2018 McMaster University Budget Submission

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the McMaster Students Union

UNIVERSITY BUDGET SUBMISSION Tangible change is made when strategic priorities are reflected in the financial planning of an institution. The McMaster University Budget identifies the direction of the University. The University has made positive strides and has increased consultation with students – as reflected in strategic mandate agreements – however, there sometimes exists a disconnect between the planning and execution of priorities. It is to ensure proper execution that the McMaster Students Union believes it is imperative for student priorities to be included in the University’s budget. As the 2019-2020 budget is finalized, the MSU recommends that the University focus on four key areas of investment, as well as re-allocating funding from two areas. The following are the defined areas of priority from the McMaster Students Union:



These priorities reflect the needs of students and the goals that must be achieved to enhance student life. Students are the foundation of the University, and that should be reflected in the University’s administrative decision making process. It is necessary that the University invest in the Emergency First Response Team’s student-led efforts to create a safer campus, from which all campus community members benefit. With creating a safer campus, the University must also look towards improving the ways in which it responds to sexual violence by providing additional support to the Equity and Inclusion Office as well as hiring an additional Student Wellness trauma counsellor. In addition, the University must continue to prioritize student wellness and financial accessibility. One way to do so is to release exam schedules earlier, so students can plan their studies and transportation home in advance. Lastly, the University should encourage and invest in Open Educational Resources, so textbooks are accessible to all, regardless of financial status. McMaster University prides itself on being student-centred, but it is only by putting student needs first and implementing these priorities, both in the planning and execution of projects, that it can truly achieve that title.


• The University should provide funding for 50% of the Emergency Response Team.

COST: $11,922

The McMaster Students Union Emergency First Response Team (EFRT) is a highly regarded on-campus first response service. EFRT was one of the first 24-hour, all week services in all of Canada. It provides extensive training for volunteers and executives. Consequently, EFRT’s expenses are much higher than at other universities. Its current total expenses are $124,845 and runs a net loss of $59,845. This is compared to a net loss of $16,570 at the University of Waterloo and $17,762 at the University of Ottawa respectively.1,2 The vast majority of the costs incurred by the service are from purchasing equipment and staffing expenses, which are a necessity for the running of a service of its quality. Faculty and staff are encouraged by the University to utilize EFRT’s services if a medical emergency arises. When considering the entire McMaster community (15,900 staff, 949 faculty, 4,485 graduate students, and 22,968 full-time undergraduates, 3812 part-time undergraduate students, totaling 48,114 people), all of whom have access to EFRT’s services, only slightly more than half are undergraduates.3 At the present time, McMaster contributes $18,000 to EFRT for the summer months. The safety of students, staff, and visitors should be a top priority for the University. Since EFRT contributes to this, the university should jointly fund EFRT. The MSU recommends that the University extend its funding of EFRT to contribute 50% of the net cost of EFRT, at an additional cost $11,922 a year. University of Waterloo Federation of Students. “2016/2017 Operating Budget.” n.d. Rachiq, Rizki. “2016*2017 Student Federation Budget.” Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. n.d. 3 “McMaster Fast Facts,” McMaster University, n.d., https://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/opr/fast_facts/main/about.html. 1




• The Student Wellness Centre should receive funding to support the hiring of an additional trauma counsellor, and the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) should receive additional funding to support increased Sexual Violence Response efforts.

