Senior admin layoffs tied to TransformUS

Rainer Kocsis

Brett Fairbairn informed the U of S via email of two administrative positions’ elimination.

Brett Fairbairn informed the U of S via email of two administrative positions’ elimination.

Announced via email to University of Saskatchewan community on March 27, the elimination of two associate vice-president positions was influenced by the soon-to-be implemented TransformUS plan.

TransformUS is a program prioritization initiative aimed at lessening the projected $44.5 million deficit for the 2015–16 fiscal year.

University Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn wrote in the email that the associate vice-president development and the associate vice-president student affairs were terminated for financial and organizational reasons.

According to the announcement, the duties associated with these positions have been reassigned to other areas of the Student Enrolment Services Division. The effect of this reorganization will be that responsibility for student services will fall more directly within the Provost’s Office.

The Provost’s announcement came at an unanticipated time, since workforce planning was was already completed in August 2013 and the TransformUS implementation plan is set to be released on April 30 with changes coming into effect May 1. Fairbairn neglected to provide specific reasons behind the sudden restructuring of senior leadership.

“I will basically never talk publicly about individual personnel decisions,” Fairbairn wrote in an email to the Sheaf. “There is a limited amount I can say… I cannot go into any particular reasons.”

Fairbairn stated that the reason for his ambiguity is to respect those who have been affected by his recent decision.

Additionally, Fairbairn noted that these position changes are part of a wider thinking about reorganization of senior administration.

“The pattern and overall impact of the changes will be made clear when we release the TransformUS implementation plan,” Fairbairn wrote.

According to Fairbairn, these changes were not specifically part of the workforce planning project — a budget-adjustment initiative that ended with a total of 248 jobs terminated. However, Fairbairn said the university has and always will be making adjustments to its workforce.

“Workforce planning in a general sense refers to a wider way of thinking about and intentionally shaping jobs we have in the university, not necessarily about reductions.”

The Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning is currently looking at a wider reorganization of senior administration as part of TransformUS. Fairbairn said that while these recent cuts were based on the TransformUS direction, they were not explicitly a part of the TransformUS process.

“The decision to eliminate positions in a case like this is based on financial considerations and consideration of the organizational structure,” Fairbairn wrote.

The vice-presidents’ roles  have been temporarily reassigned to other areas. Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning Patti McDougall will assume leadership for the units within SESD. Supervision for the development function will continue to be provided by Kent Hartshorn as Executive Director of Development.

According to Fairbairn, when positions have been identified for elimination, the overriding consideration is respect for the interests and privacy of affected employees.

“I will want to be quite circumspect about what I say in public about such matters, particularly in the next little while,” Fairbairn wrote. “The university puts a lot of thought and care into how such situations are handled. There are various ways to proceed, and we aim for the best approach balancing all factors.”

There will be no further changes in SESD at this time.


Photo: Andrew Mareschal