As we begin the month of August, I find the halls becoming more depopulated, as folks schedule much-needed vacation time before the September rush.
Since my last post, I have continued to inch away at the various tasks contained in my mandate. Predictably, this has meant lots of meetings with government officials, members of the board, senior administration, and to a lesser extent, faculty and students.
I wish I could tell you that all my efforts with the Province have been 100 per cent successful. But what I can tell you is that we continue to make progress in both clarifying our position and gaining their confidence in our ability to steward our finances to a balanced position. As of this writing, the Province has agreed to fund the 2011-12 deficit and has approved our 2012-13 budget. Still pending is a decision on funding Plan B of our Framework for Sustainability and funding for a consultant-led cost/benefit/risk study of a closer association with one of the peninsular universities. I remain hopeful that favorable decisions will be reached on these two files by mid-fall.
In the meantime, I cannot overstate the importance of staying on target with Plan A of the Framework for Sustainability. As you know, the budget for 2012-2013 was built on the expenditure and revenue assumptions of the plan. These assumptions led us to identify cost savings in the form of non-replacement of most vacated positions, spending freezes and part-time appointment savings by eliminating under-enrolled courses and altering the frequency of course offerings. Combined, these measures allow us to shrink our expenditure base considerably. I should add that all this belt tightening comes with a cost. For example, we have removed one vice-president position, two positions in financial services, and have realized considerable savings in the operation of my office. On the revenue side, Plan A includes increases from two sources: increased rental revenue and increases in student fees. I appreciate the new fees introduced this year are not welcomed by students; why would they? But I can assure you that the fees in question have been well researched and processed properly. They are ones which all or most universities in Nova Scotia and all Canadian art colleges have collected for years. So while the Board had some reluctance to impose the new fees, on balance they were thought to be justified in the face of the fiscal challenges facing the university.
On a brighter note, I had the pleasure of attending the closing ceremony for our current group of artists based in Lunenburg. NSCAD grads Nadia Gemeinhardt, Lynette de Montreuil, and Jason Skinner shared their experiences of the past year with a very appreciative assembly of friends, family, NSCAD supporters and community residents. The occasion was enhanced by the choice of venue – the beautiful Tall Ship Providence berthed in Lunenburg Harbor. By attending the event, I was able to gain a first-hand understanding of the value of the community resident program, both to our artist participants and the host community. Residents with the New Glasgow program get their turn next.
I also attended a couple of events in relation to the Tall Ships celebration; one was a NSCAD-hosted event for staff and students at the Port Campus. Finally, I attended the exhibition of a Tom Forrestall work commissioned by the Canadian Navy. Kelly Zwicker, Vice-President External of SUNSCAD, accompanied me at the event.
Best wishes for a restful August.