Thank you for publishing the informative article “The AU Budget Beyond the Numbers” by Carla Knipe in your July 29 issue of The Voice Magazine. As one of two elected undergraduate student representatives on the AU Board of Governors, I would like to share my perspective on this budget. The Board did approve a budget with a 3.3 million dollar deficit and it will now be presented to the Alberta Government for approval. Particularly alarming to me, is that I actually view this as a 7.6 million dollar deficit budget for students.
The reason for this, is that this budget shows a savings of 4.3 million in vacant staff and faculty positions. The 4.3 million in savings comes from staff and faculty positions that were not filled after they became vacant and now offer a significant reduction in costs to the institution. It was suggested during the board meeting to remove the amount from the budget because that 4.3 million doesn’t actually “exist” because the vacancies have been there for so long. I commented that all 4.3 million of those dollars represent investment that used to be made into quality programs and services for students, that is no longer being spent there. AUSU has reported a decline in response times and service standards for students and while I’m positive everyone at AU is doing their best, the effects of 4.3 million dollars worth of vacant positions are showing to students. In addition, despite a commitment to share the etext cost savings with students, the institution has continued to reap all of the benefits of etext implementation while students bear the brunt of the project.
In the Board of Governors meeting on July 28, I spoke to all of these topics and expressed that this is a bad budget for students and that I don’t want to support this budget. However, I also expressed that as a member of the Board, I understand that we need to bring forward a budget to the Minister of Advanced Education that will allow him to identify the needs of our institution in the short term, so that we may proceed with the 3rd party review and hopefully bring AU into a sustainable solution for the long term.
As always, I would be happy to discuss this or any other topic affecting AU students with any member of AUSU or writer for The Voice.