Friday, March 27, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--Mar 27

As you know, the provincial government tabled the 2015 budget yesterday afternoon. The budget underscores the fact that the province is in a period of transformation, and I am encouraged that the government has developed a 10-year strategic plan to reduce its dependency on uncertain oil and gas revenues through investments in other areas of the economy. The University of Alberta will be a critical part of that transformation, with the expertise and education that we offer in areas central to the province’s future social, cultural, and economic well-being, whether we speak of the health sciences, agriculture and forestry, science and technology, education, law, or arts and culture. We will be working with government in the coming weeks and months to ensure that research investments continue to be made in all of these areas.

As part of the long-term plan, the government has indicated that the overall funding model for post-secondary education will be changing. This is change that we as an institution expected, and we are well into the process of our own transformation. We have been given the time we need to manage reductions to the Campus Alberta grant, and I believe we have many reasons to be optimistic. With the plans and work we have already done or set in motion, I am confident that we will continue to achieve our own goals and vision for excellence in teaching and research. Along with all of the members of the executive team, I want to assure you that I will be working with government to ensure that the right frameworks are in place to increase alternative sources of revenue. Also important to note is increased investment in 2015-2016 of $14 million to student aid programs; this funding will help to ensure that students continue to have access to post-secondary education.

Now let me turn to the short term. Funding to the Campus Alberta grant will be reduced by 1.4 per cent in 2015-2016 and 2.7 per cent in 2016-2017. The 1.4 per cent reduction equates to an $8-million shortfall in the U of A’s institutional operating budget for 2015-2016. As you know, the U of A’s institutional budget was approved by the Board of Governors on March 13, and as I reported then, that budget includes a 1.5 per cent reduction that will be applied to the operating budgets of all faculties and administrative units in 2015-2016. We will not be altering this budget plan. We will immediately begin working on plans to manage the $8-million shortfall without increasing the already planned reduction to faculty and unit budgets.

For 2016-2017, we have, as I’ve mentioned, been given the time we need to tap new sources of revenue and continue work on the challenging task of finding further efficiencies—work that is already well underway at all levels of the university. I am pleased to report that the provincial budget also includes a $50-million fund that will be used to help Alberta’s post-secondary institutions manage the transition to new financial realities. We will begin preparing submissions and proposals to access that fund per forthcoming government guidelines.

Please join me for a campus forum on Tuesday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m. in Telus 150, where we will be able to discuss immediate and long-term institutional plans and priorities in more detail.

Until then,


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Links to 2015 provincial budget

The Government of Alberta tabled the 2015 provincial budget this afternoon.

The senior leadership team is now reviewing this information and determining its impact on the university. Further communications with the community will be forthcoming as details emerge.

For more details on today's budget, please see Government of Alberta budget 2015 website, which includes:

For information on the University of Alberta's 2015-2016 institutional budget, approved by the Board of Governors on March 13, 2015, please visit Change@UAlberta.

To register for President Samarasekera's Campus Forum on March 31 at 3:30 p.m. in Telus 150, please click here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Upcoming communications regarding provincial budget

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 26), the Government of Alberta will table the 2015 provincial budget at 3:30 p.m. I am committed to keeping you informed as we come to understand how the provincial budget will affect the University of Alberta’s Campus Alberta grant.

Because of the timing of the event tomorrow (late afternoon), you may hear from me and Board of Governors Chair Doug Goss in the media before I have an opportunity to communicate directly to faculty, staff, and students. However, as there is information to share (e.g., links to the budget speech and budget documents), it will be posted on Colloquy for your easy reference. On Friday, I will send a further update in my weekly bulletin.

