President’s complicated reign comes to an end

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Vianne Resign-annes (sorry). Morgan Ortman

Dr. Timmons leaves for Newfoundland with her fans and her foes

A staff-wide campus email on Dec. 12 announced Dr. Vianne Timmons’ exit in favour of Memorial University. This is not the first time President Timmons had been linked to another university. In 2014, just a year after she was almost removed, the educational researcher was linked to St. Francis Xavier University. At the time, her contract in Regina was not set to expire until 2017. In fact, as reported by CBC, the private nature of the search (a sticking point in the questions posed by the Carillon in 2014) has drawn the ire of Memorial University’s Faculty Association.

Back on campus, Timmons was extended very quietly by the Board of Governors in 2018 and, as per our own analysis of the publicly available numbers that were first highlighted by the Regina Leader-Post’s Ashley Martin, the President’s salary was $365,998 that year. To commemorate (don’t worry Dr. Timmons, we’re not so crass as to write celebrate) her departure, here’s a summary of her tenure.

When Dr. Timmons took to her post in 2008, undergraduate tuition – before student union and athletic fees – was $407.55 per three credit hours. For international students or, as the university so cleverly called them then, visa students, the total for the usual class was $815.10. By the fall semester of 2018 those numbers had doubled to $888.80 for domestic students. For those who, in the words of soon-to-be interim President Thomas Chase had “parents who didn’t build the buildings,” (read: administrative bloat rhetoric for international students) that total is now $2,195.30.  In that time, according to Transparent Canada, the average one bedroom apartment has gone up in cost by $270. Put another way, in the time that tuition has doubled – 2008 was our last tuition freeze, by the way –rent has gone up by less than fifty percent. The average Canadian inflation rate? 2.24 per cent.

Now, Dr. Timmons cannot be expected to control the whims of the real estate market, so what about on-campus accommodations? According to a 2011 report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the cheapest rent available on campus in 2008 was $3,488 for eight months. For this brief analysis we will round up to $4,000 and compare to the cheapest apartment that you can cook food in this year. The cheapest rent available now is $6,404. In slightly reductionist terms, rent has almost doubled in ten years, a not so rare phenomenon in Saskatchewan according to the aforementioned report by Paul Gingrich, himself a retired U of R sociology professor.

“Residence costs have increased regularly for many years, with increases of as much as 8 per cent in some years, and increases of 5 per cent per year scheduled for each of the next two years [2011 to 2013]. In the three years since Reappraisal [a previous report], residence costs increased an average of approximately 16 per cent, an average of approximately 5 per cent per year.”

Timmons and her temporary successor were also one vote away from possible removal in 2013, here’s a line from our coverage then, courtesy of former editor Michael Chmielewski.

“One professor that did sit down with the Carillon is Susan Johnston, Associate Professor of English. As the self-described ‘prime mover’ of the petition, Johnston isn’t shy to speak out. She explains that the Council is a ‘direct democracy,’ and that the non-confidence motion boils down to trust. She poses the following question to her fellow Council members: ‘Do you trust the President and the Vice President?’”

It turns out that they did, sort of. Dr. Timmons has been on the defensive since, with much relationship rebuilding taking place. A 2014 meeting saw the first University Council meeting in twenty years held in twenty years. The main concern at that meeting being administrative bloat, the marked increase in administrative positions while academic jobs continue to die. Also on the table was a then-recent scandal involving unearned overtime. Here’s former student-turned-campus employee Brian Wilson’s thoughts on the issue then, which stemmed from the university’s education department.

“I find it preposterous that our tuition money continues to get embezzled by the very staff we trust to provide us with a functioning educational institution. We want more students to attend the U of R, but who would want to with a reputation like this? We have a great school, yet we are getting a bad name because certain people think they can get away with things like this.”

This is not to say that Vianne has not contributed to the campus. Enrolment has, by every possible measure, increased, and she has won a number of awards, including being named to the Order of Canada. Her statement to campus was one of fond memories, a sentiment she also shared in a recent Leader-Post piece.

“I believe I am leaving the University of Regina at a good time in its development. Through a great deal of hard work by many people, our budget has remained balanced for a quarter-century. Our student numbers are strong. We have made capital improvements that will have a positive impact here for decades to come. This year we hired the largest new faculty complement in many years, our research enterprise has continued to grow, and our supports for students – including the forthcoming Accommodations Test Centre – are being enhanced. With a community-developed strategic plan for the next five years well on its way to development, the time is right for a new President to act upon your collective vision. And I am confident that Dr. Thomas Chase, who has a more-than-four-decade history at our University, will provide strong and inspiring leadership in an interim capacity while the search for the next President takes place.”

Newly hired web writer Julia Peterson will be writing online about the next steps for her replacement later this week. Make sure to follow our coverage at carillonregina.com.

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