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Monday, May 31, 1999

  • Downey's going back to the classroom
  • It ends with the board of governors
  • Staff association leaders change
  • You've got to keep active
  • Elderhostel, hotel, and more

[Downey standing]

Downey's going back to the classroom

Today is the last day in office for James Downey, president of the University of Waterloo since April 15, 1993. Tomorrow he begins a leave of absence, with a view to being back in the classroom as a professor of English in the fall of 2000. When he came here he was given a tenured appointment in the department of English, and that's where he will head once he finishes his year's leave, Downey said last week.

Teaching is a role Downey never quite abandoned, although administration has taken most of his energy since he was named dean of arts, then vice-president and then acting president at Carleton University in the 1970s. A term followed as president of the University of New Brunswick (1980-1990). And then, just as he thought he might return to academic life, Waterloo called him.

Now, after his presidency, "I want to reflect a little bit on what I've done and learned," he said. He'll do "a lot of reading and some writing . . . some of the writing will, I hope, be about universities, how they work, when they work." Downey said he would spend his leave of absence "primarily" at UW, based in an office that's been made available for him in Matthews Hall.

Also this year he'll be preparing three courses that he expects to teach starting in 2000-01. One will be in his original specialty, the English literature of the 18th century; one will be a new course for the English department's rhetoric program, dealing with "academic discourse . . . the way in which the academy uses language and communicates"; and one, for the drama and speech communication department, will be in public speaking and speech-writing.

"I think this time I may be on course do what I always thought I would do," says Downey, "and that is, get back to teaching and writing." But he warns that he was "pulled off course once before", when he ended his term as president of UNB and soon found himself advising government, then accepting the presidency of Waterloo.

It ends with the board of governors

James Downey's presidency at UW began with a meeting of the board of governors on November 4, 1992, which approved his appointment as the fourth president of the university. It winds up today with another board meeting, the "June" quarterly meeting, moved up by one day so that Downey will meet the university's senior governing body for a final time.

Board of governors meetings have been "on the whole, a very pleasant experience", says Downey, looking back over his six years as chief executive. The UW board has the right approach, he says: it takes seriously its responsibility to see that the university is well managed, and then it leaves the managers, headed by the president, alone to do their job.

His "remarks" to the board are, as always, part of the agenda for this afternoon's meeting, and doubtless he'll take the opportunity to make a few reflections on the experience of the past six years. A similar report and commentary at Downey's last meeting of the UW senate, on May 17, made a deep impression on his listeners (I'm hoping to reprint his words in the next issue of the Gazette.)

"It's been a time when I felt I had the support of the people in the institution," Downey said last week in summing things up. Every commentary on his six-year presidency stresses the degree to which everybody's agenda was hijacked by the 1993 "Social Contract" and the tough government spending cuts that followed. Latterly, Downey says, there has been "a bit of an upturn", with "renewal" starting to be visible in the university. "I feel very grateful that my term extended to see that."

The board of governors meeting today starts at 2:30 in Needles Hall room 3001. On the agenda, besides Downey's report, will be the 1999-2000 budget of the university, a proposal for a $24 million program of "renewal" to residence facilities, and many other matters.

Good words about Downey will continue this evening at a by-invitation reception and dinner in his honour, to be held at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery.

Staff association leaders change

The staff association will hold its annual general meeting at noontime today, and a no doubt relieved Charlene Schumm will turn over the title of president to her successor, Paul McKone.

The meeting begins with refreshments at 11:30, then business at 11:45, in Davis Centre room 1302. Members of the association were sent committee reports, yellow voting cards and other such material a few weeks ago, and should plan to bring it to the meeting.

"Our current executive committee will be there to answer any questions you may have," writes Schumm, whose year-long presidency got hectic towards the end with the recent referendum on a possible change to staff paydays. "I will also," she adds, "provide a short summary of this past year's activities of the UWSA and introduce next year's executive committee."

Membership of that committee is complete now, as votes have been counted in the only part of the election that wasn't an acclamation. The association's elections committee reports that Chris Henderson (purchasing) and Brad Vogt (central stores) have been elected directors.

