Friday, February 25, 2011

The Provincial Budget

Yesterday afternoon, the Government of Alberta presented their Budget for 2011-2012. Following discussions this morning with the Province, I can confirm that the University will not see a decrease in operating funding for this year. There is a 0% change in our Campus Alberta Grant, which is what we have prepared for, and is consistent with what the Province told us, last year, to expect. The Province has suspended the Access to the Future Fund matching program for the next two years; we will be communicating with donors in the near future.

While there is no new money for capital projects, work will continue on the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA). I can also confirm that we will receive close to the expected amount of “lights on” funding for both the Edmonton Health Clinic Academy and the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS). Dr. Samarasekera, Dr. Amrhein and I will be providing further details on all of these matters to the Deans next week. Following this, we will share details with the remainder of the campus community. In the meantime, please feel free to ask us questions. We will do our best to answer them once we have provided more specifics to the Deans.

Phyllis Clark
VP, Finance and Administration

More Budget information can be found on the Government of Alberta’s website.

Budget summary by Ministry
2011-2014 Capital Plan
2011-2014 Advanced Education and Technology Business Plan

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Month In

Hello, all.

We are almost near the end of our first month here on Colloquy, and we are pressing forward with our efforts to make this site an important hub for conversation about the University of Alberta. We recognize that there are still some outstanding questions to be answered, and comments to be addressed. We also realize that for this blog to be successful, we need to update it on a more consistent basis. We ask that you continue to be patient with us. We want to be able to give each question and concern the time and attention it deserves, and this becomes a bit of a juggling act when taking into consideration the already hectic schedules of members of the administration.

This is not an excuse, however. It is merely an explanation. We remain strongly committed to this site, and to the goal of “spirited, collegial debate” that Dr. Amrhein outlined in his original post. We will have more posts coming in the near future, as well as answers to many of the questions that have been asked. In the meantime, we encourage you to continue asking questions and leaving comments in the posts (there is also a contact form where anyone can ask us a question or leave a comment).

We have also added a “Categories” list on the right side of the blog. Each of our posts will be tagged according to subject, and this should make it easier for people to search for a specific topic or post. If there are other tools or functions you would like to see added to the blog, please let us know. We will continue to tinker with the site until it becomes an ideal place for students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the greater community to discuss the many, varied issues related to our University.

Thank you again for your patience.


The Colloquy

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Morale and Deferred Maintenance

Dr. Piotr Rudnicki posted a thoughtful comment, the full answers of which are too long to post here practically as either a blog post or comment, so I have emailed him directly, but provide here the main points he raised about morale and deferred maintenance.

Regarding morale: We have heard a lot about morale, both good and bad. Finances in a person’s unit, changing patterns of work, the furlough levy every month on the paycheck, as well as personal situations likely all contribute to morale. However, I also hear from a lot of people who really enjoy working here – who think they have terrific colleagues and who feel supported in their jobs.

I do hear a lot about furlough days. The short version is that the furlough days saved hundreds of jobs. On July 1, all AASUA salaries increased by 4.75% (locking in the pension benefits) with about half of the increase (2.3%) deferred through the furlough days. So, July 1 pay did increase by about 2.45% plus merit (2.3% on average across the professoriate). The sum of all the actions across the university—furlough days by AASUA and NASA staff and COSSS fees paid by all students—saved hundreds of jobs this fiscal year.

GFC and Standing Committee Meetings

I wanted to address some questions that have arisen regarding the cancellation of GFC and GFC Standing Committee (ie, Exec, GFC APC, etc) meetings.

With regard to meetings of the GFC Academic Planning Committee (APC): normally scheduled to meet 24 times during the academic year, there have been a couple of cancellations this year. The two regularly-scheduled meetings in December 2010 were merged into one meeting in order to combine business and make better use of members’ and presenters’ time at what is a particularly busy time of the year. Since I have been Chair, GFC APC meetings have never been cancelled without good reason and just cause. It could be the business to be considered was not yet ready for GFC APC to discuss, or perhaps there just isn’t enough business to warrant bringing very busy members—staff and students—together. Because GFC APC meets twice a month, there are occasions when cancelling a meeting is the right decision.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

