Tuesday, April 28, 1998
"The numbers are that baldly terrible that something's got to give," said Ann Dowsett Johnston, talking about cuts of about one-third in Canadian public financing for higher education. She has been editing the magazine's annual university rankings since 1992, and now writes a regular column on education.
Johnston was the main speaker last night at the spring meeting of the Waterloo Advisory Council, which represents employers of UW co-op students and graduates. She said she knew she had a friendly audience, because of Waterloo's consistently high rankings in the survey each November, but she admitted that the whole process of ranking universities "is much maligned, and probably rightfully so".
Rankings may be superficial, she said -- "in many ways, it's our swimsuit issue", the top seller of the year -- but they have helped bring "accountability" to higher education, which is opaque and confusing to outsiders. And more: "what it has bought is an accompanying 50 pages about higher education," plus the magazine's annual Guidebook to universities, which sells 35,000 copies a year, and now a commitment to regular education coverage in print. Readers welcome that, she said: "Education has replaced the other E, which is environment, in people's hearts."
Johnston said people across Canada are becoming aware of hard times for higher education. The magazine's figures show that in the time it took for tuition fees to go up 42 per cent, the number of faculty members has dropped 6 per cent, and parents know that means their children are paying more for less. She admitted that "there's a welcome rise in scholarship and bursary dollars," but still, lower-income students are beginning to turn away from even trying to attend university.
"The whole thing has to be given a really good shake," said Johnston, advising universities to "carve out the centres of excellence that they can", not trying to do everything -- and making clear to government what's possible and what isn't. "Those universities that have a good sense of what they are, and always have had, are really advantaged," she said, mentioning UW in particular, largely thanks to the co-op tradition.
There's hope, she said, because outside support is coming together for higher education, particularly from students ("working the back rooms, a shrewd and very savvy student body"), corporations ("we connect the dots between education and prosperity very quickly in North America") and the federal government. "You've got the media interested," Johnston added.
She said the Council of Ontario Universities -- and a committee of experts that included UW's Bob Truman -- was hugely influential in working out how the magazine collects its information and calculates its rankings. The hardest part of the whole project, she said, was dividing universities into groups ("medical-doctoral", "comprehensive", "undergraduate"), and within that activity, "the toughest thing was, what is Waterloo?"
Also on the program for the WAC dinner last night was a brief talk by Conrad Grebel College student Rebecca Steinman, who told the group that "a student of the 90's is a gambler," laying out big money and hoping to find a job and a future. She advised her fellow students to "seek goals beyond getting a job and making money," and she told the WAC members that cuts at UW in recent years have been particularly hard on the arts programs, which attract the least support from corporations and rich friends.
The campaign was launched in 1992 by Pounce de Lion, Matthew Barrett of the Bank of Montreal, and kids from the Mutual Life day care centre. Photo from UW graphics.
There are a few paragraphs about a scholarship in the math faculty established by emeritus professor Bill Tutte; a few about Ken Murray's gift in support of the Alzheimer Research and Education Project; and news of the Marsland-ICR Centre for High Performance Computing, financed by a half-million-dollar gift from local businessman Larry Marsland and his family.
Other aspects of the Campaign that are highlighted include the East Asian studies program, the St. Jerome's Community Centre, the NSERC/Motorola/ETI Chair in Groundwater Research, the chair in Jewish studies, the Matthews Hall expansion, a $250,000 "mechatronics" laboratory funded by ATS Automation Tooling Systems, the ACCESS classroom in Environmental Studies I, the centre for cultural management, and so on and on.
UW president James Downey calls the Campaign "a watershed" for UW, and writes in an introductory message that "At a time when government support for universities has been declining, Campaign Waterloo has allowed us to expand our horizons and maintain our reputation as Canada's best overall university.
Student callers helped raise $11 million from 24,000 alumni.
And he adds:
Who knows how great Waterloo may yet become, for we have not finished building? What we do know is that little of this University's impressive achievement would be possible without the faith and generosity of those who contribute to our cause. This includes governments, corporations, foundations, associations of many kinds, as well as families and individuals.
The Computer Help and Information Place will have reduced hours from now through September, says Bob Hicks of the information systems and technology department, which operates the CHIP (Math and Computer room 1052) to provide, as the name pretty much says, H and I. The CHIP opens at 8 in the morning and has been closing at 6 through the winter; for the next few months, closing time is 5:00. Hicks notes that the microCHIP located nearby in MC 1050 has extended hours. It is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Saturdays. The microCHIP has a colour scanner, ftping facilities, photocopying, and printing, and users can add money to their IST accounts. "Please note, however, that there are no Help Desk advisors available during the extended hours of the microCHIP (5 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays)."
Work started yesterday on reconstruction of the information desk on the main floor of the Dana Porter Library. While the carpenters are doing their thing, "information services will be temporarily offered from the information alcove" nearby, says the head of the reference department, Margaret Hendley. She reports: "The design of the 'new' Information Desk was the work of three members of the Porter Reference and Collections Development Department (Judy McTaggart, Maureen McCormack and Michele Sawchuk), working with Keith Peck from Facilities Management as well as UW's Plant Operations. The objective was to create a more approachable presence to our users as well as provide a better working area incorporating the special needs of two workstations, for the staff scheduled to provide information services at this location."
The department of computer science will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday "for a departmental retreat", says a memo from department secretary Brenda McBay. "We will resume business as usual on Friday."
The department of athletics and recreational services advises that Campus Recreation Guides for the spring term are now available in Physical Activities Complex room 2039. "If anyone would like a copy mailed to them, please e-mail Jane Varley at jkvarley@watserv1."
I quoted someone the other day as saying that there were four Bruces in the department of information systems and technology. Only three, I'm now told, as the alleged Bruce Cameron is really Brian Cameron.
Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
firstname.lastname@example.org | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/bulletin | Yesterday's Bulletin
Copyright © 1998 University of Waterloo