Letter to Phyllis Clark: Follow-up?

As Professor Adkin notes in a comment earlier today, we have yet to receive a reply to the letter of 23 January 2012 addressed to the VP Finance & Administration, Phyllis Clark:  http://wp.me/p22btO-aA. Tomorrow it will be two weeks since the letter was sent. Perhaps the twenty-six members of the Faculty of Arts who signed that letter would now like to decide what to do by way of follow-up?

While we’ve been awaiting answers to our financial questions, we have had further occasion to consider the financial information available to us all on the University’s websites.

Various components of the “Data Book” for the last several years are, oddly, yet to be “populated” with the relevant numbers. One can nevertheless find a great deal of financial information on the “Operating & Capital Budget Summaries” from 2004-2005 to 2010-2011, which are available at the Resource Planning website: http://www.resourceplanning.ualberta.ca/en/Planning%20Tools/BudgetSummaries.aspx.

The following chart has been compiled from the financial information available on page 5 of the “Operating & Capital Budgets Summaries,” or on the spreadsheet that spells out the operating budget for the various Faculties for each year. When the numbers for the Faculty of Arts from the various years are pulled together into a single snapshot, a general trend may be observed:

* 2003-2004 numbers are drawn from the 2004-2005 Operating & Capital Budget Summary.

The University’s “Faculties” spreadsheet does not provide (as those of some other institutions do) a brief comment that explains a reduction or increase to a given Faculty’s allotment for the year. But the upshot seems clear enough: since 2003-2004,  small but continual reductions to the operating budget for the Faculty of Arts translate into an overall reduction, across the eight-year period, of 1.85%. 

1.85% may seem like a small number. But observe what this reduction translates into in terms of dollars:

Given that these figures are translating into hard facts on the ground — support staff are to be laid off, and faculty positions are to be closed this year and next — surely those of us doing the core work of the Faculty deserve to hear an answer to the pressing question to which they give rise: Why has the Faculty of Arts operating budget received reduction after reduction after reduction since 2003-2004? Or, to put the question another way, why do we no longer receive the percentage allocation that we received in 2003-2004?

There may be explanations for this that faculty members would approve. But what are they?

We rush to add that we understand that the situation in Science appears to be just as bad overall, despite the fact that in 2009-2010 Science received an increase to its budget that alleviated its situation sufficiently to prevent the kind of cut that occurred to the departmental budgets in Arts in 2009-2010:

The exception of 2009-2010 aside, the fact remains that Science has also received  continual reductions to its percentage allocation. Perhaps our colleagues in Science would like to join with us in asking for an explanation of the criteria upon which the University is determining its funding priorities?

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9 Responses to Letter to Phyllis Clark: Follow-up?

  1. Christine Wiesenthal says:

    Thanks, Carolyn, for your time and work as web sleuth and number-cruncher for these budget figures. Since we have not yet had a reply to our inquiries from Phyllis Clarke, VP of Finance, perhaps the next logical step would be to re-direct them to the Provost, along with the additional questions that these budget figures raise (and perhaps an explanation that we are writing to the Provost because we haven’t succeeded in engaging the VP Finance in any of that reciprocal “dialogue” that the University is apparently “committed” to). I’d be willing to let my signature stand in such a forwarded letter, and interested to hear if other signatories feel the same.

    That said, I think the real reason for doing so would be simply to document a record of administrative non-response that we may ultimately need to take to a different audience.
    26 signatories amounts to a minority on a massively silent campus that the administration can and will easily continue to ignore; I’m less and less convinced that efforts at the institutionally-specific level are the way to go. Turning to Albertans in general might be one future option, as people have suggested. But what about also working through CAUT, who might co-ordinate a nation-wide, umbrella response/profile of the issues of administrative bloat, the erosion of faculty governance, the (apparent) lack of transparency and accountability at the central levels of administration, and the marginalization of the Arts and Sciences that the U of A is not alone in witnessing? (There was a relevant book review about the “all-administrative university” in the last CAUT Bulletin.) Perhaps we need to start working around our own AASUA and administration through this channel also?

    • janice williamson says:

      I think this is a very useful suggestion Christine. I’m all for redirecting letters to the senior administration at the moment, but very soon, I suggest we head further afield to CAUT to look at the marginalization of faculty in governance, administrative bloat, lack of accountability, marginalization of Arts & Science. We don’t have a union that can flex muscle and I have little optimism that we will have a satisfactory response to our concerns from senior management. The Pres et al seem to be hell bent on championing UofA as the place where unethical oil and Nestle water bottles find a happy home. They might prefer Arts critical thinkers not apply.

  2. Laurie Adkin says:

    Excellent ideas and observations, Christine. I suspect that the “massive silence” is due more to work overload and issue fatigue than to indifference regarding the impending layoffs and administrative restructuring. Certainly, widespread concern has been expressed about this situation in Arts department meetings, hallways, and offices. Workload has squeezed the life out of citizenship in every sphere, which is all the more reason why we should make this a priority negotiating issue (building on previous studies that have been ignored). Under the circumstances, it might be viewed as extraordinary that so many individuals have taken the time to write letters or op-eds to the Journal, speak to the media, attend forums, and so on. It is, nevertheless, discouraging that so few have signed the letter or the petition–actions that are not so demanding of time.

    But back to the letter. Could we have indications of whether or not the other signatories of the January 23 letter to Phyllis Clark would agree to “redirect” the letter to the Provost? I think we would add a paragraph or two explaining the non-response described by Christine, and perhaps my comments on the “purposes” of budgetary transparency?

  3. Laurie Adkin says:

    PS By this Friday?

  4. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    I’d be glad to have the letter, with my signature on it, re-directed in this way.

  5. Andrew Gow says:

    So am I. We ought to make the point that as the University’s budget has grown, Arts’ and Sciences’ shares have decreased as a proportion, and we would like to know how the priorities behind that change were set, by whom, and in order to reach which goals.

  6. Christine Stewart says:

    Please add my signature to the letter. Christine Stewart

  7. Liza Piper says:

    Please keep my signature on the re-directed letter. I would like a response from someone, eventually, in this regard.

  8. Corrinne Harol says:

    I am all in favor of redirecting the letter to the Provost, along with Carolyn’s wonderful work on the allocations to arts and sciences. This is the clearest info yet about how core faculties are being squeezed.

    What do we think about the provincial budget’s 2% increase? I think we need to make clear that while 4% is what central keeps saying they need to be sustainable overall, the Arts and Sciences need a greater share of this 2% increase, in order to stem the recent trends that erode our budgets.

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