King’s holds town hall on financial situation

Fee reductions a hot topic for students

Associate Professor Neil Robertson addresses attendees at Wednesday’s town hall meeting. Photo: Andrea Gunn

It’s time the University of King’s College take a serious look at student fees and find ways to retain professors, especially in light of a recently discovered $2.2 million budget boost, a town hall at the university heard Wednesday.

Administrators at the University of King’s college held the open meeting to facilitate discussion around King’s $1.26-million deficit, as well as $2.228 million that was recently discovered in a fund that had been collecting interest for decades. The meeting was also a forum to discuss a document released earlier in the day by a 16-person college task force charged with the job of making recommendations to the college about the deficit.

Among the suggestions presented in the report include an energy retrofit of the school, retirements, salary freezes, the elimination of three sessional humanities instructors and a five per cent cut to King’s operations. The full report can be found here.

The meeting was facilitated by King’s vice-president Kim Kierans and was attended by about 85 people. In the hour and a half meeting, King’s administration fielded a number of questions and recommendations from students, faculty, and staff.

Of the key issues addressed, what seemed to be on the minds of the strong contingent of King’s Student Union members at the meeting were student fees.

One of the main questions was why, in the 15-page report, was there only minimal mention of cutting fees for students in hopes of attracting more new students, as enrolment decline is one of the main issues fueling the deficit.

“Perhaps in the $2.2-million there are a lot of different things that are suggested that it could go towards but student aid or student scholarships wasn’t included in there,” one student said.

The answer from facilitators was that, except for the journalism program, tuition was set through Dalhousie, and increases are regulated by the provincial government. King’s does, however, have control over a number of other fees.

In an interview after the meeting, KSU president Michaela Sam, who also was on the task force, said the connection between fee increases and enrolment retention has not been addressed by administration.

“I think students would like to see some acknowledgement that as government funding has decreased substantially over the last number of years students have been forced to bear the brunt of that in the form of fee increases, tuition increases, and that needs to be acknowledged,” she said.

Another heated topic was about the futures of three sectional humanities professors, who attended the meeting.

Other issues that were discussed included the King’s choir and King’s divinity fund.

The task force is working on a Feb. 1 deadline to give their recommendations on the 2015/2016 budget. The King’s board of governors will meet Feb. 5 to discuss those recommendations.

Sam said most the decision-making is left to the King’s budget advisory committee, and the timeline for their work is unknown.

“I think the task force has a lot of work to do.”