Please note that I will also be holding a Campus Forum on Tuesday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m. in Telus 150. All are welcome. Please register at

Until Friday,


Monday, March 23, 2015

University of Alberta welcomes Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications

On February 27, the Canadian Ministry of Science and Technology announced a new harmonized open-access policy. The Tri-Agency Open Access Policy requires that all peer-reviewed journal articles funded by Tri-Agency grants, which includes those provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), be made freely available online within 12 months of publication. We welcome this change at the U of A, and we thank Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian Gerald Beasley for his leadership in this area. To help support this open-access model, the University of Alberta Libraries is extending its current e-journal hosting service. The U of A’s efforts to promote open-access have been ongoing for the past eight years, with U of A libraries freely hosting more than 30 scholarly journals with strong affiliations to the university. This service will now expand to include all Canadian scholarly journals. We hope that this will make it easier for university researchers and students, as well as the public, to access a wide range of publicly funded research.

This policy supports researchers’ academic freedom and authors’ rights to choose the appropriate journal to publish their research findings.   Researchers may satisfy the Open Access policy requirements by publishing in journals that make articles openly accessible within 12 months of publication and by archiving publications in open access repositories. Researchers are encouraged to do both, and the cost of publishing in open access journals is an eligible expense for Tri-Agency awards. The full policy and a Toolbox of open access resources is available online.

NSERC and SSHRC funded researchers will have to comply with this policy for all grants awarded May 1 2015 and onward. CIHR funded researchers have been held to similar requirements since 2008 and they are also required to deposit bioinformatics, atomic and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database immediately upon publication of research results.

If you have questions about the University of Alberta’s open-access repository service, please visit the Education and Research Archive (ERA). You can also learn more about the university’s Open Journal System hosting service by visiting the e-journals information page.

Olive Yonge, Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Lorne Babiuk, Vice-President (Research)

Friday, March 20, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin - March 20

The official opening of the Physical Activity and Wellness (PAW) Centre today is cause for celebration.  Let me begin by congratulating the Students’ Union, Graduate Students’ Association, and Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation for their leadership on this project and all U of A students for strongly supporting the vision and construction of this fantastic new facility. Don Hickey, vice-president (facilities and operations) and his team are proud to have played a partnership role in building a lasting legacy for students and the community—my thanks to them. Support from the Government of Alberta has also been instrumental. Finally, a very warm thank you to alumni Dick and Carol Wilson for their tremendous gift of $10 million—generosity that will be celebrated through the naming of the Wilson Climbing Centre and the Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre (named in honour of Carol Wilson’s father). The PAW Centre represents the best of partnership, both in the collaboration that underpinned its construction and now in its operations as a facility that will support individual and community fitness and well-being.

The university has many vital partners; two of the most important are Alberta Health and Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. Earlier this month, Alberta lost one of its most influential and effective health sciences researchers and advocates when Cy Frank, CEO of AIHS, died suddenly. An alumnus of the U of A, Cy Frank spent most of his illustrious academic and medical career at the University of Calgary before taking on the leadership of AIHS two years ago, and as Lorne Babiuk (vice-president, research) and Richard Fedorak (interim dean, FOMD) noted on Colloquy on March 5, he was a friend and partner to many here at the U of A. I join with Lorne and Richard in extending sympathies to Cy Frank’s family and friends. A feature obituary by AndrĂ© Picard in The Globe and Mail this past Tuesday (March 17) notes that a memorial will be held to celebrate Cy Frank’s life tomorrow on the U of C campus at 1 p.m.

I have an update on the establishment of a land trust. As you know, the Board of Governors approved the establishment of a U of A land trust at its June meeting. In late February, the board received government approval to form the trust and I am pleased to report that as of March 11, 2015, the University of Alberta Properties Trust, Inc. has been officially incorporated. The founding board of directors has 10 members and includes representation from municipal planning, the business and land development sectors, and senior administrators.

Next week will bring definite news on the provincial budget. The budget speech will be delivered in the Legislature on March 26 at 3:30 p.m. I will keep you informed, but please plan to join me at a campus forum on Tuesday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m. in Telus 150. I will outline the details of the budget, its impact on the university, and next steps. To register for the event, please click here.

