When is a hiring freeze not really a hiring freeze?
Recently, several Deans informed chairs and directors that the University had instituted a two-year faculty hiring freeze. However, in response to questions at Senate, Provost and VP Academic Neil McCartney explained that, although there was a hiring freeze, a new or replacement position would be approved if a Dean made a strong case for the position, primarily based on enrolment needs. This emphasis on enrolment is consistent with the establishment of the new senior administrative position entitled “Vice-Provost, Enrolment Management & International”, which will replace the former AVP Student Services, as well as the recent development of a comprehensive University’s Strategic Enrolment Management Plan. Also of particular concern to the Administration is the relation between faculty workload in a Department/Centre and hiring needs. The Provost said that he would be examining whether teaching releases given to individuals within an academic unit are justified. This focus on faculty productivity is consistent with President’s Lightstone’s comments to both Senate and the Board earlier this year that the University would be seeking a “fair” distribution of workload by balancing lower research productivity with higher teaching responsibilities.
Further, in explaining the hiring freeze, the Provost said that departments and centres should not expect that positions vacated by retirees would be filled without convincing justification. When asked if this non-replacement policy would discourage faculty from retiring, the Provost said this was something the Administration would have to monitor. He also said that his planned approach may be changed by the new President.
Brock’s new President: Finally emerging from the shadows
The University has just announced Brock’s next President to be Wendy Cukier, who is currently Vice-President Research and Innovation at Ryerson University. We welcome her to campus and look forward to working with her.
As many of you know, BUFA has been working to establish an open search process for Brock’s new President so that members of the Brock community could hear presentations by short-listed candidates. In an open process, we also would have had an opportunity to provide feedback to the Advisory Committee before it made its recommendation to the Board of Trustees, which has responsibility for the hiring decision. Faculty Handbook provisions allow the Senate to comment on a single final candidate brought forward by the Advisory Committee, which Senate did at a special meeting on Nov 30. However, this meeting was also held in secret and without any opportunity to meet or interact with the candidate herself or consider alternatives. Additionally, at that very late point in the process and without any possibilities for comparing candidates, it is hard to believe that this consultation meaningfully contributes to finding the candidate with the best fit to Brock.
Although we were unsuccessful in convincing the Advisory Committee on the Presidency to reject secrecy, we believe that we have laid a foundation for future searches to be more open and responsive to the Brock community. The feedback that we have received from faculty associations from across the country has reflected widespread concern with the growing exclusion of faculty and professional librarians in searches for senior academic administrators. Several institutions have reported that secretive searches are now being conducted for senior administrators other than Presidents. This creeping narrowing of collegial self-governance rights should be contested, wherever it appears.
A series of informative financial reports was presented at the December 8th meeting of the Senate Planning, Priorities, and Budget Advisory Committee (see the agenda for that date on the Senate Committee website)
The Second Quarter (Q2) report for the 2015-2016 budget provides a rich source of important information. Brock appears to be on track to balance this year’s budget but will still need to find $1,620,000 in mitigation actions (e.g., delayed replacement of staff, voluntary vacation days). However, the Q2 report notes that that “the forecasts are developed by budget developers who tend to be fairly conservative at the mid-way point” and that the forecasted personnel line, as of the end of October, is only 46.6% spent. So our financial situation may be even better than projected.
Another point made in the Q2 report is that Brock’s personnel expenditures/student is the lowest among Ontario comprehensive universities and among the lowest of all Ontario universities. Perhaps this explains the experiences of under-staffing, support staff job losses, and stress associated with overwork that we commonly hear from our members and colleagues. Yet, our personnel costs also represent a higher percentage of total university budget than do personnel costs at other Ontario universities. The report concludes that when “one takes a closer look at the discrepancy between the average grant per student headcount and personnel costs per student headcount one should conclude the personnel costs are either too high or the [government] grant needs to be increased significantly”. A substantial portion of Brock’s budget problems are the result of budget constraints driven by the lower government grants received by Brock, compared to other Ontario universities. Although the coming revision of the provincial funding formula for universities may provide an opportunity for increased grants, it remains an unlikely possibility. The Q2 report, therefore, suggests that we may be facing attempts to reduce personnel costs, which could include job losses, in the future.
Here are some additional items from the financial reports. Brock spent $20,000 on new chairs for the Boardroom. International student enrolment targets for the Goodman School of Business were not met, which is somewhat worrisome given the reliance on increasing enrolment in the School to fund the operating expenses of the new Business building. More generally, forecasted international full-time enrolments at Brock are down almost 3%, in contrast to Ontario system-wide increases of 10%. This is also potentially troublesome, given that increasing the number of international students are one of the few ways that enrolment can grow in a time when the domestic adolescent population is shrinking. The budget statistics also reflect a significant and welcome increase in the library acquisition budget to fund journal purchases, perhaps significantly due to Senate’s recommendation that these were an academic priority.
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870