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 April 9, 1999 Volume 6, Number 14

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Ivany and MacKinnon express sense of betrayal at being shorted in March 26 budget

Following a decade of being "good partners with the government and having done our best to take our share of the burden - budget cuts, keeping our books balanced, etc.," President Ivany says he feels "immensely cheated" that the University has received a mere 1.15% increase in its operating grant, even as the other public sectors were given a 6% hike.

The University had asked for at least a 4% increase simply to have sufficient money to meet government-set wage guidelines and a range of fixed-cost inflations beyond the University's control.

Ivany says the University's attempt to cooperate with the government "was always with the assumption and expectation - confirmed on many occasions by the premier himself - that once the [government's] books were balanced, we would be given top priority. He promised this on several occasions and I thought it was beginning to happen. But I feel immensely cheated by what took place in the budget."

The University had requested an increase of at least $4.8 million in operating dollars; it received an increase of only $1.46 million.

President-elect Peter MacKinnon, equally upset at the government's singular shorting of the Universities, says the dramatic cutbacks the University has gone through - 225 faculty and staff positions, $15 million in its operating budget - "have been very damaging," adding that further cutting "is no longer an option for us."

Contending that a diminution of the University will be a diminution of the province, he says it will be necessary "to look at some combination of tuition fee increases and perhaps deficit financing, in anticipation that the DesRosiers process will redress the operating budget imbalance between the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina."

The DesRosiers Report, released last fall, recommended that the government move to a 'cost-based, activity-driven' funding mechanism from a 'fixed share' one with the funding of the Universities.

"One of the great risks of the work we do," MacKinnon says, "is that damage to an institution like this is not visible to an outsider until it's very nearly irreversible."

Meanwhile, on a personal note, Ivany says he has failed at not having been able to make the University "the kind of priority item in government visioning" he had hoped to achieve.

"I believe that Peter will re-dedicate the University to that objective - to restore confidence in the institution, indeed restoring the understanding in government that the province will be a far lesser place without this University being properly funded."

Meanwhile, Ivany says, the University has to regard the figures in the March 26 budget as final.

"Anything the government might do to address the University's budget deficiencies can't be part of our planning. We've got to plan to live with what we've got."

As an afterthought, he says the University has gone through "quiet and supportive years" and others in which the institution conducted "mini-campaigns" seeking write-in support from the public - "but I don't notice much difference in our treatment from one year to the next."

He opines that until the people make it known to their MLAs that they're unhappy with the level of funding for this People's University, "there apparently won't be a whole lot of incentive for politicians to do anything. We've got somehow to make the people of Saskatchewan aware of the importance of this institution and to express it loudly to their representatives, just as they've done with health care and hospitals."

President Ivany and President-elect MacKinnon discuss the March 26 budget. "Damage to an institution like this is not visible to an outsider until it's very nearly irreversible."

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