I’d like to close this week with three final notes of congratulation. The first is to Lesley Cormack who has been reappointed for a second term as dean of the Faculty of Arts. Lesley has provided outstanding leadership through a period of major change in the faculty and David Turpin will be fortunate to have her experience and wisdom on the senior leadership team. Congratulations to Lesley and many thanks to all who served on the Dean Review Committee.

Second, I’d like to send my best wishes to Garry Bodnar, long-time director of General Faculties Council services. On March 5, Garry retired after a 35-year career with the university—25 of them in governance. With an encyclopedic understanding of the university’s academic governance system, Garry provided advice and leadership to many of us as we navigated responsibilities on Deans’ Council, GFC and its nine subcommittees. Any president relies on governance staff to help manage the complexities of the institution, and I was fortunate to have Garry at my side. I wish him the best in his retirement.

The last note of congratulations must go to the Golden Bears Hockey team. Last weekend, they won the CIS national championship for the second year in a row and for the 15th time in the history of the program. A great moment of pride for all of us!

Until next week,


Monday, March 16, 2015

Dean of Arts Reappointment

It gives me great pleasure to announce the reappointment of Dr. Lesley Cormack as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. A duly constituted Dean Review Committee concluded its deliberations, and the Board of Governors approved the Committee’s recommendation that Dr. Cormack be reappointed for a second five-year term of office, to be effective on July 1, 2016, following an earned administrative leave from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. I am also pleased to announce that Dr. Lise Gotell, has agreed to serve as Acting Dean in the Faculty of Arts for that same period of time. 

Dr. Cormack has guided the Faculty through a great deal of change and has been an articulate and respected voice for the Faculty of Arts. She has provided leadership on a number of issues including the budget, the administrative reorganization in Arts, and the quality of undergraduate and graduate programs. She is committed to effective and innovative teaching, recognizing this as a core strength of the Faculty of Arts. Dr. Cormack has led a drive to enhance and diversify international recruitment in the Faculty. She is a strong scholar and a passionate advocate of faculty and student research. The University of Alberta is fortunate to have a Dean of such high calibre. We wish Dean Cormack continued success in her next five years. 

I wish to thank members of the Dean Review Committee for their commitment and hard work, and to thank all of you who participated in the review process. 

Olive Yonge 

Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Friday, March 13, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--March 13

Today, the Board of Governors approved the 2015 Comprehensive Institutional Plan, a document that includes the 2015-2016 institutional budget, as well as the University of Alberta’s long-term academic strategic plan and capital plan.

The provincial government is clearly facing significant budgetary pressures and appears to be contemplating transformative change. We are preparing for a number of possible scenarios; however, we have not yet received definitive indication from government about how those pressures will affect our operating grant. As a result, the institutional budget approved today by the board is based upon the assumption of a zero per cent change to the Campus Alberta Grant, and we continue to make a strong case to government that stable and predictable funding is essential.

Even with the assumption of a zero per cent change to the Campus Alberta Grant, the university must take action to minimize a deficit in the operating budget, given that university expenditures continue to increase while operating revenues do not. To achieve a manageable $2.6-million deficit in the operating budget, a 1.5 per cent reduction will be applied to all faculties and administrative units in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. As I noted on Colloquy on November 28, 2014, faculties and administrative units will also take on responsibility for merit and across-the-board salary increases beginning in 2015-2016. In the event that the Campus Alberta Grant is reduced in the upcoming provincial budget, no further reduction will be applied to faculties and administrative units in 2015-2016.

I recognize that a further 1.5 per cent reduction to operating budgets will not be easily achieved. We have all worked hard over the last several years to realize efficiencies, consolidate processes, and change organizational structures to minimize the negative impact of decreases in the Campus Alberta Grant. To face further decreases is a challenge. However, we are also working hard to identify and seek alternative sources of new revenue to help maintain quality in teaching and research. We are doing this work because we take seriously our responsibilities to as a public institution committed to stewarding public investments in post-secondary education wisely and effectively to the benefit of our students and the communities we serve. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the long-term sustainability and well-being of our university. To do this, we must continue to advocate strongly for public investment in the post-secondary sector. And we must continue to seek new ways to responsibly manage compensation, administrative expenditures, and program costs.