State of the University Address

Yesterday I delivered the first of what I hope is an annual State of the University address. (This does not replace my usual town hall meetings, the next of which will be in April.) Thank you to all of you who found time in your busy day to be there. I appreciate being able to share with you what I'm doing, what I'm proud to say about the U of A when I meet with people outside the university, and what I'm hearing from them. I took questions afterward, addressing issues of morale, provincial funding, international priorities, the purchase of my house, my compensation, and my goals for the rest of my term. If you weren't able to attend, but want to hear what was said, here's a sound recording. The full video is below and a shorter version will also be posted on the university's YouTube channel in another day or two. Again, thanks to all of you who attended. As I said in my address, I'm proud to call you my colleagues

posted by
President Indira Samarasekera

Monday, February 14, 2011

Move To Google Started Today

At long last...after six months of assessment, three months of prototyping, fifteen months of legal discussions, and two months of getting ready, the move to Google is finally under way! Today two hundred users were randomly selected to switch to Google Apps including Gmail. We are initially targeting a small group so that we can assess all aspects of the move, including legal text, user interfaces, web pages, help desk support, and network bandwidth. In the coming days expect the number of people invited to move to increase gradually.

Over the next few weeks, users of central mail (aka, AICT mail or webmail) will receive an email notifying them to switch their email. The message will point them to a link providing them with a step-by-step process for the migration.

Our goal is to get off of central email by the end of the term. This is critical as we want to avoid a long overdue and costly upgrade of the aging central mail hardware.

Please help us make the transition as smooth as possible. We welcome your ideas! Please email them to

posted by
Jonathan Schaeffer, PhD
Vice Provost and Associate VP (IT)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Week One at Colloquy@uAlberta

Colloquy@Ualberta has been ‘live’ for one week now, and while I am certainly not an expert in these things, it seems to have attracted some commentary. This was its purpose: to hear directly from members of the University community, and we expected to receive a range of reactions. We hoped it would be found useful for an exchange of ideas and opinions, not just with the administration but within the community, and a place to help sort out complex problems in a complex institution.

In any given week I talk to many people. Often, the topic of conversation touches on the mood within the university, as it has in the commentary here. I hear from some who report that there is a morale issue on campus, and they use words like disillusionment, disappointment, even anger. I also hear from faculty, staff, and students about how much they appreciate the environment they find at the U of A how free they feel to pursue their work.

I would like to know more about the source or reasons for those feelings, good or bad. If you see a problem, what recommendations do you suggest to address it? If there are specific issues send them in and we can try to address them.

--Carl Amrhein
Provost and VP Academic

GO Community Centre

The GO Community Centre has been a topic of conversation recently, including here on the blog. Often questions are raised regarding its alignment with the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), as well as concerns around sustainability.

This private initiative has been undertaken by the GO Community Board in collaboration with the university. While we do not currently control the decisions around the capital project, including final design and financial decisions, we continue to provide input and suggestions into the design and sustainability aspects of the project. During this process, we are identifying elements that can be integrated and added into the building as funding becomes available.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Workload/Work Life Study

The Workload/ Work Life report was the result of a significant amount of work put in by a joint U of A and AASUA committee created as an outcome of discussions raised at a previous round of bargaining. Both administration and AASUA have received the report and we are actively discussing how best to proceed. It has come to our attention that many think there has been little action on recommendations. Human Resources has done an analysis of work done to date, and we need to let people know what has been accomplished. As Vice Provost and AVP HR, I am taking the lead on this work for the administration and it will be major focus of mine over the next few months.

Chris Cheeseman
Professor of Physiology
Vice Provost and Associate Vice President, HR

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 - The Year of IT

I wanted to take advantage of the new blog and share a bit of what’s happening IT-wise at the University of Alberta. Many of you probably know this already, but there’s a whirlwind of information technology activity happening at the University of Alberta in 2011. My goal is that the cumulative effect of all these initiatives will be to create an IT environment that delivers more services of higher quality in a cost-effective way. We want the University of Alberta to be recognized as being one of the (if not THE) leading-edge IT-enabled campuses in Canada.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dodgeball World Record

This is what the U of A experience is all about. It is more than 120 credits. It is about loud cheers, big throws and a whole lot of great memories! Thanks to all of the U of A community for playing, cheering and volunteering, particularly the Students’ Union and the Alumni Association. Never been prouder to have been green and gold!
--Frank Robinson, Vice-Provost and Dean of Students

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Welcome to Colloquy@Ualberta

Welcome to Colloquy@UAlberta, the university’s official blog. The notion for this blog came out of discussions about the need for an interactive forum for dialogue within the University of Alberta community. Our president, my fellow vice-presidents and I, with support from a number of people across our portfolios, will post information and answer questions about topics of interest and relevance to our community.