COST: Salary and associated expenses of a trauma counsellor and funding as needed by the EIO for Sexual Violence Response resources On multiple occasions, the University has declared its commitment to sexual violence prevention and response. However, much of the work surrounding sexual violence on campus is done by staff and volunteers of the MSU. Frontline services are continuously overwhelmed by demand of their help. For instance, volunteers for the Women and Gender Equity Network (WGEN) are often the frontline resource for survivors on campus, whether through their presence at concerts or in WGEN’s physical space. In the fall term of 2017, WGEN received 10 disclosures of sexual violence and their space was accessed over 1800 times.4 Other MSU employees, such as Part-Time Managers in various peer-support oriented services, will perform tasks beyond their job descriptions and paid hours, out of commitment to ending sexual violence on campus. While it is commendable that students are taking the initiative to be educated, as well as act as a resource for survivors of sexual violence, these responsibilities should not fall primarily on students; it can cause added mental health and academic challenges. The University should be taking the primary responsibility for the safety and well-being of its students, while student volunteer efforts should complement the resources available. At the present time, McMaster employs only one Sexual Violence Response Coordinator (SVRC) who is responsible for all education, support, promotions, and advising on campus, and three trauma counsellors. With increasing demands for training, support, and counselling, it can be difficult for these individuals to meet the needs of the McMaster community. This year, as the EIO builds a strategic response plan and restructures, it is possible that they will identify gaps in the current sexual violence response that they offer – whether that’s from a support, response, or educational perspective. Reducing campus sexual violence is of critical importance to the McMaster Students Union, so we strongly believe that the EIO should be supported and given the resources necessary to collect the data they need to better position themselves within the McMaster community. Upon this strategic reflection, we believe the EIO should, if needed, receive the funding necessary for them to hire more staff, create more training and educational campaigns, and/or increase resources for support. This will help further the work currently done by the EIO. In addition, we believe funding should be allocated to hire an additional trauma counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre (SWC). The SWC cannot always accommodate the large number of trauma counselling requests they receive. To make the work between the SWC and the EIO more seamless, we believe an additional trauma counsellor specializing in sexual violence response should be hired. Sreeram, Padmaja. Women and Gender Equity Network Report #3. (Hamilton: McMaster Students Union Executive Board, 2017). Accessed August 22, 2018. 4


• Allocate funding to the Registrar’s Office to hire a Work-Study Student to make exam schedules available earlier, with a guaranteed release by the 5th Monday of the Fall and Winter terms respectively.

COST: Part-time wages of a Work-Study student National surveys show that approximately 1 in 5 students experience mental health challenges,5 and these are often exasperated during the exam periods. According to the Student Wellness Centre, November and March, leading up to exams, are the busiest times of the year. As a result, there is an influx of medical notes requested during exam time. This is a concerning trend. It’s unlikely that exams will ever be a time during which students will experience no stress at all given the nature of testing. Because of this, it’s extremely important for McMaster to eliminate any barriers that make exams feel unmanageable and inaccessible. This includes barriers both before and during the exam periods. One of the main exam time fears is scheduling. This means scheduling how and when to study, back-to-back exams, and post-exam travel planning. All these are pre-exam barriers that make exam time feel unmanageable. To eliminate the fear of scheduling, we recommend that the University allocate funding to the Registrar’s Office to hire a Work Study student for the purpose of communicating the exam schedules by the 5th Monday of every term and ensuring that the schedules avoid both conflicts and back to back exams. We recommend that this Work Study student should be hired part-time to focus solely on the coordination and creation of exam schedules relieving the responsibilities from current staff members who may have other tasks. With an exam schedule released by the 5th Monday of every term, the burden of scheduling how to study for exams and dealing with back-to-back exams is lessened. Students are given more time to plan out their study schedules, and they can start studying well in advance. Right now, exam schedules are released at the peak of midterms, giving students little time to focus on their future study plans. This also makes it harder for students to identify and thereby notify the Registrar’s Office of any exam conflicts or back-to-back exams, and reach a solution in a timely manner. If exam schedules are released before Fall Break and Reading Week respectively, students will have the opportunity to address all these issues during a time of the semester where they’re not inundated with classes, assignments, and midterms. An earlier released exam schedule also helps students plan post-exam travels well in advance. Post-exam travels include holidays, where students get the chance to relax and rejuvenate, but it also includes transportation home for students who come from out of the province, or out of the country. Earlier released exam schedules help students book flights or other transportation at cheaper rates; the longer students wait to book, the more expensive it gets. This also helps students budget more effectively throughout the year based on their predetermined travel costs. 5 Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health. “Post-Secondary Mental Health.” More Feet on the Ground. (n.d.). Accessed August 22, 2018. https://morefeetontheground.ca/mental-health/post-secondary-mental-health/


