Tuesday, 16 December 2014

When Budgets Run Into the Millions

Britain's House of Lords has been having difficulty reducing its catering budget (ca. 1.3 million pounds); part of the problem, it was revealed, is their consumption of Champagne, amounting to 17,000 bottles from 2010 to some point in (mid?) 2014.*

The House of Lords has 790 members (not all of whom participate regularly, but we leave that aside).  The budget seems to allow for more than six bottles of Champagne per member, per annum.

Last year, here at the University of Victoria, more than $5.3 million dollars were spent on office supplies in a single year.  I do not know if that number includes Champagne.  Don't believe me?  See the screenshot [below], or check the numbers yourself (they're publicly available, as with the accounting for any charity registered in Canada).

The problem isn't just what gets spent, but also, reciprocally, how austerity in other areas is justified while these levels of spending are ongoing (without really being susceptible to scrutiny).

UVic has an Ojibwe language-learning circle (100% volunteer, nobody gets paid), but if you ask the department of linguistics if you could arrange to have a "directed reading course" (independent study) connected to teaching yourself Ojibwe, the answer is no, because professors don't get paid extra to supervise those courses.

I do think that a professor might be entitled to a modest honorarium to reward them for supervising students in an independent language course (be it Ojibwe or otherwise); the trouble is imagining how there's any lack of money to provide such an incentive, in an institution where $3.8 million is spent on advertising, $5.3 million on office supplies, and so on.

It takes a lot of Champagne to get British politicians to vote; and it takes a lot of office supplies to get Canadian professors to teach, apparently.  Budget accordingly.