Downtown campus may be on chopping block


Western’s Downtown University Center is one of the many programs at Western being looked at by administration for any possible way to cut costs in the face of a still struggling economy.

Opened in 2007, the Downtown Campus, located in the Scottish Rite Temple, is home to three programs: Pass the Power, a literacy program for adults; Community Arts, consisting of courses in yoga, dancing and clay-making; and the Law Enforcement Academy which had previously been located at Western’s main campus.

Gordon Mapley, dean for Western Institute, has been directly involved with the operations of the Downtown Campus. Mapley explains that the discussions concerning the Downtown Campus are due to concerns that the three programs it houses can’t generate the revenue necessary to cover the building expenses, budgeted at roughly $100,000, or pay the faculty and staff who work there.

“These are things that are important to our community and we want to do these things, but the question is can we do them and do them well in a more cost-effective way,” Mapley said. “I want us to maintain our service in a cost-effective way and right now we’re losing money.”

Photo | Robin Ussher

Mapley maintains that he believes the Downtown Campus has been a success with regards to offering programs of interest to the community; however, he refuses to turn a blind eye to the issues at hand.

“[The downtown campus] is expensive and there really aren’t a lot of other things we can do with it,” Mapley said. “It doesn’t make sense to offer credit courses downtown…financially, it costs us significantly more to run the programs at that facility than we can justify given the current budget.”

Western currently pays for all utilities at the Downtown Campus, on top of the $36,000 lease for use of the Scottish Rite Temple. Mapley says that he has four options to move any of the three programs to other locations; as these possibilities are still in the conversation phase, Mapley is not at liberty to go into detail on the options as of yet.

Dan Nicoson, vice president for university advancement, has been involved with the community arts program and notes that the option of moving that program to an arts organization is a possibility.

“We are trying to bring a little more focus on our arts programming at Western and if we could form a partnership with an arts organization that would benefit both of us,” Nicoson said. “Then we’d like to pursue that and there’s a possibility we’re pursuing.”

There has also been discussion about moving the Law Enforcement Academy back to the main campus, where it remained until three years ago. According to Mapley, moving one program back is a very real possibility but is quick to note that if any one program is brought back to campus, Western would lose space for classrooms in return. Mapley maintains that it would be unrealistic to move all three programs to the main campus.

While the discussions remain ongoing, Mapley sees it as a part of answering three key questions facing Western.

“What is best for students, what is best for the community and what is best given the financial situation,” Mapley said.

With the current state of the economy, Nicoson feels that it’s essential for these types of discussions to be occurring, even if there’s no one perfect solution to the problem.

“It’s appropriate for us to be looking at absolutely everything right now,” Nicoson said.

Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, in full agreement, believing it’s healthy to discuss such issues given the financial circumstances facing Western and other universities.

“We’re analyzing everything to make sure is there any way we can save money,” Klinkner said. “If you don’t analyze everything, then shame on you.”

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