The provincial government announced last week that the provincial budget will be announced on March 26. As details emerge, I will keep you informed. Information on the U of A’s 2015-2016 budget is now available on Change@UAlberta under “Sustainable Finances.” These web pages will be updated often in the coming weeks as the interim provost, vice-presidents, deans, and I make further decisions in response to the provincial budget. I will be holding a Campus Forum on Tuesday, March 31, at 3:30 p.m. in Telus 150 to review the details and potential impacts of the provincial budget on the university. All are welcome. Please register here.

Before I close for this week, I would like to offer my congratulations to the students who will serve on the 2015-2016 Students’ Council and Graduate Students’ Council. The incoming SU Executive includes President Navneet Khinda, VP (Student Life) Vivian Kwan, VP (External) Dylan Hanwell, VP (Academic) Fahim Rahman, and VP (Operations & Finance) Cody Bondarchuk. GSA’s incoming executive includes President Colin More, VP (Academic) Harsh Thaker, VP (External) Alphonse Ndem Ahola,VP (Labour) Sarah Ficko, and VP (Student Services) Alireza Talaei. My warmest thanks to all departing executive members for your service and leadership over the past year. I have enjoyed working you and wish you the best in your future endeavours.

Until next Friday,


Note: This post has been updated to reflect the results of the VP (Academic) re-election, which were announced on March 20, 2015.

Friday, March 6, 2015

IVS Weekly Bulletin - March 6

Events this week clearly demonstrated how the University of Alberta is a community that celebrates diversity, creates space for differences of perspectives, and allows for debate. Pride Week took centre stage with the parade on Tuesday, the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services’ release of the “You Can Play” video, and other events throughout the week. My thanks to the organizers and volunteers for all of their efforts in making the week such a success, and for ensuring that the U of A continues to grow as a community that supports LGBT*Q and allied students, staff, and faculty every day of the year.

I shared my pride in the U of A for being precisely this kind of community with alumni in Calgary at an event Wednesday evening.  About 180 people were in attendance for my last alumni event there as president—a tremendous turn-out. Michael Houghton (Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology) was featured as keynote speaker and his presentation was very warmly received. Over the years of my presidency, I have visited Calgary often and the evening was a wonderful opportunity for me to remind the community there of all the U of A brings to the province and to thank our alumni in Calgary for their continued support. Although in my calendar long before oil prices began to slide, this event created a critical opportunity to be able to advocate for the university and, with Michael Houghton’s help, demonstrate in tangible ways the far-reaching benefits of the work we do.

Today, I am in Victoria speaking at WESTVAC, which is an annual meeting of vice-presidents academic and vice-presidents research from western Canadian universities. Along with Peter McKinnon, interim president of Athabasca University, I’ve been invited to speak about the challenges and rewards involved in being president, a topic that I have been thinking about more and more as I work with David Turpin through this period of transition.

Student leadership is also in transition this week with elections for both the Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association. At the time of writing, the official results have not yet announced, but I look forward to welcoming a new slate of leaders early next week. I also thank all of the candidates for taking on the challenge of running a campaign and for wanting to be a force for change on campus. This takes time and effort that could be devoted elsewhere, and the U of A is a better place because of the students who choose to make our university their cause. Thank you!

Next week promises to be busy with General Faculties Council on Monday afternoon and Board of Governors on Friday. Agendas for both are available on the Governance website.

Until next week,


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Condolences on the loss of AIHS CEO Cy Frank

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the sudden passing of Dr. Cy Frank, CEO of Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS). In addition to his instrumental leadership at AIHS, Dr. Frank was a respected researcher, a much-loved orthopedic surgeon, colleague, and friend and mentor to many. He had been a faculty member at the University of Calgary for the past three decades, and a collaborator with many of us at the University of Alberta. His vision was unique and his accomplishments are many and varied. He was a Professor of Surgery at University of Calgary and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). Last year he received one of Canada's greatest honours, being awarded the Order of Canada for his contributions to patient care, advancing orthopedic services, and for his scientific contributions to bone and joint research through the CIHR.

