President’s Town Hall: Updates on University Budget and Strategic Planning
On Thursday, February 21, University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont hosted a town hall discussion at the Faculty of Medicine. He was joined by Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs, David Graham and Vice-President Research Sylvain Charbonneau.
Faculty members, staff and learners were invited to attend the meeting, which consisted of an update from university leadership and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions or raise concerns. The conversation focused on several key areas including: budget; strategic planning; physical space and facilities; equity, diversity and engagement.
Budget: managing provincial cuts
President Frémont began the meeting by addressing “the elephant in the room,” explaining that the 10% tuition cuts from Queen’s Park equates to roughly $33 million that will be missing from the University’s budget next year. It is not yet clear whether the provincial government will also touch transfer payments; if so, this could mean a budget deficit of up to $55 million. All universities in Ontario are still in the dark with regards to final numbers, which poses a challenge as the University’s fiscal year begins on April 1. To help manage the situation, uOttawa leadership is considering different scenarios to ensure we are prepared.
“One thing I would like to make very clear is that following our most recent cuts, we have changed our approach to managing the budget,” said President Frémont. “I am confident that we are better equipped for the headwinds in the years to come.”
He assured that across-the-board cuts were not in store for faculties, and that by developing scenarios to prepare for the cuts, they could avoid this.
"This is about making difficult choices about what is most important to us,” said VP Graham. “At next week’s deep dive planning session as part of the University’s 10-year strategic planning, budget issues will be addressed.”
Strategic planning: Imagine 2030
The University is in the process of creating Imagine 2030, its strategic vision for the next 10 years. The goal is to complete this exercise by the end of June. The action plan presented at that time will be for a five-year period.
President Frémont said that when facing budget cuts, strategic planning is more important than ever. He explained that it’s easy to lose ourselves in the day-to-day, which is why having bigger picture vision is important and where our focus needs to be.
“We still don’t know what will come of this exercise, but there is still time to have your say,” said President Frémont. “I urge members of the Faculty of Medicine tell us where you think uOttawa should be in 10 years’ time.”
Physical space and facilities
There will be announcements soon about how core facilities will be provided with additional support across the University, said Frémont. Those members of university leadership present at the meeting particularly agreed that a space crunch exists at Roger Guindon and emphasized that the issue is complex. “The subject of facilities is top of mind,” said VP Graham. “We have serious conversations about facilities every day and that doesn’t exclude the weekends.”
Status update on equity, diversity and gender
Faculty of Medicine Professor and Canada Research Chair in Neurolipidomics Steffany Bennett dedicates a portion of every week to her role as uOttawa’s special advisor, diversity and inclusion. Using information collected from 17 different databases, Dr. Bennett is working to create baseline measurements to better understand what factors might be inhibiting development and progress of women and minorities at the University.
As of late February, Dr. Bennett has compiled numbers for gender equity for APUO staff. This information will be presented to the president in March. Following that, these numbers will be shared with each Faculty. With regard to diversity, Dr. Bennett said that compiling baseline numbers is a bit more challenging. To help with this task, a self-identification survey will be distributed to members of the University community later this year.
Other topics of discussion:
- It was agreed at this town hall that a separate meeting for clinicians is needed to discuss topics relevant to this Faculty of Medicine population.
- A draft policy for postdoctoral benefits was recently approved; as soon as the policy is ratified, the university intends to move forward with it.
- A school of pharmacy at the Faculty of Medicine is still on the table and there is a demand for such a school in Francophone Canada. However, moving forward with the idea will depend on whether it can be funded. One immediate challenge is that no university president in Ontario has been given the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Education.
- The Faculty of Medicine was commended for its ongoing contributions to the University. President Frémont made special note of Dean Jasmin’s efforts at representing the efforts of clinicians, researchers and the Faculty of Medicine at large.