Town Hall offered a variety of strong ideas

University of Lethbridge President Dr. Bill Cade chats about what's happening in the University community

I thank those of you who attended the Town Hall meeting last week to discuss the University's 2009-2010 budget and the economic challenges that face post-secondary institutions over the coming years. I am pleased especially that there was such a healthy dialogue about our future because it is essential we have input from all corners of campus as we strive to meet our budgetary goals.

The six per cent increase promised by the provincial government for this year's operating budget (2009-2010) has been approved, however we have been told to expect no increases over the next two years. If that happens, if enrolment levels remain stable and if tuition increases are consistent with recent years, we are still faced with taking $5 million out of the budget next year and an additional $6 million the following year.

There is no way to reach those targets without reducing salary costs. While we have continued to hire staff and do not intend to enact a hiring freeze, replacements that arise out of retirement or through people leaving positions will not be replaced automatically. As well, there is a distinct possibility layoffs will be required to meet budgetary goals.

Keep in mind that all this is based upon a model that could change and one we certainly hope does change for the better.

Despite the challenges, the University is fairly well positioned and it is important we do not become preoccupied with these issues and lose sight of the goals established in the Strategic Plan.

In times such as these, it is essential to look at how we may have become inefficient in what we are doing and how we are delivering our services. We have to ask questions of ourselves as we look to restructure our various departments.

Financial downturns happen; they are a fact of life and something we cannot control. What we can control however is how we approach this challenge, and through imaginative thinking and an open, consultative process I am confident we will meet our budget and continue along the path set by the Strategic Plan.

Things will not come to a halt here at the U of L and to find the greatest example of that, simply look out the window to see how we continue to move forward. Markin Hall appears more impressive every day as it takes shape before our eyes. Meanwhile, the new Sports Stadium Complex is nearing completion and will be a wonderful addition to the southern Alberta sports landscape.

The new stadium speaks to the continued development of a university culture that goes beyond academics to include the wellness of the body and the ability to go out and unite as one voice to cheer on our teams as they represent the U of L on the field of play. It is a very impressive facility and serves as yet another example of how the City of Lethbridge, the University and the provincial government continue to work together to provide services to the people of Alberta.

Some weeks ago the University's Board of Directors held its retreat here at the U of L. Board members spent a night in residence, participated in a fashion show with outfits from the University's renowned costume shop and essentially experienced life on campus from the student and staff perspective. It was remarkably successful.

Our directors are extremely dedicated to the institution but at the same time, they rarely have the opportunity to see the U of L as it really is, and this retreat provided that look. I believe it brought home the notion that the many decisions they make at the board level lead to tangible results, such as Markin Hall, new science labs and the Sports Stadium Complex. It was a very valuable and enlightening exercise.

Summer is upon us and I would like to wish personally a wonderful break to everyone in the University community. Enjoy the long summer days and I look forward to seeing everyone refreshed and renewed for the fall semester.