Union plans CapU cuts injunction

Move aims to delay May 14 board decision

CAPILANO University's board of governors may have to make a stop in B.C. Supreme Court before approving a budget that could affect 220 classes and axe several programs.

Capilano University is currently facing a $1.3 million budget shortfall, forcing the school to cut programs that don't fit with the university model, according to provost Bill Gibson. Textile arts, medical office assistant, commerce, and applied business technology courses all face uncertain futures.

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The school's budget was slated to become official following a board meeting on May 14, which is also election day, but the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is planning to request an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to delay budget approval until June.

"There's nobody over in Victoria making decisions at this point," said George Davison, secretary treasurer for FPSE. "A new government, whether it's Liberal or NDP, will have a second look at this and have more time to deal with it."

The budget cuts will cause irreparable harm to the education plans of Capilano students, according to the FPSE, who plan to file their request Friday.

The budget also failed to win approval from the Capilano University senate. The 30member advisory committee voted against approving the budget on Tuesday. The senate also favoured delaying program cuts for one year.

Approximately 400 first-year students will be affected by the cuts, according to Capilano University public affairs manager Jane MacCarthy. About eight per cent of Capilano's course offerings will likely be impacted.

Capilano is moving faster than necessary to approve their budget, according to Davison. "We have these discussions this time of year, but often the budgets aren't finalized until late May or June. Having a decision now in the context of an election campaign where you're trying to talk to somebody over in Victoria or have them help you out, the timing is just bad."

Having trimmed administrative expenses, in part by failing to fill vacant positions at the school, Capilano's budget woes have been exacerbated by inflation and the costs of becoming a university, according to a release on the institution's website.

"Times are difficult, but I don't believe that the institution has exhausted all efforts," Davison said. "There are system efficiencies that are being looked at that have yet to take effect."

The cuts have also been criticized by the university's co-ordinator for community development and outreach, Debby Vollbrecht, who penned a letter addressing her concerns to the Capilano board of governors.

"When we changed from being a community college to being a university, the board and senior administration communicated to our communities that being a teaching university would not be a zero sum game, with new programs added at the expense of others," she wrote.

The university may be using the budget cuts to re-shape the university, according to Vollbrecht, who highlighted cuts to adult education courses, the First Nations Journeys program, and courses for adults with disabilities. "We ask that you slow the process down so that we can work together to meet our enduring commitments to our communities," she wrote.

The actions of Capilano University's board of governors is slightly puzzling, according to Davison. "I don't know what they're trying to do, make a case to the government that they're underfunded? Every institution is under-funded. The idea though is to minimize the impact on front-line services, on what affects faculty and students, and that doesn't seem to be the case here," he said.

A class action lawsuit involving students is also a possibility, according to Davison, who said several students have signed affidavits. "This isn't just for the benefit of faculty, students are going to be impacted by this for years if these decisions are made," he said. Download the Layar app to your smartphone. Look for the Layar "cloud" symbol. Scan the photo or the page of the story as instructed. Ensure the photo or headline is entirely captured by your device.

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