Reg Johanson: Capilano University needs to hit the pause button on its budget plans

By Reg Johanson

Capilano University executives responsible for a proposed budget, which would see broad program, course, and staffing cuts, say they didn’t have time to consult with faculty and students. In their haste, they have proposed to cut programs and services to students that took decades to build. This is what happens, as Franco Berardi has said, “when we no longer have time to pay attention. We perceive things badly, we are no longer able to make decisions in a rational manner.”

What is the rationale for the cuts? There is a deficit, and under the University Act, the university must make a balanced budget. The deficit is just over $1 million, yet the cuts total $3 million. We are told that the cuts were made not only, or even most importantly, on the basis of cost, enrolment, or quality, but on whether or not they fit the “strategic vision” of the university.

Philosophy courses, science courses, the German language program, studio and textile arts, art history, computing science, commerce, courses and services offered at the Carnegie Centre in the Downtown Eastside, design and animation courses, student support services of all kinds, music therapy—none of these fit the “vision”.

Whose vision is this? Who was involved in developing it? I know faculty and students were not. I’m certain that the North Shore / Howe Sound Corridor community, which the university primarily serves, was not. If we had been, the budget would look very different.

Instead of giving faculty and students the time we need to find our way as a university, our managers have pre-empted this process to impose their own vision. But they do not know best. The university president has been at Cap for only three years. Several key executive and high-level administrative positions have turned over in this time. Put simply: they don’t know what they’re doing.

Faculty have put in the time, the labour, and the love of decades. We know. Yet we have been told, with galling condescension, that we can’t be trusted to make the necessary hard decisions.

Students know too. They know that the proposed cuts will force them to leave their own community. They know that critical student support services will be diminished or absent, that their academic choices will be limited, and our collective ability to develop unique, dynamic programs will be seriously compromised because we don’t have the intellectual ecosystem to foster the interdisciplinary mind the modern world requires.

Not to mention that the budget came down in the middle of final exams, just when faculty and students were distracted and tired. And right in the middle of a provincial election campaign. Like the kids say: WTF?!

What we need, then, is not destructive cuts of things that take a long time to build, but to pause, consult, and imagine together. We need time to think, which is what we’re supposed to be good at. Destruction happens quickly, creativity is slower.  The university needs to hit the pause button on its budget plans.

Comments (20) Add New Comment
merrell gerber
I know first hand how much the faculty in the studio arts department has worked towards creating one of the best programs in Canada. We have people who are committed to their teaching professions, to their students and to the University. In the 15 years I have been at Capilano, I have never heard a student say they regretted coming to Capilano to do the art program, but have heard on more than just a few occasions the desire that Capilano expand the 2 year program into a 4 yr degree one. We have excellent teachers, excellent facilities and we offer a unique program that cannot be replaced by any other art school in the lower mainland. A community without art is a soulless , desolate and sterile environment.
44
29
Rating: +15
CapU Employee
Plus, speaking in the language of the administrators, i.e., in monetary terms, what can't be underestimated is the amount of financial damage they've potentially done by handling this situation in the way they have: the university's reputation has taken a massive hit; the potential students and employees they've lost to more 'stable' options in the market; the employees and faculty who'll abandon the sinking ship, taking with them years of knowledge and expertise, thus forcing CapU to spend money on retraining... The financial inefficiency alone should give them pause.
36
27
Rating: +9
CapFacultyMember
Well said Reg! The president has yet to address the faculty. We're waiting!
33
27
Rating: +6
Meghan Shaw
It would be pretty devastating to the animation and games community in Vancouver if there were big cuts to the animation and design programs. All of the artists at our studio (with one exception) are Cap alumni from either the Commercial Animation or the IDEA program. A lot of talent is cultivated there.
33
23
Rating: +10
BK -- Capilano Student
These cuts alter my perspective on Cap tremendously. I was so happy to be part of a community and school that I truly felt I identified with... these cuts, however, have changed that. Capilano will no longer hold the same respect and place in my heart as I no longer feel our values are alined. Just when Cap started to show so much progressiveness and innovation, they make such a devastating decision.

I have had numerous friends from around the country talk to me about moving to BC (or having done so) to take some of the programs being cut--particularly animation, IDEA, textiles and studio art--as they are few and far between in Canada. Especially ones of such quality.

I will be an alumni shortly and was planning to stay to finish my degree at Cap but have, as a result of these cuts, decided against it. Many of my fellow students are in the same boat and of the same mindset.

