Saturday May 1, 1010
Thank you Chancellor and hello again everyone!
Since I began my term in September, I've immersed myself in the Queen's community - easy to do when one lives an 8-minute walk from the office. I've visited many departments, met with all of the faculty boards and executives, as well as with heads in the departmentalized faculties. I've also set up an Advisory Committee of faculty, staff and students to provide me with grassroots advice and feedback. I've also enjoyed countless individual and group meetings with staff, students, faculty members and alumni.
I would like to take some time now to provide you with an update on what's been happening at the University, and highlight our achievements as well as our challenges. You'll then have the opportunity to ask questions of me and the Vice-Principals.
It won't come as a surprise to you all to hear this:
Despite the fact that Queen's, the university sector, the province, the country and the world have been hit hard by a recession and face a slow and fragile recovery, this past year has been one of achievement, learning and progress for faculty, students and staff. Queen's is unique in our combination of a rich learning experience and strong research achievement.
Our shared values include- and I list them in the first sentence of "Where Next?":
• high academic standards
• a rich and personal campus environment
• an emphasis on excellence in teaching and research
• a welcoming and respectful community, and
• a culture of service.
Over the past year - just to list a few of our achievements -- Queen's has:
• Produced our 56th Rhodes Scholar, Nithum Thain
• Celebrated with another Killam Prize recipient, Art McDonald
• Ranked sixth in Canada for our research intensity
• Attracted government funding for a home for the Queen's School of Medicine and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts
• Signed national and provincial sustainability pledges and struck an advisory committee to lead our efforts to go green
• Committed to reducing plastic bottles on campus by phasing out the sale of bottled water
• Won the Vanier Cup
• Nurtured more than 200 academic all-star athletes
• Been named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers, and
• Been awarded more A+ marks than any other large, medium or small university by the Globe and Mail.
Suffice it to say, our University continues to live up to its reputation for excellence. But this is getting harder to do.
As I reported to Trustees last night, most Ontario universities, including Queen's, are struggling with a major structural dynamic: higher demand for post-secondary education with relatively shrinking support.
In 1992-93, provincial grants accounted for 74% of our operating budget. Today, they account for less than half. The gap between our operating expenses and provincial operating grant revenues is growing into a chasm. This is having an academic impact. Faculties are facing major constraints. There are fewer adjunct professors and some vacant tenured positions are being left open. Fewer teachers means larger classes and/or reduced course offerings. This is affecting students, faculty and staff. We are working hard to take control of these challenges. We are charting a path for our future. The academic plan will help guide us. As we continue to work to reduce our deficit, we will look for more cost savings, and opportunities to grow our revenue sources. As we told you last year, our biggest operating expense - as in all public sector institutions -- is compensation.
The government has introduced a bill that would immediately freeze salaries for everyone not covered by collective agreements. It also states the government's expectation that new agreements should contain no net compensation increases for 2 years. This new law would provide significant potential to stabilize our compensation costs. We still need to understand all aspects of the legislation, but we will have to negotiate with employee groups in the context of the new requirements. I again want to recognize the contribution made by staff through the current salary and benefits agreement, which has reduced our deficit by $2 million. A combination of our efforts, and some good fortune (for example, a warm winter reduced our utilities costs) have reduced our in-year projected deficit from $8.3 million to $2.6 million.
More than ever, philanthropy at Queen's is crucial. As I told Trustees last night, advancement activities across campus raised $52 million this past year. And make no mistake: Queen's relies significantly on the generosity of alumni and supporters like you. Fundraising can't eliminate the operating deficit because most of the gifts we receive are targeted, but it makes a real difference in supporting our learning environment.
For example, with monies raised during our last major campaign, we increased access to a Queen's education. We created 636 new awards that helped us more than double the number of students receiving financial assistance from the University. Monies raised to build Chernoff Hall, home of Queen's Chemistry Department, support award-winning faculty members like green chemist Phil Jessop. The creation of Goodes Hall, as the home of Queen's School of Business, has allowed the business school to expand its top-notch undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. We continue to receive support from our alumni for the Annual Fund, which goes to address immediate and emerging needs for the University.
These examples demonstrate why we must, and we will, continue to build our fundraising efforts. I'm not afraid to say this: WE NEED YOUR HELP!
But our budget for 2010-11, approved last night by the Board, forecasts increasing pressures and much larger deficits ahead. That's because of our single biggest financial risk: costs associated with maintaining our pension plan. Pension is the biggest issue for the Council of Ontario Universities and I will remain involved in discussions at the COU and Queen's Park.
In the coming year, we will continue to implement key changes that will chart our path forward. These include:
• Finalizing the Queen's University Planning Committee that will bring together members of Senate and the Board of Trustees to enhance strategic planning
• Supporting innovation through the Principal's Innovation Fund. One interesting initiative being funded involves researchers, staff and students developing 3D models of campus buildings to assess and improve energy efficiency
• Seeking out new international collaborations - Earlier this week, I initiated a partnership with one of the top European universities, the University of Vienna. In a few weeks, I'm heading to Israel with Premier McGuinty.
• We've just implemented a Principal-Provost model that will allow me to focus more on strategic planning, government relations and of course, fundraising, while Provost Bob Silverman runs the day-to-day operations of the University.
Most importantly, in the coming year, we will complete this round of academic planning.
While we have faced many challenges over the past year and will face more in the future, Queen's has a strong foundation, a great spirit and people who are passionate about making a difference.