University, be they academic, economic, social or otherwise.”
The Ad-Hoc Committee has spent most of the month of January preparing a 2nd draft document to be circulated on campus in the coming weeks. The Committee is working hard to incorporate many of the comments from the December 7th meeting, as well as observations received through meetings, e-mails and general discussion about this issue. The document will consist of a three column chart indicating the current governance situation; the proposed governance situation; and the reason for the change. I hope that this presentation will provide clarity for individuals as they go through the document.
I continue to encourage individuals or groups to devise their own proposals or models; the governance review process is based on the agreement that any member of the Bishop’s community can put forth a proposal. It is quite possible this review process will not be completed in time for the May meeting of Corporation, which is fine – timing is not crucial to the success of the process. The goal is to settle on the best possible governance model so that the decision making processes of the University are transparent and to ensure clear policies are in place to enable us to make the tough decisions that lie ahead.
Difficult Financial Times Ahead
At the January Executive Committee meeting Mark McLaughlin and I presented the three year financial projections for the University. These projections are based on:
• A return to pre-double cohort enrolment figures;
• a $10.5 million dollar solvency deficit in the Bishop’s Full-time Employee Pension Plan to be paid back over 10 years ($1.6 million per year from the operating budget for the next five years, $900,000 for the remaining five years);
• a growing operating deficit as expenses grow while revenue remains stable (or decline);
• continued freeze in tuition fees;
• a hard line being taken by the Quebec Government in regard to universities running deficit budgets and the expectation that the under funding of post-secondary education in Quebec will continue.
Using these projections, Bishop’s can expect accumulated deficits of $2.1 million (2005-06), $4.6 million (2006-07), and $8.9 million in 2007-08 (on a budget of $40 million). One helpful measure would be to increase enrolment to 3000 students by September 2007. But reaching 3000 by 2007 is not a realistic goal, nor could our current infrastructure handle this. The next few years will be crucial for Bishop’s University, in fact for all Quebec universities. The belief that the government will take care of our deficits is not a reality – Bishop’s must look at different opportunities/projects to increase or diversify our revenue base. Let me be clear; we will not solve our financial situation through budget cutting. Our problem is not expenses (although the solvency deficit with the pension is a significant problem); it is revenues. Declining government funding and imposed tuition fees mean we have little, if any, control over our “traditional” revenue source.
Quebec universities will continue to lobby both the provincial and federal governments for increases to post-secondary education spending, but this cannot be our only strategy. Our financial projections must serve as the impetus to transform Bishop’s, while maintaining and building on our strengths.
January Enrolment Figures
As of January 25th our full-time student compliment is 2118, up 28 students from last year. The part-time student numbers are not nearly as positive; 428 students, down 104 from last year.
Our admissions numbers for the January semester were very similar to last year: 187 applicants (5 more than last year), 150 admitted (down 3), which resulted in 101 new students – up 4 from last year.
Highlighting Recent Achievements
Staff Awards: It gave me great pleasure to present Sandra Gallichon with the Bishop’s University Staff Award at the party on December 16th. This award was not the only good news for Sandra; earlier in the day she learned her cancer is in remission. I am sure you join me in sending Sandra best wishes for continued good health and a speedy return to Bishop’s. Sandra has contributed greatly to the University over the past 25 years and will continue to play a vital role in the Registrar’s Office for years to come.
Over 30 staff members received service pins recognizing their years of service to Bishop’s University. These individuals play a major role in making Bishop’s a wonderful place to study and/or work. A complete list of recipients may be found at the HR website.
The SRC has been extremely active in the last few months. In December they led a successful campaign to collect gifts for children of less fortunate families to be added to the Lennoxville Elementary Christmas Baskets. In January “The Gait”, the newly renovated campus bar, opened to much praise. I am pleased the SRC is planning to organize events for faculty and staff in the near future.
Centennial Theatre was recently named recipient of the prestigious Opus Prize for Presenter of the Year 2004-2005, given by the Quebec Music Council. This prize is awarded to the Quebec venue that offers the best selection of concert music throughout the year.
Thirteen Sherbrooke police officers are registered for English Second Language classes provided by our Continuing Education Department. Ten took the class (one night a week) last semester. Bishop’s is offering this course free of charge in an effort to improve the relationship (and communication) between the police and our students.
Congratulations to our women’s and men’s basketball teams who are having great seasons. In mid January both teams were tied for first place, the first time since 1988 that both teams have held first place simultaneously. Best wishes for a continued strong season. On a related note, commendations go to France Lanoie, Laure Pitfield and women’s coach Rod Gilpin for their participation in the Jeux de la Francophonie, held in Niger (Africa) in December. Team Quebec finished 5th with a 5-2 record.