After such big leaps forward, they're walking backwards.
36
30
Rating: +6
KC- mother of a student
CapU- get your vision together and stop BS'ing us all. If you are an education provider then provide! I see a fabulous new Bosa building and some great programs and teachers. Get your act together and continue to provide and stop whining. Figure it out.
29
21
Rating: +8
CapU Faculty member
The fact that one temporary and 2 other Vice Presidents plus the President can decide to reshape, revision, and revoke the structure of a university without a single shred of collaboration with the university community is disgraceful. What happened to the collegial model? Whose vision of the university counts? The President is off cultivating foreign students when the cuts are made. Reality check needed. We should all be working together in challenging times: consultation, collaboration, COMMUNITY!
30
26
Rating: +4
Amanda Wood
As a textile arts student I can say that the program at Capilano is second to none and practically ireplacable. The faculty and staff are dedicated to fostering independent thinking, creative problem solving as well as technical ability. There is simply no other program like it in BC. I feel lucky to be part of this amazing group of people.

The way the President and Board of Governors have handled the deficit has exposed their inexperience, short sightedness, lack of understanding and lack of transparency. To make vertical cuts of this magnitude without consulting faculty shows a lack of creative problem solving and smacks of an ulterior motive. I agree that the vision for the university is not shared by those participating in education but rather by those that have made themselves rulers. The lack of change management and their inflexibility and timing are shocking. I only hope that they can show a little bit of human decency and postpone their budget decision until after the May 14 provincial election.
32
28
Rating: +4
Misanthropia
I'd like to hear some suggestions from all you people about how to find the way to a balanced budget.

The problem is the provincial government, you *do* understand that, right?

When Cap became a University, along with those other colleges, all the other colleges got a $12 million "bump" to assist with the increased admin costs. Cap did not.

Cap receives the lowest per student funding of any university in the province. That's not Caps fault - it's the provinces fault and the fault of the largely useless North Shore BC Lib MLAs.

The University is not allowed, under Campbell's law, to run a deficit. I agree it's a clumsy and largely ignorant hammer of a law but it *is* the law.

So what do you suggest?

Don't spew cant and bullshit. There are facts involved here that cannot be ignored or changed. Join the reality community.

Make concrete financial suggestions to bring about a balanced budget this year with the likelihood of one next year and the year after and on into the future.

There is a bigger picture here that is not lovely I agree but it is also not going to change just because you stamp your feet and yell at the walls.

Get on it or shut the hell up - you just sound like whiny babies otherwise.
29
49
Rating: -20
FutureCapStudent
I have just finished the application for the Interactive Design Program. I have paid application fees and a few additional fees to make sure my interview went well. The good news, I'm accepted. The bad, there might not be a program to be accepted to. If these cuts happen and my program gets cut my life, the life I had been planning over the last year, gets pushed back another year.

I should have been told a long time ago.
30
24
Rating: +6
Mary Downe
I found this on the Board of Governors website. I went in and looked at the minutes of the meeting on March 12, 2013 and this is what I found. So it seems like they would have been able to seek approval to run a deficit for the year. But finally they chose the cuts to programs instead.

I've also noted the upcoming meetings planned for April 9 and May 14. No mention of the meeting where the President and VPs decided on the cuts.



http://www.capilanou.ca/about/governance/board/Agendas-Minutes/

MINUTES REGULAR MEETING OF THE BOARD
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Report of the Board Chair

Geri Prior reviewed the letter received from Minister John Yap on February 14, 2013 which offered the Ministry’s help in balancing the budget. The letter stated that Capilano University could seek Ministerial approval to run a deficit. Robin Brayne responded on behalf of the Board to the new Minister, Ralph Sultan, acknowledging the letter and stating that Capilano has worked collaboratively with the Ministry on the funding gap, but seeks to find solutions to the longer-term implications of the funding gap. Without this, the gap will inevitably widen with the other teaching universities.

Kris will arrange a meeting with Minister Sultan and Deputy Minister Wenezenki-Yolland to get direction from the Ministry on how to balance the budget for 2013-2014.



FUTURE MEETINGS AND EVENTS
Tues. April 9, 2013 N. Vancouver Campus

Tues. May 14, 2013 N. Vancouver Campus



John Yap, referred to above, served as Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism from September 5, 2012 to March 2013.


31
22
Rating: +9
Cap Alum
The graduates of the programs being cut learn hands on and have impeccable reals world skills upon graduation. Some of the most successful people I know have graduated from these programs and play key parts in the BC economy including film, design and public art. These cuts reek of provincial liberal politics.
27
21
Rating: +6
Citizen
@Misanthropia -- did you read the article? The point is that nobody has been given the chance to discuss alternatives. Just coming up with "ideas" in the comments section is not enough. Faculty and students need to be able to generate these together, and then direct the University to execute them. Right now there is no way to do this, hence the call for a "pause".
35
23
Rating: +12
Citizen
@Mary Downe -- nice work digging that up!
23
21
Rating: +2
Misanthropia
No suggestions?

Why not?

Aren't you interested in the possibility of creative solutions?

Are you only interested in the status quo?

