Blog53

“Budget consultations have begun in earnest at Memorial University…” Well, doh, is there any other kind of consultation? Yup, we are in the first rush of consideration of how best to absorb a great big chunk from our base. What’s disturbing is how the amount our base will have to absorb is being spun differently, depending on who’s speaking.

Here are the facts: no matter what you hear government officials are saying—Memorial is getting hit big time. And, no, government did not give us enough to cover a continuing tuition freeze or to manage this plant, which is falling apart in almost every nook and corner (see above). Sorry, Mr. Minister, that’s the truth, sans spin.

Yes, this year government gave us $4 million in lieu of tuition, a figure that has lost some of its meaning over the years, since no one understands exactly why 4 million = lost tuition, but let’s go with that for now since we’ve been going with it ever since we were last cut. Another good thing, we also got the funding to honour collective agreement salary obligations and a long-promised ongoing commitment to the expansion of Engineering, although this latter bit is more complicated than meets the eye. Another blog for that one.

What didn’t we get: a restoration of funding for deferred maintenance. We were cut 9 million and change last year, same this year. That’s money dedicated not only to patching and emergencies but also to renewing our teaching spaces—you know, moving us from chalkboard to 21st century learning environments. That’s the Arts and Admin Building corridor right outside my office in that picture above—a patchwork of asbestos abatement activity, a crazy quilt of plaster and duct tape. Nice, eh? At this rate of maintenance deferral I am positive that wall will only look worse by the time I am ready to retire.

What else is hurting? Honey, I shrunk the staff. How about a salary attrition budget of about 3 million this year, and another 3 million over the next two years. Yes, folks, that’s 6 million in salaries that have to be found somewhere. That means HQP constriction.

You mean there’s more? Government cut 8.3. million of our operating budget this year—presto finito. We were also promised, to use an inappropriate verb, more cuts over the next three years totalling 10.6 million a year. Yes, you heard me, each year.

So by 2019-20 our base budget reduction will be 18.9 annually. If you add the salary attrition piece, we’re looking at 24.9 million dollars less annually forever and then some.

And there’s even more, like having to swallow the new HST slapped on our annual purchases (roughly 2 million), but let’s stick with that almost 25 million reduction by 2020. That’s a hell of a lot bigger than a certain Minister claimed. Yes, we have 4 million for tuition in lieu. He forgot to mention the other 21 million we have to find. And we’re not even sure about the future of our pension plan, for which we are currently without a 27 million or so contribution this year. If you do that math we are on the road to having to find, gulp, about 56 million. And I haven’t even mentioned the Medical faculty which gets its funding, and directives to cut, from Health, not Advanced Education.

So the spin from government about Memorial having received enough to keep a tuition freeze is intolerable. Let’s share the real facts about this and start talking about just how serious a challenge these cuts are.

I hate to add to the litany of whine and complaint about the provincial budget. It wears us all down and we are all sick of it. Everyone acknowledges we are in a fine mess, sure. But if only there were something to give us a sliver of hope or warmth, something visionary or promising to live for. With this budget you can say the sun shall shine no more. I’m not a psychologist but surely the whole tone of the piece is counterproductive, demoralizing and defeatist. Every time I see a tweet about someone determined to leave the province for once and forever my heart sinks. Respected local journalists are openly encouraging Newfoundland students to get out of town. What I really don’t get is how government could think an entirely totally negative-themed budget, not to mention one that disproportionately hits students, artists, the poor, women, etc. would generate anything but rage in the best cases and despair in the worst. See Alberta, see the federal Liberals: therein lies hope, and much better messaging.

No one I talk to can see how the university can absorb 25 million dollars worth of cuts, on top of last year’s hit, without serious adjustments to one or all of the following: tuition fees, academic programs, staff, quality of teaching, infrastructure plan, student services, to name the most obviously vulnerable and necessary areas of post secondary education.

