Features In Focus

Undergoing a restructuring

Three King’s employees have been let go from their positions; one at the Journalism School and two from the Advancement Office.

Returning to King’s for the fall semester is always accompanied by familiar sights. Freshly polished floors and cleaned dorm rooms. The latest editions of FYP texts in the King’s bookstore. Comforting items on the Sodexo menu.
But this year a different sight can be seen. There are new faces around the campus. And some faces that can’t be seen at all.
That’s because three King’s employees have been let go from their positions; one at the Journalism School and two from the Advancement Office.

(Photo: Paul Rebar)

Kate Ross, the technician at the journalism school, was fired after working for the college for seven years. Katrina Pyne has been hired in her stead to provide IT support to the journalism school.
The two positions share similarities. Ross’ duties included computer software repairs and management, assisting students with Microsoft Word and overseeing the J-School computer lab. Pyne’s position involves many of Ross’ old tasks, including managing the computer aspect of the journalism program.
However, the positions differ in two distinct ways. Ross’ job provided little to no assistance to the video program in the J-School, while Pyne’s position has a much stronger emphasis on video, offering technical video support and preparing the TV room for students.
Ross had also provided technical assistance to students in the newspaper and magazine workshops – speciality classes for fourth-year and one-year journalism students. Ross helped navigate students through the process of constructing newspapers and magazines.
Pyne’s position does not offer support to those workshops, although Kelly Toughill, the director of the journalism program, says that students will not miss out on support and assistance.
“We are hiring specialists to provide student support for Photoshop and InDesign in both the newspaper … and magazine workshops,” she says. “We have also hired a specialist for small revisions to our website.”
Toughill says that these changes were made to provide the best experience for students, although it is still a work in progress, as the journalism school is currently undergoing a curriculum review.
Pyne is only signed to a one-year contract. Because of the curriculum review, the journalism school is still evaluating its technical support needs.
“I anticipate a more comprehensive restructuring of the position in the spring,” Toughill says.
Restructuring is the name of the game for King’s at the moment. In a recently released operating budget, it was revealed that across-the-board cuts are currently in effect for the first time in King’s history. This means that most departments have to cut 12 to 13 per cent from their budgets. Toughill says that the budget readjustments made to the J-School – which came to $25,000 in reductions – did not impact the restructuring of Ross’ job, which was made before the across-the-board cuts went into effect.
Many departments have been hit hard by these cuts. The athletic department is losing $29,000, while student services is out $21,000. The bursar’s office, library and registrar’s office are also receiving significant cuts.
The advancement office is receiving an across-the-board cut of $25,000, and recently had to restructure the positions of two employees.
The office has absorbed a marketing responsibility previously managed by the registrar’s office and external companies, along with fulfilling their communications function. Because of this, two communications employees, Cheryl Bell and Lorna Ash, were let go, and their former positions are being offered to people versed in both communications and marketing.
“Sometimes institutions have to make hard decisions in order to get to a place where there are more efficiencies and synergies,” Adriane Abbot, the advancement director, says about the restructuring.
Bell’s position as Manager of Communications involved strategic planning, website management and media relations, but had nothing directly related to marketing. Bell will continue to work for the university on a freelance basis.
“The college cannot hire more people, and yet I need a greater breadth of skill in my office,” Abbot says, referring to how she has swapped two old positions for two new ones. “It will not cost the college any additional resources but it will increase our office’s skill capacity.”
The advancement office is currently hiring for the two new positions.
Lorna Ash also worked part-time for facilities, another department that suffered cuts totalling $72,000. Because of this cut, Ash lost two jobs at once.
Ash was hired a year ago as a part-time worker who managed university IT twice a week, acting as “eyes on the ground” for Alex Doyle, director of facilities.
“She was a great resource,” Doyle says.
This year, however, with King’s switching over to the Dalhousie online server for an undetermined amount of time, Doyle needed a more full-time and advanced position to be filled.
“We have privacy issues and we need to make sure we have the correct firewall,” Doyle says. “We’re looking for other options for IT.”
“This is a more robust position,” he adds. “We’re entering a new phase.”
Doyle let Ash go before finding a replacement. He is still looking for someone to fill the new position.
“I need a specialized person,” he says.
Doyle compliments Ash’s work, but says that, because of budget cuts, they were unable to keep her on board along with a new employee.
“Across-the-board cuts hit hard,” Doyle says. “We’re using every dollar we have and we didn’t have the luxury to keep Lorna.”
Doyle says that the cuts have made some positive improvements, forcing facilities to be creative. Working with the KSU and focusing on sustainability, facilities has cancelled garbage pickup in all buildings, replacing the system with streaming bins. Doyle says that this effort has saved money, and has made students and faculty more environmental aware because they take responsibility for their garbage.
Doyle also had to restructure the cleaning services contract to save money.
“It’s about managing money,” Doyle says.
While all of this restructuring may have benefits for students, they will also be deeply affected by the across-the-board cuts. Due to a three per cent raise in academic fees, students will be paying a total of over $8.8 million. This raise comes in part from the low numbers of enrolment this year, which has also resulted in the hiring of two fewer FYP tutors.
At the moment, everyone at King’s has to do more with less.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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