University takes edge off cash slash

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By Wojtek Dabrowski

Large across-the-board cuts have been eliminated as an option in the university’s bid to save between $4 million and $6 million, v.p. administration and student affairs Linda Grayson said Tuesday.

“It’s not going to work that way because it’s not very strategic,” Grayson said. Rumours of an indiscriminate five-per-cent cut have swirled around the school, but Grayson said the option is “not a strategy in and of itself.”

However, she added that small across-the-board slashing may be worked in as part of a larger plan.

Last month, the university said that it will have to examine “all potential cost-saving options,” to cope with the current global economic slump and a lack of funding from the provincial government.

In early October, Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse talked openly of service cuts and “restructuring” to avoid a shortfall of as much as $6 million.

Grayson said Tuesday the university is still trying to work out a process on how to end the school’s financial woes, but no decisions regarding actual cuts have been made yet.

But Stephanie Blake, president of local 596 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said cuts are not necessary.

“I think they’re panic mode,” said Blake, whose union represents about 560 clerical workers and administrative staff at Ryerson. “They aren’t doing any analysis, they are not trying to come up with any alternatives.”

Blake pointed out that Ryerson’s financial policies suggest that under extenuating circumstances, the school can operate at a deficit — something that Lajeunesse said won’t be allowed to happen.

She said the university should be lobbying the government against any more spending cuts, but “instead, they’re in bed with them.”

Grayson also said the projected shortfall could be revised — either up or down — depending on how long the struggling global economy takes to recover.

“All I know is that the worst thing we can do right now is get caught up in worst-case scenarios,” she said.

Her words came just a day after the Ontario government’s chair of the management board, David Tsubouchi, warned that every provincial ministry may need to slash five per cent of its own budget to stave off a $5-billion deficit.

This could mean less funding for universities and future reductions in grants such as the SuperBuild program, which funds construction across the province — including four buildings at Ryerson.

Grayson said that as the university works out its scheme to save cash, members of the school community have been sending emailed proposals on how the fat can be trimmed. While she gave no details, she said all are being examined seriously. “People are trying to be helpful.”

Blake disagreed. “The real danger is loss of jobs and rising tuition and that’s what’s going to happen,” she said. A coalition of employee groups is meeting with management to discuss Ryerson’s financial woes on Dec. 5, Blake said.

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