Given that approximately 7-8% of our students are international students, the administration’s commitment to improving their experiences should be a priority.6 When flights become too expensive, students miss out on going home to spend time with family, or they miss out on a holiday – both of which can be beneficial for one’s mental health. McMaster is also one of the few universities that fails to keep a public policy for when students can expect to receive their exam schedules. The University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Ottawa, and Western University have all adopted policies to ensure exam schedules are released earlier. In fact, last year, the University of Waterloo released their winter exam schedule by February 2nd. Waterloo boasts 45% more undergraduate students than McMaster University, which translates to more than 10,000 people.7 Clearly the size of McMaster’s student population cannot be claimed as a limiting factor in the University’s ability to coordinate the exam schedule in a timely fashion. 6 Office of Institutional Research and Analysis. McMaster University Fact Book 2015-2016. (Hamilton: McMaster University, October 2016). Accessed August 22, 2018. https://www.mcmaster.ca/vpacademic/documents/FactBook2015-2016.pdf 7 “Waterloo Facts,” University of Waterloo. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://uwaterloo.ca/about/who-we-are/waterloo-facts


• McMaster University should earmark a $50,000 investment to support professors in developing and refining OERs for the benefit of students and the respective curricula across faculties.

COST: $50,000 The increasing financial burden of post-secondary education on students is a perpetual concern, and rising textbook costs are a major contributor. At McMaster, a first year Life Sciences student can expect to pay $825.15 if they purchase all new textbooks, a figure equal to more than 10% increase of tuition expenses. This high cost arises in part from an issue faced by many professors: no textbook perfectly encapsulates the course content, so they are forced to assign a few chapters from several textbooks. This is extremely frustrating for students, who must either purchase multiple textbooks or expensive custom courseware which is difficult to resell. Many students circumvent the unaffordability of textbooks by pirating or choosing not to purchase them at all. In British Columbia, a 2017 study found that 54% of students did not purchase a required textbook, 27% of students took fewer courses because of textbook costs, 26% did not register for a specific course, and 17% dropped or withdrew from a course due to high textbook costs.8 An innovative solution has been proposed to combat this rising issue: Open Educational Resources (OERs). OERs can be broadly defined as learning materials which are in the creative commons, and therefore free to use. There is no statistically significant difference between commercial and open source textbooks,9 and courses which use OERs have better academic results since students are more likely to use the course materials.10 Additionally, the possibility for student savings is immense. Since 2012, it is estimated that OERs have saved BC students over $5 million, or around $90,000 per course.11 Recently, the Ontario Government invested $1 million to create the eCampus Ontario library, a bank of OER materials modelled after BC. Books in eCampus Ontario can be printed at an extremely low cost for the user, modified to fit specific course content, and peer edited by multiple professors to ensure top quality. Following these early successes, the University of Calgary invested Rajiv Jhangiani and Surita Jhangiani, “Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A Survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia,” International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017). 9 R.S. Jhangiani et al., “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks,” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9, no. 1 (2018), https://doi.org/https:// doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2018.1.5. 10 John Hilton, “Open Educational Resources and College Textbook Choices: A Review of Research on Efficacy and Perceptions,” Educational Technology Research and Development 65, no. 4 (2016): 573–590. 11 “Physics Course Adopts Open Textbook and Saves Students $90,000,” University of British Columbia, n.d., http://www.phas.ubc.ca/ physics-course-adopts-open-textbook-and-saves-students-90000. 8


$40,000 into OERs,12,13 Simon Fraser University invested $45,000,14 the University of Alberta invested $75,00015 and the University of British Columbia made $50,000 grants available for professors to develop OERs.16 Consequently, the MSU believes that McMaster should dedicate $50,000 to the development and refinement of OERs, to support professors to spend time writing OER textbooks. This funding would allow the University to develop materials specific to McMaster courses, allowing professors to reuse material, save students tens of thousands per course, and provide higher quality, Gillian Edwards, “New Pilot Project Encourages Faculty Members to Go beyond the Textbook,” University of Calgary, 2017, https:// www.ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2017-07-05/new-pilot-project-encourages-faculty-members-go-beyond-textbook?utm_source=UToday&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=July-5-2017&utm_term=New%2520pilot%2520project%2520encourages%2520faculty%25 20members%2520to%2520go%2520beyond%2520the%2520textbook. 13 Justin Schellenberg, “Ten U of C Classes to Pilot Free Textbooks through Open Educational Resources Grants,” The Gauntlet, 2017, http://www.thegauntlet.ca/ten-u-of-c-classes-to-pilot-free-textbooks-through-open-educational-resources-grants/. 14 “Open Educational Resource Grants,” Simon Fraser University, n.d., https://www.sfu.ca/oergrants.html 15 “University of Alberta OER Awards,” University of Alberta, n.d., https://www.ualberta.ca/centre-for-teaching-and-learning/grants/oer 16 “Small TLEF call for proposals open; 2018 Priority Focus on OER,” University of British Columbia, n.d., https://open.ubc.ca/small-tlefcall-for-proposals-open-2018-priority-focus-on-oer/ 12


• The University should implement projects that reduce overall energy consuption by 1%.