What I am hoping is that for once we all quickly get on the same page about what needs to be done in the wake of this monster of enforced attrition and reduction. There’s no good can come out of fighting with each other. We all want the same thing, a university this province can be proud of, one it deserves for this and future generations. If you have questions about how we spend our money or where our priorities lie, then shout out.

I am desperately seeking a silver lining. Know the facts. Challenge the misconceptions and spin. Put students first.

Whenever someone says to me s/he feels sorry for me to be in this job at this time I like to say, what do you mean sorry for ‘me’? We’re all in this leaky boat together.

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “

  1. Leo Tobin

    I don’t want to hear anything from MUN as long as you’re renovating the Battery. I don’t want a penny of my income to go your way (though obviously it will) as long as you are continuing down that road of waste. How it could be seen as a good “investment” knowing that existing buildings needed significant rebuilding/renovation and could have incorporated the features you’re putting in the building? I hope that the Battery facility is the final nail in the proverbial coffin of us having a provincially funded post-secondary institution.

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  2. Steve

    I’ve heard the arguments for the Battery and I understand why MUN went ahead with it at the time. Hindsight is 20/20 however, and right now it looks like a PR millstone, regardless of any other considerations. At this point, people are angry, they’re lashing out at any perceived misspending or overspending, and they’re not interested in the financing details. In hindsight, MUN would have been much better off buying the old Telegram building opposite Anna Templeton – a bit more manageable in scale with tons of synergies from being located in the heart of downtown. No parking, true, but you already have your shuttle bus for the Battery. There will be no synergies from the Battery, it may as well be in Petty Harbour. Probably too late to pull the plug (a common metaphor these days), but the Battery is your headwind as you try to put forward your case.

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  3. Marcos Dellmar

    Was this post wise after seeing the pages and pages of MUN employees on the Sunshine List? With a salary of $266,600 I’m sure Ms. Golfman can afford a can or two of paint for the hallway. Short staffed? Hire an assistant for $40,000. Really short staffed? Hire two for $80,000. I’m sure Ms. Golfman will survive on the remaining $186,600.

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    1. Anon in Ontario

      Hmm, let’s do some arithmetic:

      * $266,000 gross is $133,000 after taxes, levies, CPP and all other government grabbing of one’s salary.
      * paying assistants $80,000 actually costs somewhere in the region of $100,000 after mandatory benefits are added (vacation pay, employer taxes, etc).

      So, you’re arguing that Ms. Golfman should net a salary of $33,000? As the Provost of MUN? Really?

      Good luck finding someone to take her place…

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  4. Dave Power

    It makes me and many more business and personal associates of mine that I have spoken with, sick, that grossly overpaid Golfman and others in her category at the University have the gall to even comment about cuts by the Government to MUN. If they had any guts and common decency they would all lead by example and take pay cuts to the tune of at least 25%. Some folk suggest 50%. Even then they would still be grossly overpaid for what they do which is try to be perceived as being informed and important when in actual fact they simply regurgitate the news of the day and put their “poor underpaid and unappreciated” spin on things and try to convince us that they are worth every penny that they are paid. Well Golfman and other self serving so called executives at MUN, the public is now better informed because of the sunshine list and recent failed business dealings by MUN and are shocked that we are getting so little for so much. Please keep your noses out of the private and public business sectors, which you know nothing about, and try to manage your own business in academia disneyland. Start by supporting and protecting those hard middle class workers at MUN who you treat like peasants and have to beg and scratch for compensation that is a mere pittance of what you get. Too many of those hard working unfortunates at MUN are being terminated so Golfman and others like her can get their big bucks. We need leaders who know what they are doing, not socialites like Golfman. Now go back to your big glass office, like the spoiled brats that you all are and stick to academics not business (stupid to buy The Battery without checking the condition of the property). Start trying to provide the direction you are paid for, if you can, or better still, resign. MUN will survive really well without you and your huge drain on the public purse and we, the general public and the hard working staff at MUN, will not miss you.