How very middle class of you.

33
40
Rating: -7
Anne Montgomery
There are two issues here - one, the Capilano administration has acted rashly and irresponsibly, and two, lack of government funding. No one is denying that there is a financial problem (talking to you, Misanthropia) but the way it's been handled is the big issue.

If the Ministry has allowed for a deficit this year, then why did Cap Admin decide to cut programs anyway? Because they must have their own agenda. Leaving the announcement to the end of term and the beginning of an election has meant that faculty and students aren't able to prepare and look for solutions easily.

The Vancouver School Board has decided to run the Continuing Education program for another year even though it is operating at a deficit. This allows the VSB and a group of concerned citizens (myself included) to work on ways of reducing the deficit over the next year. Why can't Capilano do the same? Give us another year to look at the issue and allow students and faculty a greater say in what is being done at the University. Hopefully after the election there will be a new party in office that will work with Capilano to address the lower funding that Cap receives per student, and allow Cap to raise its tuition fees to the levels of other institutions.

The arts programs have been at Capilano for 40 years, far longer than any of the administrators have held positions. To casually cut the programs without looking at solutions to the deficit is short sighted and cold hearted. The arts and all of those smaller programs are what make Capilano special. Cut out the arts and you cut out the heart of the University.
33
24
Rating: +9
CapU Employee
@Misanthropia

As a high-level CapU Employee of some years, I have seen first-hand the many ways in which the University could cut and save. The financial and administrative inefficiencies in the administration are unlike any I have seen previously, and I've worked for numerous BC universities and colleges.

Your tone and attitude suggest someone within the University structure, and speak volumes to how the Executive has handled this entire situation. Hostile, arrogant, patronizing, suspicious and defensive: not an effective way to run a business, much less an institution of higher learning. The continued contempt the administration has shown the students, staff, and faculty during this process is staggering.

But you want suggestions. Thank you for asking. It's unfortunate the university couldn't have 'consulted' before this debacle.

Few are arguing about the need for cutbacks, particularly Mr Johanson. Some 'concrete financial suggestions to bring about a balanced budget this year with the likelihood of one next year and the year after and on into the future' may be found within the essay. And I will reiterate mine: take a look at the incredibly alarming inefficiencies within the administration.

High-level administrators with years of knowledge and expertise are walking away, replaced by temps who haven't a clue what they are doing, getting literally no training, clogging up procedures, making costly financial errors, and generally draining the university of funds unnecessarily.

But goody, the university was just completely spruced-up, inside and out. It looks lovely. It cost a pretty penny. Too bad there will be fewer to enjoy it, and ultimately less income. Was it a Value-Added decision to spend so much on the look of the place?

These are just a few of the costly inefficiencies from the past 6 months.

Look at the structure of a house to assess its value. Pick and choose carefully what gives greater concerns, and more importantly financial returns. There's no 'vision' if Executives are short-sighted.

35
26
Rating: +9
merrell gerber
we just had a spanky new wooden roof with plastic skylights put on the outside of the studio arts building. It has virtually no function and when being built could have included some better hoists for unloading heavy materials shipped to the art dept. I was told this cost about 10, ooo dollars. go figure
30
28
Rating: +2
Cap U alumni
I am a little confused as to why the Board, the president and vice president are now open to financial advise and possible solutions from the Cap U community. Why ask for help in balancing the budget, as a community, at such a late date??? If you were in fact interested in solving this dilemma, as a community, why not bring this to the attention of the community, when the problems first arose? Yes yes, you were hoping for a 'bail out' from the government. But why not in the mean time keep the very people these actions actually do effect, in the loop??? Had you been on the receiving end, I believe that you may have also found this to be, at the least, underhanded.
I have another question: Who is the board? What does the board do? What do the executives do? I guess one answer would be, bringing in international students? To a school that may possibly no longer offer their desired programs? Way too top heavy in my opinion.
Cap U needs a marketing department that works UNDER and FOR the faculty - there is no need for executives, this is place of higher learning, not some corporation within which it's executives have ridiculous expense accounts. I call for a complete revamping of the CAP U's organizational/managerial structure. Dean and faculty coordinators to make all decisions. Cut out the unnecessary middlemen.
29
23
Rating: +6
Lynn Nisely
I am a very concerned Grandmother after reading the North Shore News of Friday May 10/2013. The cutting of certain programs at Capilano University that supposedly do not fit the University model frightens me terribly. Who gets to decide that courses such as textile arts, medical office assistant, commerce and applied business technology are not very important courses ? students I know want to enroll in some of these courses. Yes alot of educational, medical & training facilities are facing huge budget shortfalls but maybe our government should be looking at cutting huge pensions and expense accounts for certain people in our province before we make the young people searching for knowledge & training are punished.
24
18
Rating: +6
Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.