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ICYMI: Government Funding Info Session

By Joshua Boucher

The following article is actually not satire this time, but it is written with a lot of sass. Facts have been reported in good faith, but the authorial tone may be subject to a 10% decrease in the next year.

Last Wednesday, the Interim President Douglas Kneale hosted an info session to discuss with students the changes to the Ontario government’s funding for post-secondary education. Kneale’s position is by definition temporary until a full-time president can be found. However, with no ETA on the next full-timer, it seems like Kneale is the university’s long-term temporary fix.

If you missed the information session, which you almost definitely did, we’ve provided a brief little review of the session’s happenings.

Among the other speakers were a host of professional-looking characters with very long job titles: Jeffrey Berryman, Acting Provost and Vice-President, Academic; Anna Kirby, Acting Vice-President, Planning and Administration; Rita LaCivita, Vice-President, Human Resources; and Michael Siu, Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

An Underwhelming Turnout

An invitation to the information session was sent via email to every student enrolled at the university. To seat the almost 16,000 students invited, the senior administrative team booked Katzman Lounge from 12-1 PM on February 6th. Katzman Lounge has a maximum capacity of 140 seats, but only 100 were prepared for the session.

At first glance, a 0.625% turnout seemed pretty realistic, but they had apparently forgotten to account for the free breakfast the UWSA was hosting at the same time. There were 12 people in attendance, not counting the 5 speakers, up until UWSA President Jeremiah Bowers arrived in time to hear Kneale’s closing remarks.

So What was Actually Said?

We’ve already covered the OSAP changes in a previous article, and we’re going to give even more detail in a future article (keep your eye out for Ashley Quinton’s next piece), so the following is going to focus on a few ways the university plans to adapt to the changes.

Early into the session, Kneale made clear that he, and the senior administration, began modelling for government cuts shortly after the Ontario Progressive Conservatives were elected. Apparently, there’s something about conservatives in power that makes publically funded institutions nervous. What the administration didn’t see coming, however, was that the cuts came from tuition rather than their operating budget.

To address the estimated $10 million loss that will occur, Kneale described two approaches: increasing enrollment, and cuts to services. Despite these cuts, though, Kneale wanted to make it absolutely clear that their top priority is to minimize the impact on students—unless you’re international.

Since the government funding changes only apply to domestic students, one obvious—and morally dubious—option is to increase the fees paid by international students. Kneale did say that this option is being considered, but that they’re “not going to go crazy” with it.

Another obvious response is to decrease the number of staff and faculty. One attendee asked about this very thing, wondering how soon we can expect layoffs, but Kneale was adamant that reducing staff is an absolute last resort. The attendee who posed the question, in response, made a face that can best be described as the “Sure, Jan” meme from The Brady Bunch.

What Can Students Expect?

In terms as simple as possible: *uncertain shrug*

There’s still a lot of uncertainty in what’s actually going to happen in the next two years. While the administration discussed the possibility of increasing international tuition, reducing staff and faculty, and making cuts to services, they were also clear that they don’t want to do any of those things. They may try to put it off for as long as possible, but it’s reasonable to assume that those changes are going to happen nonetheless.

One thing is certain though: they need to update the website again! The University of Windsor is required to provide an online “opt-out” option on all non-mandatory ancillary fees. The current student website, UWinsiteStudent, is not set up for that. As such, there’s going to be a lot more online maintenance before the fees are due for the next academic year. For those of who are just now getting used to the current site as is: don’t get too comfy.

 

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