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  5. concerned

    It is interesting. When adjusted for inflation tuition now is approximately 50% of what it was in 1996. The tuition freeze is not sustainable, and it does not provide better students, or better access. It does attract international students.

    The writer may lament about infrasrtucture deficits etc. But this is not the problem of government. Government over the past decade has been very generous to MUN. The problem is that the Administration has decided to use these increases in increasing staff, and increasing salaries. The infrastructure deficit it due to poor management of MUN.

    as a society we need to ask should a province of 500k people be putting 400 million annually into a university? Do we need to have a “university to be proud of” over a range of specialities, or should we focus in areas which will have the most positive impact to the economy of the province. For example does it make sense to spend 85 million annually on a medical school to graduate 60 doctors?

    These are questions we must ask ourselves. MUN should never compete with U of T, based purely on population. We should be sending our best students in certain disciplines to U of T. Making U of T stronger, makes Canada stronger.

    Canada is weaker due to the decentralization of our university subsidies across 50 schools.

    Sometimes common sense needs to enter the debate.

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    1. Noel Roy

      Let’s be clear — if MUN has an infrastructure deficit (and it does), it’s not due to bad management. MUN’s government grant does not come without strings. It’s like $x for the base budget (i.e., to keep on doing what it’s already doing), $y for “new initiatives” (which results in government-induced expansion, mainly into non-core areas), $z into infrastructure renewal, $w for capita
      Investment. Etc. So if MUN’s previous budgetary expenditures seem unbalanced, it was the inevitable consequence of a flawed process, imposed by government. Full disclosure: I used to be a Dean, and I had to deal with this craziness.

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  6. Pat Singer

    It has been quite some time since I have been as shocked and horrified by the comments of others as I have been today as I read the words of response to Noreen Golfman’s efforts to inform us of the impact this governments debilitating budget will have on this province’s university and as a result…on our children and grandchildren…the youth and hope of this beautiful place we live. How presumptuous and outrageous that anyone can think that because someone earns a good salary they don’t earn every penny that they are paid! !! or that because they work for government, a university, in health care or in the school system that they don’t work hard or are not deserving of their pay. How do they think businesses get the money to pay their employees…do they not realize that we…the general public thru our purchases of their products or services are paying for those salaries!?! Are they outraged by that!!! Private sector salaries are typically higher than public sector salaries but…people like to throw around the “our tax dollars pay for your salaries” line. Where do they get off implying public sector employees don’t work as hard or harder than those in the private sector! I have worked in both and I can attest that people in both work hard for their salaries. And as for leading by example and taking a 25% pay cut…you go for it…lead the way…and let’s see how many follow your example….and if you think “public sector” employees don’t work equally hard for their pay as their private sector counterparts or are not equally deserving…try walking in their shoes!

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  7. BC

    When I started at MUN in 2003, the tunnels were showing their age, leaking in places, but the clock tower had all it’s hands. There was a lot of deferred maintenance then. It’s obvious it was never attended to, continually deferred. The clock tower is the greatest shame, it’s hands having fallen nearly onto students it stands disgraced overlooking the expansions – the inco building, new science centre, the disco tunnel, new parking garage, new residences, the battery, etc. Etc. all bathed in wifi.
    Those tunnels still have the stainless drip pan kludges put there over a decade ago. MUN’s building out while it couldn’t deal with the operating expenses in the first place is blatant poor management, it’s ridiculous.
    Rather than trying to grow enrollment, requiring more handouts from the province – only to watch half those investments head to the mainland, according to the rosiest numbers CFS can muster, we’d probably have got more value from un-deferring things, addressing issues. MUN, foremost, is supposed to be a living Memorial for the future of Nfld., not some sort of entry to a prestige contest.
    It’s being run like a lemonade stand, i.e. something like a business but without concern for practicalities of licensure, inspection, etc. Nor for what those lemons from mom and dads fridge cost. I wonder how much asbestos could have been abated and painted for the cost of decking MUCEP out with snazzy cop car knockoffs. They look good parked in the fire lane outside the Aqua arena Tim’s I guess.
    I’m ashamed to say, the place is disgraceful, for all the money the province has dumped into it. Ah at to complain it’s not enough due to this very mismanagement?! Rich!!

