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Finances, programs and Dalhousie incident all on topic at Loyalist governors meeting

by Joseph Quigley [1]

BELLEVILLE – What Loyalist would do if a controversy arose like the one at Dalhousie University was a sudden and substantial point of discussion at the Loyalist Board of Governors meeting Thursday night.

The discussion began when near the end of the meeting, governor David MacKinnon brought up the recent controversy at Dalhousie, where 13 male dentistry students were suspended for makng a misogynistic and sexually explicit Facebook page. [2]

“The Dalhousie univesity incident, and the kind of issues that arose from it seem to me to have some kind of application to other educational institutions,” said MacKinnon. “I’m wondering if we should perhaps consider it a point in how that kind of incident would play out here.”

This launched college president Maureen Piercy into a lengthy account of Ontario colleges working together to provide a new framework for handling issues like this.

“They’re very challenging to deal with,” said Piercy. “We have individual policies and practices. But why don’t we have a group approach, a provincial system approach, (that) brings the best practices that everybody’s pulling. Bring all the social media and the web based resources that we have to see how we can do the best possible job in terms of helping any visitor and any student to our campuses understand that we have zero tolerance for anything other than respect, security, and safety. And what to do and what processes are in place to deal with anything other than that standard.”

Piercy later added that this provincial framework is being worked on, and that updates to it will be provided soon.

“It’s also being dealt with expeditiously,” said Piercy. “We don’t have like a two-year timeframe on this. We’re looking at what we can do in the immediate term that raises awareness of these issues (and) creates (the) best practice, protocols, policies, and communications procedures.”

Another point of discussion was a report from Loyalist’s Finance, Corporate Services and Governance committee, which gave a mid-year update to Loyalist’s business plan and financial situation.

Chair of the committee Mary Lynn Rutledge said “A number of change(s) to revenue and expenditure estimates will have a negative net impact on reserves beyond the planned level.”

Loyalist predicted a $2.4 million operating deficit for this year according to Loyalist’s 2014-15 business plan [3], but the mid-year update places an additional $628,000 on top of that amount.

The goal set out in the plan is to balance the budget by 2015-16. Rutledge later said that “Alternate ways of achieving the goal of balancing costs and revenues continue to be the major focus. A number of initiatives being taken will generate savings in 2015-16 and beyond.”

A number of programs were also discussed in the meeting, including the upcoming launch of the Entrepreneurial Studies program next week.

“It’s a very innovative model where we’re using area entrepreneurs to mentor students,” said Piercy. “They always say entrepreneurs are born and not trained, but that’s not really true. People can have a passion and they don’t know how to translate it to a real business opportunity. We’re looking forward to the launch.”

The announcement of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation Fellowship Program extending it’s partnership with Loyalist also came up at the meeting. The foundation, which started to pilot this three-year program with Loyalist in 2013, is committing $160,000 to fund the program for an additional two years to help 40 post-secondary students earn a skilled trades diploma.

“It’s really very nice to see,” said Piercy. “And (the program has) made a huge difference in people’s lives.”