January 11, 2010
I am writing to welcome you all back to the new term and the new year. I hope your holidays were restful and rewarding.
I should begin by announcing that the event to celebrate the opening of the Queen's Centre will take place this Friday, January 15th, at 10:30 a.m. in the main gym. Details are posted on the main Queen's website. When its doors opened on December 1st, the Centre instantly became a popular hub of activity. The product of countless hours of work by many staff over many years, it goes a considerable distance to addressing long-time student concerns about the quality of our athletic and recreational facilities. At the same time, the adjoining new School of Kinesiology and Health Studies building has opened. This school represents a significant contribution both to our academic and research programs and to the health and wellbeing of Ontarians.
This term will see a number of initiatives. Later this week I will be posting my Vision Statement which provides the starting point for our year-long Academic Planning process. The Vision Statement is my personal perspective on future directions for our University. It is not cast in stone; rather, I hope it initiates vigorous discussion across campus. Over the next several months, departments and faculties will develop their own plans in response to the document. These will be synthesized over the summer into a draft university plan, which will be discussed over the Fall Term among the University community and Senate before being presented to the Board of Trustees in December.
The Academic Plan is important because it will drive much of our decision-making. In addition to typical academic issues like program development, curriculum, course delivery, and the role of research, the plan will inform other decisions including capital planning, financial planning, and human resource issues.
Of course, this planning process is taking place against the backdrop of our current state of affairs. A financial update was presented to the Board of Trustees in December. We are currently projecting a $5.4 million deficit for 2009-2010, which is almost $3 million less than originally projected. Our one-year salary and benefits agreement with the Staff Association, as well as higher graduate accessibility funding, are the reasons why the current outlook has improved. The fact remains, however, that we still face unresolved deficits stemming from a variety of factors including salary and benefit costs, pension issues, capital debt, and the continuing impact of the global economic crisis on our endowment and fundraising. More detail on our budget can be found in the report on the annual budget.
Departments, Faculties and senior administration are now preparing budgets for the 2010-2011 year. This exercise will challenge all of us to think strategically. To assist in this interim period before the Academic Plan is adopted, I am establishing a $1 million one-time only Transition Fund to assist units facing particular difficulties in the short term. Deans will submit requests to this fund with their annual budget requests to the Vice-Principal (Academic).
Another part of our response to our financial situation must involve salary and benefit costs. That was the rationale for my meeting with the Executive of QUFA in the fall to propose that in 2010-11, faculty members receive a scale increase of 1.2% in 2010-11, instead of the negotiated 3.2% increase. The response I received was not favourable to my proposal, so that avenue of savings is now closed. However, there may be others. I look forward to upcoming discussions between Queen's and QUFA about a potential early retirement program, anomalies funds, and the merit and career development salary model for faculty members. We also need to look at ways of reducing our administrative and operational costs. This, too, will be a particular focus of attention in the coming months.
At the same time, we must continue to be bold and imaginative in our planning. This will require openness to change and an ability to adapt. As a community, we owe it to each other to engage in frank but collegial discussion; and, as a community, we must not lose sight of the need to work together to find effective solutions that will ensure our continued success as one of Canada's premier universities.
My best wishes for the new term,
Principal and Vice-Chancellor