CAC talks UTM food, budget

The Campus Affairs Committee meeting last Monday in Council Chambers discussed the upcoming UTM operating budget, residence life improvements, and food service options.

Chief administrative officer Paul Donoghue and dean Amy Mullin spoke about the themes and priorities for the proposed operating budget.

UTM’s projected net revenue for 2014/15 is $167 million and the main budget priorities for 2015/16 include enrolment growth, student-faculty ratio, space, and experiential learning initiatives, they said.

“The outcome of all of this ensures that we have a good student experience and a lot of our budget priorities are related to the student experience in things like offering transition support, experiential learning opportunities, and increased flexibility for our student departments,” said Mullin.

Enrolment growth is expected to increase in the upcoming years.

“The western GTA has the largest growth, and we take about 74% enrolment from the western GTA,” said Donoghue.

The key steps involved with enrolment growth is decreasing the student-faculty ratio and increasing space. The goal for student-faculty ratio is 30:1 and is expected to be reached in 2019/20.

UTM’s current ratio is at about 36:1, which is higher than UTSC and St. George.

“We are not as high as we have been but we are still not where we would like to be,” said Mullin, adding that last year 35 searches were conducted, resulting in 25 new hires. Mullin said that this year 34 searches are being conducted for 21 new hires and 13 replacements, and that next year another 35 searches would be held.

Space increases will also be necessary. Donoghue said that in North Phase 2, which is expected to open in September 2017, there will be more teaching and laboratory space, and that a research greenhouse is in the final planning stages.

A focus on transition programs, experiential learning, and “active learning” classrooms is also planned.

Next, Chad Nuttall, the director of Student Housing and Residence Life, spoke about initiatives in residence. One of them is the residential component of the Academic Culture and English program. Students who stayed in residence benefited from some additional services and had about a 14% increase in the pass rate when compared with overall ACE pass rates. Another initiative is the Waawaahte Northern Lights Initiative, which aims to enhance First Nations cultural awareness. There is also the Energy Exchange Experience during Reading Week that encourages civic engagement in students through working with various partner organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Safe City Mississauga, the Seva Food Bank, and others.

Donoghue also spoke about food services at UTM. UTM’s current food service provider is Chartwells, whose contract will expire next year after having been extended last April.

Donoghue said that the two options going forward are either a self-operating model or a contract management model, and that a feasibility study conducted in May found that a self-operation would be too costly.

A survey has subsequently been conducted to receive student feedback on future contractual service. Donoghue said that major concerns raised through the survey included low food diversity and a mismatch between price and quality.

Moving forward, Donoghue said that the aim is to increase food variety by including Chinese, Thai, and Greek food along with healthier options. The operating hours and menu cycle at Colman Commons will also be expanded and nutrition and cooking classes will be provided.

Donoghue also said that the contract will be changed from a five-year agreement to two or three years.

“This allows us to keep certain pressure on whoever is providing that service to make sure they maintain a certain standard,” said Donoghue.

The selection process for a new provider will take place from February to March and the transition will take place in April.

“The changes that have happened on this campus in the four years I have been here are nothing short of phenomenal. But the job is not finished yet,” said principal Deep Saini.

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