The dental programs and counselling services at the College of New Caledonia presented their numbers to the board of governors Friday.
Now the decision is whether those numbers will trump the budget numbers the board is working on.
Because of the amount of feedback received on proposals to suspend student intakes on dental programs and eliminate a number of counselling positions, the board decided not to make its decision at the Friday meeting, but to postpone the vote until the April 24 meeting.
Board chairman Keith Playfair said the decisions needed to balance a budget faced with a $2.8 million deficit were “the toughest since I joined the board.
“We’re cutting meat and bones this year. Nobody on the board is happy with the decisions we have to make, but, by law, we have to balance the budget.”
CNC president Henry Reiser said any proposals for changing the budgets made by the groups presenting at the meeting had to recognize one fundamental rule.
“We have two types of budget. The operational budget is where the deficit is. We can’t move money from the capital budget to operations.”
A group of instructors from the dental studies program called on the board to continue student intakes and expressed concerns about the process the college used to inform them of the original proposal.
“We were shocked and blindsided,” Heather Brown said. “There had been no indication the board was considering this kind of action.”
She pointed out the majority of the faculty and staff in the program were themselves graduates of the CNC program, and that they had always enjoyed the support of local dentists.
“We are fortunate to have strong support from the local dental community, and that shows in the seven-year accreditation which the program received. Seven years is the longest term available.”
Client services co-ordinator Monica Costley added they were concerned that there was no commitment by the board as to a date to restart the programs.
“Many years of outreach will be severed by this decision,” she said. “Most of the clients we see would not otherwise receive dental services. They understand the role they play in the education of our students, and suspension of the program would further marginalize them.”
She said the college had said the program needed to be upgraded, but noted, ‘It dies not need to be shut down to be upgraded.”
“Capital costs should not have been used as a reason for the proposed suspension of intakes.”
Carole Whitmer noted the college’s education council had passed a motion that the programs not be suspended.
“That motion passed unanimously.”
She emphasized the point there was no commitment to reinstating the intake.
“If access is lost,it may never come back.”
Speaking to the question of the elimination of counselling positions, Tammy Skomorowksi said the board should take one simple step before voting on the proposal.
“We encourage you to talk to the students about the impact this decision would have on them. We offer one-to-one counselling to students, but we also provide immediate crisis counselling, trauma support and career counselling.”
She said if counselling was eliminated on the CNC campuses, students would be forced to find other resources when they needed assistance, and that could be a major concern.
“The discussion is never ‘if’ there’s a crisis, it’s ‘when’. If this was you or one of your children in need, how accessible would you ant the services to be?”
After the board meeting, a public forum heard from more than 20 other presenters, all calling for the dental services programs and counselling to remain in place.
The matter will come back to the board for a final vote at the April 24 meeting.