Schumm is also promising "a special treat" at today's meeting -- some remarks by David Johnston, who takes office tomorrow as president of UW. "Johnston is looking forward to meeting with us," she writes, "and sharing his views on the role staff have to play at any successful university."

You've got to keep active

Fine summer weather makes being active easier, and UW campus recreation is offering even more incentives to get the campus moving through the Summer Active program sponsored by Participaction as part of a nationwide initiative.

Starting today and running through June 13, a challenge has been issued to everyone on campus to join in Summer Active for 30 minutes a day, four days a week for two weeks.

Anyone with a WatCard can sign up for the program today in Physical Activities Complex room 2039. Participants receive a log book to record their activities, which could range from walking or gardening to weight lifting, biking or rollerblading.

The goal is to get active and stay active, says Jane Varley, a campus rec coordinator, noting that "activity does not just mean going for a 10K run or something extreme."

At the end of the two weeks, completed logs can be turned in for ballots to win prizes through both campus rec and Participaction. For more information, check the Summer Active board outside the equipment centre in the Physical Activities Complex.

Elderhostel, hotel, and more

Some 23 people of a certain age are at Conrad Grebel College this week taking part in Elderhostel. Grebel is offering three courses: A second Elderhostel session is planned for August 8-14, with courses on "Celtic Spirituality", "Mennonites in Ontario: A Quilt of Many Pieces", and "Taoist T'ai Chi".

[Vienna view]
Maust with students in Austria
Meanwhile, another course based at Grebel is happening thousands of miles away. "The Music and Culture of Vienna 1999" is the title of a study tour being led by music professor Wilbur Maust. A first trip took place in late April and early May, and a second group, which left May 17, is due back tomorrow. Participants are staying in a four-star guest house in the heart of Vienna, sampling a series of concerts, operas and ballets, and touring the city's significant historical sites.

And in other news today. . . .

It's the last day of May and the absolute last day to register and pay fees for spring term courses. The fall term will, in fact, be here before we realize it. Employer interviews for fall co-op jobs begin today and run through June 23. And preregistration for the fall will be held Wednesday through Friday this week.

The city of Waterloo will hold a formal public meeting tonight to discuss a request for zoning changes in connection with "Phase I" of UW's north campus development. The Watpark Consortium, which is to be developing the currently empty land, proposes to start with about 100 acres (40 hectares) across Columbia Street from the south campus. "A discussion paper has been prepared," says a city notice, "which is intended to initiate discussion and provide staff, Council and the landowner/developer with input on a number of issues including land use; natural environment; future phases of North Campus lands; site planning and urban design; transportation; open space; servicing; and land lease arrangement. The Watpark Consortium is also requesting to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law in order to allow a hotel as a permitted use." The open meeting will be held in the council chambers at Waterloo city hall tonight at 7:00.

The Federation of Students holds a byelection today and tomorrow to fill two vacancies on students' council, one for co-op math and one for co-op arts. "Councillors are responsible for representing the interests of their fellow students to the Federation of Students," Avvey Peters of the Fed office points out. "Only co-op students from these constituencies are eligible to vote." They'll find the polling stations open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and tomorrow, on the third floor of the Math and Computer building and in the Arts Lecture Hall foyer.

The Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures lecture series continues tomorrow, with a 9 a.m. talk by Ute Lischke-McNab of the University of Toronto, on "Constructing the Female Self in Contemporary German Film". Location: Modern Languages room 119A.

Tomorrow brings the bookstore's Strawberry Social, which means not just berries (and coffee) but culture. The program includes the Golden Notes Flute Choir (10:30), a book-signing by Walter Martin and Warren Ober of Trees: A Browser's Anthology (11:30), the ribbon-cutting for the new Double U's coffee shop (11:45), strawberries at 12 with a chance to meet Sharon Johnston, wife of the new president, a book signing by me on behalf of Simon the Troll (1:00), and a poetry reading by Charlene Diehl-Jones of St. Jerome's (1:30).


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca | Friday's Bulletin
Copyright © 1999 University of Waterloo