The UTM Campus Affairs Committee had its second meeting of the 2020–2021 academic year on October 22. Alexandra Gillespie began the meeting with a presentation on UTM’s strategic priorities for this year. This was her first Campus Affairs Committee meeting since her beginning of term as vice-president and principal at UTM in July.
Gillespie discussed enrolment, faculty recruitment, research, UTM’s Capital Plan, and the implementation of UTM’s existing Academic Plan.
UTM strategic priorities
Gillespie discussed undergraduate enrolment for 2021–2022, outlining a drop in enrolment this year. New student enrolment is expected to decrease for fall 2020 by 351 students from the previously budgeted 3,842, comprising 295 domestic and 56 international students. Gillespie highlighted that these are estimated actuals, and noted that, “we may still see some fluctuation in terms of students’ decision to stay in [or] drop out of programs.”
She also discussed faculty recruitment, which will involve 29 searches that are “in progress across all of the different disciplines at UTM.” She highlighted how shortlists are coming together, and that consultations are opening in regard to hiring in key areas, including medicinal chemistry, robotics, Indigenous studies, critical digital humanities, population health, and South Asian civilizations. With regard to research initiatives, Gillespie noted that the committee is looking to “promote UTM’s role in tri-campus strategic initiatives,” and to implement new strategies to increase UTM’s share of tri-council funding.
Gillespie moved on to discuss UTM’s Capital Plan, and the development of its Campus Master Plan, which is redone once every 10 years and outlines initiatives for the physical campus space. “This is something that happens once a decade and it’s happening right now,” she said.
UTM is moving into the consultation phase for the capital plan, where it will bring a draft strategic plan to community members for feedback. One of the projects Gillespie mentioned was a Student Services Commons, which would act as a “one-stop-shop” for students seeking core services and accessibility services, such as counselling.
Vice-Principal Academic & Dean Amrita Daniere also talked about strategic priorities, such as the Academic Plan and the Draft Sustainability Strategic Plan, which has recently been completed and will undergo a community review before being finalized.
Daniere highlighted the outreach and review processes the plan took with the UTM community. The sustainability plan will be finalized in the next few weeks and presented formally to the principal.
A new program proposal by the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (ICCIT), called Coding and Society, is also in the works. The ICCIT also plans to move its digital enterprise program fully out of Sheridan College and into UTM. “This is an enormous proposal because there’s a lot of students in that program,” Daniere noted, highlighting that, while Sheridan has always been a fully engaged partner, the ICCIT director and faculty felt the decision to move this program to UTM is in the best interest of students.
Enrolment and budget
Christine Capewell, Executive Director of Budgets, Planning, and Financing, presented details surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on UTM’s budgets. She highlighted a $7.2 million shortfall due to a decrease in undergraduate enrolment, noting that the impact of this year’s shortfall will be reflected in the 2021–2022 budget.
However, she also explained that, due to the 2020 summer enrolment budget going substantially over target, there is some positive variance along with the negative decrease in enrolment.
The overall impact on the budget for 2020–2021 is expected to be a loss of $12 million due to loss of revenue, scholarship costs, teaching costs, and COVID-19-related costs, such as personal protective equipment, signage, and quarantine costs.
In order to reach a net impact of zero, UTM plans to utilize $11 million from its central budget savings and $1 million from delayed staff hires. The central budget savings are meant for unexpected events or costs, such as the impacts of COVID-19.
Capewell also noted that residence and parking, which are not part of UTM’s operating budgets, have been “hit really hard in terms of revenue loss,” and as a result, parking cannot afford to repay its loan to the operating budget. Parking will likely need additional loans in order to operate in the current and following year, with repayment plausible in upcoming years, “depending on how quickly the parking revenue comes back.”
The pandemic has also had a significant impact on ancillary budgets, which will be discussed in the next meeting.