The roof is caving in

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The University’s maintenance is at a dismal state- while executives are disconnected from reality

I firmly believe that the University of Regina’s executives, including the president and the vice-presidents, have a crucial role within our institution. They are responsible to ensure that they are acting in the best interest of the University and its students, staff and the general public. However, the school’s leaking roofs demonstrates that the executive is failing to live up to its responsibilities.

This article isn’t merely about a couple of leaking roofs, as they are only a microcosm of maintenance issues within our University. Currently, 23 per cent of the University’s roof is “falling” and over 60 roofs are leaking beyond repair, warranting replacement. In relative terms, the University of Regina triples the average amount of deferred maintenance within Canadian Universities, with $121 per square foot of deferred maintenance compared to the Canadian average of $42 per square foot. With all that said, there is over $300 million dollars in repairs, renovations and replacements the University needs across the campus.

The status quo is alarming. Leaking roofs are a safety hazard, albeit a small one. But leaking roofs aren’t the primary issue; just under a quarter of the entire University’s roof is, by description of the University operations management, falling. Weak roofs combined with moisture can be a catastrophically unsafe combination within saturated quarters that hosts thousands of students, staff and other members of the public per day.

Exacerbating these maintenance concerns is the University executives’ disconnect to reality. Currently, the provincial government only gives $5.1 million dollars for repair for the school, which is only a third of what is needed. Throughout the last five years, that budget has been slashed to as little as $4.5 million from $7.7 million in 2009. By now, we should all be familiar with these trends: Brad Wall wants to cut spending and the Saskatchewan economy is experiencing difficulties due to the struggling energy sector. But, what I can’t comprehend is the University executives’ disconnect from reality. When asked about the current state of the University, the Vice President of administration, Dave Button, said his University is “in better shape than most in Canada when it comes to deferred maintenance,” while hinging that assessment of the University’s maintenance is “subjective.” However, he has previously written to the government that various buildings and classrooms face closure. Mr. Button’s narrative concerns me on two fronts. One, I question the credibility of his vice presidency if he concludes that the U of R’s current state of maintenance is positive relative to other Canadian Universities. Although some may argue that the deferred maintenance figure may be inflated, the fact that it was almost triple the amount of the national average must correlate to negative performance. Secondly, Mr. Button has expressed need for more funding from the governments in the past. However, when he goes on record to paint a dismissive tone about the dangerous state of the University, he mitigates his prospects for more funding from the government. His job is to accurately portray and lobby for the University to the government that not enough is being done. He must look at the numerical figures, facts, and consultations from his colleagues to fight for more funding from the government. He does not have leeway to present a dismissive tone to the media when he needs to express urgency to the government. He has failed in this regard and as a result, has failed to live up to his responsibilities.

So, I challenge Vianne Timmons and Dave Button to live up to their responsibilities. Initiate a discussion about the current state of the University. Consult the facilities maintenance department and other experts. Lobby to the government and express the dire need for more funding. Please begin to live up to your responsibilities – before someone gets hurt.

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