Susan Mumm, Brescia Principal
Courtesy of Brescia

For many newly appointed university principals the idea of budgeting $25,000 towards a welcoming ceremony is business as usual. But for Brescia’s new principal, Susan Mumm, it’s money misplaced.

“I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on a ceremony which would effectively center only on me,” Mumm said. “And so it was simply a no-brainer. Spend money on me or spend money on the students — I’m always going to choose the students.”

Known formally as university installations, these welcoming ceremonies are symbolic gestures that signify to the community the commitment of the new principle to its institution. It’s also a way for the community to acknowledge and support the new leadership. Having only begun in 2000, Brescia has had a short history with university installations.

However, Mumm believes that while important, it’s unnecessary to make installations big and expensive public events.

That’s why Mumm decided to allocate the money toward scholarships aptly named installation scholarships. The decision came to Mumm upon reflecting on the university’s values.

“I wanted to be the kind of principal that lives the values of the university I work for,” Mumm said. “The money is important, but there’s also a way of saying to the students we believe in you, we have faith you will succeed here.” 

$25,000 may sound like a lot of money, but when university budgets typically range in the hundreds of millions, it’s more like a drop in the bucket.

Not only that, but according to Mumm, the money budgeted for the installation was actually on the small size in comparison to universities in the U.S., which she said could rack up to $40,000.

Despite the fact that Mumm said her decision wasn’t in lieu of recent events, it comes at an interesting time.

Universities and their spending habits have been under fire recently, especially since Amit Chakma made headlines last year after making nearly $1 million when he chose to work through his administrative leave.

What’s more, the Ontario government recently passed legislation that caps salary and performance-related payments for designated executives in universities, colleges, school boards and government agencies.

The new framework for executive pay no longer allows signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and cash housing allowances. It’s now required that employers consult with the public when determining how much executives are compensated.

In response, Mumm says her intention was not to address these issues or bring light to them, but to simply put students first.

“I was just thinking about expressing both practically and symbolically the fact that we can’t just talk about putting students first,” Mumm said. “We actually have to put students first in the decisions we make in our offices every day.”

As for the ceremony, Mumm plans on holding a private installation on campus, retaining all of the symbolic significance but leaving out all the fluff.  

“It’s going to be very small, very low-key and probably conclude with a cup of tea all around,” Mumm laughed.

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Moses Monterroza is a news editor for Volume 110 of the Gazette. Previously, he was an arts and life editor for Volume 109, and staff writer for Volume 108. You can reach him at moses@westerngazette.ca.

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