SAVINGS: $400,000 Utilities are consistently one of McMaster’s greatest costs, totalling around $40 million in the 20172018 fiscal year. As such, sustainability initiatives which reduce the University’s energy usage have the double purpose of reducing the University’s carbon footprint while reducing costs to the institution’s operating budget. While every energy-saving measures may not fully pay for itself, money saved on utilities can help mitigate implementation costs in the long run. There are three main utilities where McMaster can aim to reduce usage: natural gas, electricity, and water. As natural gas is predominantly used to provide heat, more efficient heating systems have the potential to drastically reduce natural gass use to provide heat. McMaster should investigate methods reducing heat waste, working within a framework of investigating and potentially retrofitting existing infrastructure based on how heat is currently distributed. For instance, the University of Guelph uses a stack heat recovery system, which uses exhaust heat from boilers or other energy wasting heat sources to heat water.17 Stack heat recovery systems boast cost recovery in as little as six months or boiler fuel cost savings from 15-20%.18,19 There are a myriad of projects McMaster can undertake to save electricity. In 2014, the University replaced inefficient lighting with LEDs, at an estimated savings of $154,000 a year and a 2.6 year payback time.20 McMaster should extend this project, and continue to replace old lighting with LEDs. Other successful projects, such as retrofitting the ventilation systems in Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery (MDCL) and John Hodgins Engineer Buidling (JHE), should also be extended to the rest of McMaster where necessary. If the university is able to reduce its overall energy consumption by even 1%, it would save $400,000. “Sustainability Office: Our Progress,” University of Guelph, n.d., https://www.uoguelph.ca/sustainability/our-progress. “Heat Recover Perfected,” Combustion & Energy Systems Ltd., n.d., http://www.condexenergy.com/heat-recovery-perfected.html 19 “Stack Gas Heat Absorber,” Ludell Manufacturing, n.d., http://www.ludellmanufacturing.com/products/heat-recovery/stack-gasheat-recovery/ 20 Facility Services Energy Management System, 2016. 17




• The University should cease to operate/fund the Learning Portfolio and the subscription to PebblePad should not be extended.

SAVINGS: Over $700,000 The ways in which students learn are changing. However, the projects we introduce to address these changes must prove to be both financially and academically beneficial for students. The Learning Portfolio (LP) was introduced by the Student Experience Task Force in 2013, and it has failed to prove beneficial in the five year since. Since 2013, the LP has been hosted on two platforms. The previous one, Desire2Learn, was difficult to navigate. The current one, PebblePad, is still challenging to navigate and time-consuming for students to use. Additionally, there are no metrics or ways for the University to gauge the success of the program; the University can see how many uploads there are but there is no way to relate these to course content and requirements. In fact, the Learning Portfolio has no specific goals or targeted aims, so its use is lost upon both students and professors. Not only does the LP fail academically, but the sticker price simply cannot be justified. In April, 2017, the University had already spent over $700,000 on the project, a cost that includes paying for a software subscription to Desire2Learn - which students no longer use.21 There are also additional costs that are hard to quantify, such as labour costs, and the cost of the two pilot courses created for student engagement with the LP (Humanities and Social Science 2LP3). Given the Learning Portfolio’s academic and financial failures, the McMaster Students Union recommends that funding to the Learning Portfolio is cut, and the subscription to PebblePad is not extended. The savings provided by this singular act of good fiscal management, would more than cover the cost of the four recommended expenses included within this budget submission. Hastie Scott, “McMaster University is Spending Thousands of Dollars on Critical Reflection,: The Silhouette, April 9 2017, https://www. thesil.ca/mcmaster-university-spending-thousands-dollars-critical-reflection


the McMaster Students Union