His loss will be felt deeply at AIHS, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, across Alberta, and elsewhere in Canada. On behalf of the entire U of A community, we wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues on this difficult day. 


Lorne Babiuk
Vice-President (Research), University of Alberta

Richard Fedorak
Interim Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Monday, March 2, 2015

Further Information regarding student club display

The university is aware that the display planned by the student group Go Life has generated a number of questions and concerns from within our campus community. As a result, we have gathered further information to help address the most common concerns that have been raised so far.

Concern: The university doesn’t care about the health and wellbeing of students or they would prevent this event from happening.

Reply: The university cares greatly about the safety and security of our students. The university will be monitoring this event to ensure that a reasonable balance is struck between the rights of the Go Life student group and the rights of other students and members of the university community.

Concern:  The Go Life display will be in contravention of the Code of Student Behaviour.

Reply: Go Life is a registered student group on campus and, under existing policies and procedures, has the same rights, privileges and obligations as other student groups including accessing the same spaces as other registered student groups. Go Life has worked cooperatively with the university in understanding its obligations including considering the possible impact of their display. At present, there is no information that any individual student associated with the Go Life display will contravene the Code of Student Behaviour. The CoSB states in it's intro that "[n]othing in this Code shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, or lawful picketing, or to inhibit free speech." All complaints made in relation to the conduct of an individual student(s) under the Code of Student Behaviour will be investigated. Complaints under the Student Groups Procedure will be investigated by the Dean of Students. The university will be monitoring this event on an ongoing basis to ensure the group's continued compliance.

Concern: I will not have access to Quad or the Pride events without risking emotional harm.

Reply: The Go Life event is located in one particular area in Quad, and is not adjacent to the planned Pride Week parade route. The Go Life display will be located near CAB's northeast doors.

Concern:  Defence of freedom of speech should not outweigh defence of protection against harm.

Reply: As the Code of Student Behaviour indicates, “the University is defined by tradition as a community of people dedicated to the pursuit of truth and advancement of knowledge, and as a place where there is freedom to teach, freedom to engage in research, freedom to create, freedom to learn, freedom to study, freedom to speak, freedom to associate, freedom to write and publish”. The university also seeks to maintain the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff. The university will be monitoring this event to ensure that a reasonable balance is struck between the rights of Go Life as well as the rights of other students and members of the university community.  

Concern: The Go Life group will be displaying graphic images of abortion and comparing them to genocide.

Reply: The Go Life group has indicated they will not be displaying any material that compares abortion to genocide.

Concern: As a member of the university community, I will be emotionally traumatized by the images displayed by the Go Life group.

Reply: The mental health and wellbeing of our students, and other members of the university community, is always a priority. Should anyone need help at any time, there are a range of support services available to help that include:

Location - 2nd floor SUB 
Phone - 780.492.5205. 
Hours - Open 8-4:30 Mon, Thur, Fri; open till 8-7pm on Tue and Wed.

Phone - 780.492.3342 
Email - 

Location - 2-705 SUB
Phone: 780-492-9771  
email -
Hours - 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, evening hours dependent on volunteer availability

Phone - 780.492.0339 

Location - 2-707 SUB
Hours - Monday to Friday 9am-8pm. 
Phone - 780.492.HELP (4357) 
Email -

Additional HR Supports for Faculty and Staff:  

Contact our EFAP provider, Homewood Health, at 
24 hour toll free numbers for services across North America
1.800.663.1142 (English - 24 hours)
1.866.398.9505 (En Francais)
1.888.384.9505 TTY (hard of hearing)

Please click here to see the original statement regarding this matter.