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  8. Claude

    No – Noreen is not overpaid
    No – we would not be better off without a university (sending a few bright students to u of t like we were some poor colonial outpost of the past)
    And
    No – the Battery is not the central issue

    With all its problems (Mun isn’t perfect) the University is critically important to the future of this place. Noreen has had the wisdom and strength to openly discuss her thoughts . We need that. The only thing I can say is Thanks.

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  9. Realist

    I do not know Noreen Golfman. I do not have any problem with her salary. From her bio she is a well educated individual who’s been in academia for 30 years or more and has shown the ambition and initiative to advance to an executive position at Memorial. Being paid well is a result and anyone who enters the workforce has the opportunity to advance themselves in the same way. I’m also sure that some of what she says regarding funding for MUN has some accuracy.

    I also think that MUN can find significant efficiencies like any large organization can. In my job I’ve had the opportunity to work with many private and public sector entities; there is always an opportunity to do things differently especially in the areas of technology, organizational renewal, operations, etc. If MUN seriously looked at other jurisdictions with a best practice / best-in-class approach the answers are out there.

    But one thing that is real in NL in the public sector generally is that there is a tremendous reluctance to take advice and look to others for examples of how to do things differently. If entities do they usually analyze decisions to death or wait until they are forced to do so.

    So I recommend engaging all stakeholders, including the private sector in a meaningful way, to come up with a sustainable way forward. The status quo certainly isn’t it. There are lots of inefficiencies at MUN that can be addressed.

    And finally, if you raised tuition rates 10-15% is it the end of the world?

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  10. Elizabeth Yeoman

    This budget was designed to divide and conquer and the attacks on Noreen Golfman are an example of how it is doing just that. She has had the courage to speak out against it and most of the 153 people so far (nine here and 144 on the CBC re-post), all deeply opposed to the budget, are putting their energy into trashing her. Instead, we should thank her for leading the way and we should all speak out about how this budget is affecting our lives, our families, our communities and our workplaces. Join We Are NL, a group working to challenge the budget and, importantly, to come up with alternatives: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2016-04-26/article-4510516/Common-Front-gets-people-talking-on-N.L.-economy/1 . Write your own blogs and editorials. Go to protests. Speak out in any way you can but work together instead of channeling your anger against someone who is on the same side!

    Reply
    1. Maura Hanrahan

      Thanks Elizabeth and Noreen, I’m appalled at these personal attacks. This is a time when people should think broadly and generously about our fellow citizens and what kind of society we want. Our priority should be to get this government to reverse course before it becomes impossible to rebuild our infrastructure and societal fabric even after the hard times end. We’re near the tipping point now with half our libraries shutting down.

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      1. Ian

        We’re at this tipping point because we are trying to sustain a bloated University – bloated in terms of physical infrastructure and faculty alike. Of course the public libraries should remain open – but something needs to change. Begin scaling back MUN. We do not need nor can we sustain the largest university in Atlantic Canada. We can’t hope to train every type of professional in our province. Given our population base, we should eventually have a university the size of Cape Breton University or the University of PEI, with perhaps an additional emphasis or strength in ocean sciences research. Begin with an across the board faculty salary cut to be more consistent with CBU and UPEI.

