Ryerson Faculty Association seeking ‘non-academic resolutions’ to budget cutbacks

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By Sherina Harris

The Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) is in the “early stages” of a discussion with university administration regarding concerns about where the funds to make up for the lack of tuition money could come from.

In January, the provincial government announced they would slash tuition rates for domestic students by 10 per cent. Ryerson will lose just under five per cent of its operating budget, Ryerson’s public affairs office previously told The Eyeopener.

Last year’s budget was approximately $600 million, meaning they will lose around $30 million.

The cuts could mean larger class sizes, fewer courses offered and a “redeployment of work” for part-time faculty, Charles Falzon, the dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), previously told The Eye.

FCAD faculty were told to prepare for the cutbacks in advance of the government’s announcement, according to Marusya Bociurkiw, an associate RTA professor and the RTA representative on the RFA.

“For many years, we’ve been asked to cut back three per cent here, or three per cent there, so things are fairly austerial already,” she said, adding these cutbacks have led to larger class sizes. Bociurkiw said she’s heard from other RFA reps that some professors are holding classes in hallways or—in warmer weather—in the Kerr Hall Quad. She also said her office area hasn’t had heat for months, and faculty are paying their TAs out of their own pockets.

Last year’s budget was approximately $600 million, meaning they will lose around $30 million

“[What] we want administration to consider is to make cutbacks in administration, or to not push for a law school when there are already [two] other law schools in the city. I think we’re [also] wondering why [the] Brampton [campus] is still going ahead,” Bociurkiw said. She added although funding for these projects may already be confirmed, they have ongoing costs.

RFA president Ron Babin said the association doesn’t have a position on those items specifically.

The RFA is a certified bargaining unit, according to their website. Babin said they represent over 900 Ryerson professors, librarians and counsellors.

Babin said there are still a lot of unknowns about the university’s funding for the next academic year, including whether the government will reduce operating grants. The RFA has been in contact with the university about their concerns, he said.

“The RFA’s position is, and I think the university’s position is, let’s protect [and] let’s not cut things that will affect our students—teaching, classrooms, research,” Babin said.

Ryerson’s surplus—which totalled $64.275 million in 2018, according to the university’s most recent audited financial statement—could be used to make up for the money lost from the tuition cut, he continued.

The surplus funnels into restricted assets, which are funds that carry forward for a specific purpose.

However, there are two items Babin said he would like to see used to cover the gap from the tuition cut.

He noted the $123.608 million in the academic plan, growth and internal research fund. This fund is money allocated to the provost to support the university’s academic plans, programs and research.

Babin said there is $111.558 million in department carryforward funds; a surplus that carries over.

“There’s a lot of money there, and we [RFA] think that can help to offset the budget amounts that have been reduced by the government,” Babin said.

At budget town halls in February, the university revealed plans to accept 500 more international students. President Mohamed Lachemi told The Eye that Ryerson “may increase” international student tuition “in line with peer institutions.”

The budget will be presented to the Board of Governors in April.

“We’re asking administration to look at non-academic resolutions to any deficits that they may have…[and] to be more transparent with their surplus,” said Bociurkiw.

“What will be the surplus on April 30?  I think students and faculty would like to know the exact numbers.”

With files from Kiernan Green

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