Community Message from President Mahon

Dear University Community Members,

Given recent events and the ongoing uncertainty around some pivotal issues affecting our university community, I want to reach out directly with an update.

The last few years have been a very difficult period in which we have seen unprecedented changes to our institution and our community as a whole. Four years of budget cuts have resulted in a reduction of over 10 per cent of our workforce. We are weathering an ongoing pandemic that has now lasted more than two years, and a six-week labour disruption has tested relationships throughout the university. I know these developments have affected you and your families deeply. They have impacted me and my family as well.

I write to you today to acknowledge how difficult this period of time has been and to say I hear your deeply-felt concerns about the past, present and future. 

To students — I know you have felt the burden of these challenges in many ways and that the past two years have not been the experience you desire.

To faculty members — you were charged with responding rapidly to the pandemic pedagogically, while also navigating the personal challenges we have all encountered. Add to that, you went through a lengthy strike/lockout which I know deeply affected you all both professionally and personally. 

To employees — you have seen your workplace disrupted by layoffs, wondered about your job responsibilities and security, all while working through the challenges of the pandemic and labour disruption.

To our administrators — we have asked you to manage through all the aforementioned challenges with a brave face and fewer resources.

To our volunteers and community supporters — thank you for the patience and support you have continued to show our university community, and particularly our students, through these difficult times.

And to everyone — we have experienced the mental health challenges brought on by these circumstances either personally or with colleagues, family and friends.

As we conclude one of the most challenging semesters the U of L has ever faced, I feel it is important to acknowledge your feelings of uncertainty, unhappiness and anger, as well as the many questions you must have. Some difficult decisions have resulted in unintended consequences for us all. As your president, I apologize for these negative experiences. While some are beyond our control, my role is to ensure we do all we can to mitigate these as much as possible.

In such moments, it is important to remind ourselves that while the aforementioned challenges are real, so too is the incredible resiliency you have all shown. Our university has much to look forward to and the future is where we must turn our focus.

In a few weeks, our students will have the opportunity to attend convocation in-person for the first time in two years. It is a time for them to finally celebrate and be celebrated. A few short months later, we will welcome thousands of new and returning undergraduate and graduate students to largely in-person university experiences in the classroom and beyond. I am confident we will welcome their return and give them the full ULethbridge experience. The search for my successor as President and Vice-Chancellor has also commenced, presenting us with a golden opportunity to put our best foot forward and attract a strong and vibrant leader ready to take our university into the next era. We have a collective responsibility to continue to find the positive in the work we do, and while I understand this can be difficult given all we have endured, we owe it to ourselves to return the university to the positive and supportive atmosphere for which it is known.

Shifting our focus to the future is not easy, given continued uncertainty with the budget, enrolment, and other external factors. The most recent budget deliberations, and in particular the consideration of faculty restructuring has created a great deal of concern. Though undertaken with the best of intentions to find savings while maintaining capacity for success, the level of angst the process has created is palpable and unhealthy. Given this, and the need for us to look towards a more positive climate on campus, I will cease the current faculty restructuring process. 

Unfortunately, even in halting the faculty restructuring process, we still need to identify savings to balance our budget and some of the difficult work we have been doing must continue. You have told us you have creative budget ideas that need to be heard, and I believe the best way forward is to listen to those ideas. I commit to you we are interested in your proposals and they will be considered.

As I enter my final year as president, I have committed to the board that I will do all I can to help the community find pathways to heal from the challenges we have faced. This will require a collective effort. I have discussed with our senior leadership team some possible approaches, and I invite input from the community on this topic. The future of our university depends on us finding ways to move forward — we all deserve such an effort.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. My 12 years as president have been some of the most satisfying years of my life and some of the most challenging of my career. I commit to fulfilling my role as president to the best of my abilities until my term is completed in June 2023. I look forward to working with all of you to that end.

Sincerely,

Mike Mahon, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor


Contact:

Mike Mahon | president@uleth.ca