The Telegram (St. John's)
MUN, Byrne at war over university finances
Memorial University’s senior administration is in a fullblown verbal war with the provincial government minister responsible for universities, after nationally reported financial data about the school was called into question.
University president Gary Kachanoski began a town hall meeting at MUN on Thursday by saying Advanced Education and Skills Minister Gerry Byrne’s allegation about incorrect financial reporting was “completely unfounded and not correct.”
Kachanoski wouldn’t say much more than that and refused to answer questions.
“Of course, given the serious nature of the matter, we won’t be answering questions about this particular topic during the town hall, and won’t be doing media interviews about this,” he said.
Byrne has pointed out that MUN’S per-student cost was around $31,000 compared to a national average of $19,000.
After MUN said those figures don’t really tell the correct story, Byrne said he had been told by MUN that some of its financial reporting to the Canadian Association of University Business Officers was inaccurate.
When Kachanoski and senior finance officials said at the town hall that Byrne was incorrect, he responded by emailing The Telegram meeting notes between Memorial University officials and bureaucrats at the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.
The meeting notes from Tuesday, April 25 say:
“During this meeting, Mr. Decker explained that MUN had ‘probably been complacent’ in allowing expenditures related to Marine Institute research conducted on behalf of commercial clients (e.g., applied research and use of simulators) and salary costs for positions in the faculty of medicine, a share of which is for the provision of health services, to be included in MUN’S general operating expenditure category submitted to the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (Caubo)/statistics Canada and, in hindsight, should not have been reported in the fashion that they were.
“Mr. Decker further explained that MUN was aware that some other universities, such (as) in Ontario, with similar unique circumstances, take out these expenditures before submitting the data to CAUBO/ Statistics Canada.”
Kachanoski refused to answer questions from the media, but vice-president academic Noreen Golfman spoke to reporters after the town hall.
She said it’s basically impossible to compare the per-student costs between Canadian universities.
“We are all unique beasts, and we’re more unique because we have (the Marine Institute), the equivalent of a polytechnic, as part of our multi-campus reality,” she said. “So we’re teaching applied research, doing industry training, 7,000 students. Nobody else has got that.”
Golfman said that when you take into account costs associated with the Marine Institute and other special circumstances, she firmly believes Memorial University administrative costs are not bloated.