Queen’s principal to ‘do less with less’: in addition to budget cuts, Daniel Woolf believes the school has to focus its academic direction
By Elizabeth Church
Excerpt from: Globe and Mail. Monday, Dec. 14, 2009
Queen’s University made football history this season, taking the national championship in a storybook come-from-behind win. Its new principal, Daniel Woolf, is plotting a similar comeback for the Kingston campus, whose leadership, he says, has had about as many turnovers as that Vanier Cup victory.
Queen’s, a prestigious school that for decades has produced future business and political leaders, is at a crossroads. The university’s executive ranks have resembled a turnstile, and it is shouldering an increasing debt load, in part because of the decision to build a student and athletic facility before the funding was in place.
Dr. Woolf, the third person to hold his job in as many years, acknowledges the immediate future will be a challenge. In addition to implementing a 15-per-cent budget cut over the next three years, he is embarking on a plan that could have far-reaching consequences: reviewing the school’s academic priorities and renewing its emphasis on undergraduate programs. “It is often said that you have to do more with less,” Dr. Woolf said in a recent interview at the university. “I think frankly we have all been doing more with less for a very long time. I suggest the time has come to do less with less.”
Most Canadian universities, such as Queen’s, are struggling with financial pressures, caused by factors such as rising pension costs and falling endowment income. Several have implemented cost-cutting measures, ranging from dropping courses and banning small classes to laying off staff.
Longer term, Dr. Woolf, a historian and Queen’s grad, believes the school will have to reshape its academic direction to develop what he calls a “balanced academy.” This would ensure that the university shifts more attention to undergraduate education – what he describes as “our brand.”
He is also preaching selectivity: the need for Queen’s to determine what areas are core to the university, and then focus on them intensely. “You can’t do everything at the same level,” he said.
As part of his cost-cutting plan aimed at balancing the books, Dr. Woolf is pressing faculty for wage concessions and asking departments to find savings and new ways to make money. The school also is compiling a list of its properties, mainly Kingston houses, that could be sold.
The proposed cuts have alarmed faculty such as English professor Mark Jones, who fears they will diminish academic standards. The request for professors to reduce their planned raises by 2 per cent next year was refused by the faculty association, a stand endorsed last week by members, but one that has created some division.
The union argues the school’s financial problems stem from mismanagement, and has suggested professors who wish to give back to the school should make donations. Prof. Jones says the pressure for wage cuts is diverting attention from the school’s “misguided capital projects.”
Some of Queen’s financial difficulties have been self-inflicted …