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Letters: ‘Least-preferred’ options

By David Heap
Thursday, March 19, 2009
We hear pious words from the presidential team about how cutting staff and contract faculty positions is their ‘least-preferred’ way to deal with the current economic situation.
‘Least-preferred’— except for all the other options they are not even considering, that is.
Among the many measures which are being ignored would be spending part of Western’s accumulated savings to tide us through tough times. The presidential team’s own figures show over $280 million in non-endowed funds – in other words, savings set aside from operating budgets during relatively good years. These funds did not fare very well as investments, but there are still plenty of savings there.
The idea of setting aside money for a rainy day is familiar to most – and now that the downpour has come, surely it is time to spend some of those savings to protect the jobs of people who make the mission of the university possible. We are told the projected shortfalls for this year and the next two total $67 million – in other words, spending less than a quarter of the accumulated institutional nest-egg would allow us to weather this storm.
If cutting jobs really is the ‘least-preferred’ option, then we can move 25 per cent of accumulated savings back into operating budgets over three years, save vulnerable jobs and protect the vital work of the university. Which solution would the university community prefer? Apparently, our Board of Governors doesn’t really want to know any more than the president does.
David Heap
French & Linguistics