Faculties at the University of Calgary have something to smile about. Normally in a state of perpetual disappointment over funding, government indifference or lack of facilities, U of C faculties are about to be given a small measure of independence. While the plan is only preliminary, faculties will soon have more autonomy over their own budgets.
In his Fri., Sept. 27 address to the campus community, U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten presented the university's plan for "decentralizing decision-making and budget authority." The plan aims to allow the most informed and accountable people to make their own choices, giving individual deans greater flexibility in how they allocate their budgets.
"All agree that this is a step in the right direction to let faculties have control over their budgets in a way that they didn't under the previous system," said humanities dean Dr. Rowland Smith. "It's a work in progress, but the general principles are clear."
Under the old system most budget decisions had to get green-lit by administration, but it is hoped this new arrangement will improve efficiency and morale by keeping the money in the faculties.
"I hope it will alleviate the sense of impotence and cynicism that some members of faculties inevitably felt," said Smith.
U of C vice-president academic Dr. Alan Harrison believes the new system will make faculties more efficient, noting the plan creates some new responsibilities for deans and faculties.
"This will increase flexibility within faculties, but also make deans more responsible for costs and retaining money," said Harrison.
The biggest proposed change to the system involves how money is moved in and out of faculties, explained Harrison.
Previously, if a faculty member retired, went on leave or was fired, their salary was immediately taken out of the faculty budget. If the dean wanted to hire a new staff member, instead of having that money available to spend, they would have to request the funds from administration. Under the new system, the money stays in the faculty, removing the red tape.
Harrison and Smith both agree that faculty members have been enthusiastic about the proposed changes.
"It's much more liberating, being given responsibility and capacity," said Smith.
However, Smith cautions there is still work to be done to ensure that greater budget autonomy doesn't hurt smaller, less financially independent faculties.
Smith, along with others, worries that larger faculties with greater sources of outside funding, like the Haskayne School of Business and Schulich School of Engineering, will benefit more from the increased autonomy, while smaller faculties will still be constrained by routine cost increases.
Smith stressed he is still a strong supporter of the proposed changes.
"There is no bad faith," he said. "This is a complicated financial issue. If there are fears, it would be in the financial arithmetic, not in the overall concept."