April 23,1998

Senate Notes

Compiled by Barbara Black
A regular meeting held April 17, 1998.

Rector's remarks: Rector Frederick Lowy introduced Valérie Gagnon, Executive Director, Human Resources. He announced the closing of the Conservatory of Cinematographic Art in June, which will make the J.A. DeSève Cinema more accessible for teaching. He announced the successful negotiations with the teaching associations, CUFA and CUPFA, and the acquisition of a new information system with McGill University. The Capital Campaign is progressing well, and will involve another trip to Hong Kong, this time with specific goals.

RISQ: Vice-Rector Services Charles Emond announced that this Internet network, a division of CRIM aimed at researchers in the Quebec universities, has become a not-for-profit corporation, which will incur some added costs but also bring many benefits.

L'Université devant l'avenir: Discussion resumed on this government discussion paper. Led by Provost and Vice-Rector Research Jack Lightstone, it included the following points: research, which tends to be undervalued by this document, has become more competitive than ever; the student body has become democratized and consumer-driven; universities have not found the right way to assess teaching success, especially the suitability of curriculum, exams, materials, etc.

According to this document, the universities exist to serve Quebec's needs, as interpreted by the government of the day; in fact, senators said, the government should support universities for their long-term value. The document was seen as narrow in scope, neglecting the universities' role in interpreting knowledge, exposing students to unfamiliar ideas, and perfecting their self-expression. However, knowing our role does not mean we are fulfilling it well, Lightstone said. The Rector remarked on increased calls for universities' accountability to the taxpayers, and said that elsewhere, universities are being enlisted by governments in the drive for economic competition.

Budget: Chief Financial Officer Larry English presented the year-end projection for 1997-98. It foresees a $164,000 surplus for which a purpose has already been found, and includes $500,000 for repairs on the Loyola Campus. English also presented a preliminary outlook for the next three years. While the university has responded well to a 26-per-cent cut
over five years in oper-
ating grants by offer-
ing early retirements, blending academic programs, down-
sizing service departments, etc., future choices could include working to increase FTEs, increasing students' administrative fees, increasing foreign tuition, opening up limited-access programs, further consolidating departments or suffer across-the-board cuts.
It was remarked that the increased tuition for out-of-province students went to the government and then was redistributed to the universities, but in such a way as to remove any incentive to recruit outside of Quebec. (The money was redistributed on a pro-rata basis; Concordia collected $2.3 million in extra tuition, but got back only $1.3 million.)
In response to a question about spending money raised by the Capital Campaign, the Rector explained that much of the money raised is still in the form of pledges, not cash in hand. Apart from the minor exception of emergency ice-storm relief to students, he said, it has been decided not to spend Capital Campaign funds yet; otherwise, the Campaign itself would be difficult to operate.
Vice-Rector Services Charles Emond has submitted to the government a proposal to fund new buildings, and is optimistic that it will be successful. He added that the $3-million acquisition of information software will be paid for from the operating budget, but over five years.

Victims of success: In general, Lightstone said, he feels his frustration with this government rising because he feels that it does not value university education. Concordia has succeeded in increasing its FTEs by 1,000, but teaching, space and services must be found for these students. Engineering and Computer Science Dean Nabil Esmail said that popular programs are attracting students, but it is hard to find teachers with high-tech skills, and increasing foreign-student fees increases expectations. It may be that the increase in enrolment is mainly in graduate students.

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