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  11. concerned student

    As a young student in the province it is so disheartening to see MUN literally crumbling around you.
    Our tuition is very affordable, but in all honestly you are getting what you pay for.
    Newfoundland has an aging population and a university such as MUN is not attracting young people.
    The science building for example is all but falling apart. The tunnels are leaking and falling apart as well. With so many more issues to name. Im all for keeping a tuition freeze and having to pay less money for my education, However the new budget is making living in Newfoundland seem like an unfeasible option in my future. If you want well educated hard working people working in top levels you have to compensate them accordingly. To expect a top level university employee to cut their salary to pay for university repairs is ridiculous. The same expectation doesn’t exist in the private sector and shouldn’t in the public.
    All in all if the government isnt going to fund MUN, the money has to come from somewhere. Even a tuition raise of $500 per semester still leaves MUN as one of the cheapest university to attend and gives money to repair the campus.

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  12. Dave

    Dr. Golfman:

    With all due respect, I did not hear any complaints from the many, MANY in the public sector in St. John’s who did VERY well by the ever-increasing bloat in government and para-government during the Williams and “conservative” years.

    Or ANY for that matter.

    The small community library is being closed in Cartwright, on the coast of Labrador. You earn enough in eleven days to keep it operating for an entire year. Not to single you out — it could just as easily be a Nalcor executive or a Director of Nothing in the Department of Bugger All.

    But you, the collective you, in St. John’s did VERY well by the Danny Williams waste and spending binge, despite KNOWING it couldn’t last.

    The cries of anguish coming now from inside the overpass, I am sorry, are a little hard to swallow. YOU WERE WARNED THIS WOULD HAPPEN. And yet you all partied like it was — timely Prince reference here — 1999. Or 2009. I am not mad at those who have had to make the hard decisions to try and right a rapidly sinking ship. I am FURIOUS at those who refused to heed the ABUNDANT warnings, for a decade, that there was an iceberg dead ahead.

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  13. Delores Mullings

    As a member of the MUN community and a faculty member in the School of Social Work, I stand firmly with Dr. Golfman. The government is irresponsible for levying the kind of cuts it did on MUN. We are EDUCATORS, preparing for our futures – that is the next generation of engineers, social workers, doctors, ship builders, geologists, teachers, nurses, etc. We are not leaves blowing in the wind aimlessly without purpose. Shortsightedness is an issues here both in the government and some members of the general public who seem fixated on Dr. Goflman’s and other faculty’s income. Who do you want to educate the person who is going to help your Nan when she needs support when your Pop is dying of cancer (e.g. counselling and advocacy); your child when she (they) goes to the Janeway for surgery; your pastor when he has a heart attack; your children when they go to kindergarten; protects and monitors our great province (e.g. marine environment)? When governments mismanage their affairs, increase their own salaries and throw money at private corporations to burn it at will with no regard or benefit to the province and its people, that is unacceptable but it is disgraceful to blame others and minimize their worth and value. Our students are being educated in a physical infrastructure that is not only dilapidated by sight but unhealthy in general. Our buildings are sick and dying…literally crumbling around and upon us. MUN still has asbestos abatement occurring on campus, water-soaked walls and ceiling and until recently, the School of social work had no drinking water. And yes, that is the same infrastructure that the faculty, staff and administrators live in while they are on campus. It is difficult for student to learn when they are cold in classrooms, when their chairs and desks are in serious disrepair and when the government tells them indirectly to “suck it up”. At MUN, we strive to educate students for a global 21st century world; to be responsible citizens, critical thinkers and help them grow into outstanding human beings. Do not tell us to be mediocre, do less than our best and graduate students who are unprepared to take their rightful places in society…we cannot and we will not do it. I stand firmly with Dr. Golfman. I appreciate and admire her courage to speak rather than remain silent and I thank her for all that she has done and will do to make our university great.

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  14. Heather McLeod

    As an educator I’m glad to hear more informed and reasoned voices supporting Noreen Golfman because her information is accurate and her position is progressive. As Elizabeth points out-this is a provincial budget that has the potential to divide and conquer. We shouldn’t fall for blaming individuals but instead should focus on the larger picture-in these times how do we preserve what’s worthwhile AND build for the future?

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