All Posts Tagged With: "university presidents"
Why Meric Gertler and Suzanne Fortier matter
Between them, the University of Toronto and McGill University have 100,000 students, $596 million in total accumulated funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, one Charles Taylor and a perhaps disproportionate amount of the spotlight on higher education in Canada’s two largest provinces. They also have two new presidents: Meric Gertler at UofT and Suzanne Fortier at McGill. Together the two changes are probably more significant than most federal cabinet shuffles.
(This blog post will be lousy with Laurentian Consensus nostalgia; sorry. Perhaps only for today though, the less said about the University of Calgary, the better.)
In hiring close to home, both universities can be taken to be demonstrating either quiet confidence in the maturity of Canadian academe, or a chastened realization that in a time of limited resources, even the biggest schools are wise to stick to their knitting. Both schools instituted global searches and wound up bypassing candidates from afar in favour of local produce. Gertler was Toronto’s dean of Arts and Science. Fortier is president of the National Science and Engineering Research Council — indeed her start as principal of McGill will be delayed so she can cool off from that job for six months before taking a position with a major NSERC grant recipient — but her BSc and PhD were from McGill.
Saskatchewan cuts millions while former execs get paid
There’s a bit of panic these days at the University of Saskatchewan. Secretaries who gave decades to the school are now boxing up their desks and students are worried about the quality of their programs as the university chops its way out of a budget deficit projected at $44.5-million by 2016.
In November five administrative staff from humanities and fine arts were fired. Then the university announced the closure of a remote campus,* leaving students in certain disciplines unsure whether they would graduate on schedule. Last week, 40 more job cuts were promised.
Adding insult to injury is that a couple of guys who helped run the university right before this crisis are receiving a combined $1.3-million from the budget after leaving, reports the StarPhoenix. And that doesn’t include pension contributions.
On Berkeley, and why elite schools should charge more
Robert Birgeneau, a physicist and former University of Toronto president, has led the University of California at Berkeley as chancellor since 2004. Last week he announced he’s stepping down at the end of the year. Birgeneau, who turned 70 this month, delayed retirement because of the budget crisis—what he calls “the most extreme disinvestment by the state in UC’s history,” brought on by cuts and economic troubles in California. He implemented tough cost-cutting measures, found new sources of money, and dealt with an uptick in activism.
Q: Undergrad fees at the UC system increased 32 per cent two years ago, pushing costs up three times what they were a decade earlier. Last year, tuition rose another eight per cent, then another 9.6 per cent. Meanwhile, reduced services meant wastebaskets around Berkeley overflowed with trash. It sounds like a rotten time to be chancellor. Why didn’t you just retire?
Guess who makes $256 per student
In September, Nova Scotia’s universities will be required for the first time ever to publish the salaries of all employees who earned $100,000+.
It turns out that will include all 12 of the province’s university presidents, reports CBC News. Combined, the presidents were paid nearly $2.6-million in base salaries to run 11 institutions (NSAC has two presidents).
The schools serve only about 35,000 students total, roughly the same number as the University of Alberta and 20,000 fewer than York University.
Tom Traves of Dalhousie is by far the highest paid at $393,000. That’s unsurprising considering that his institution has more than double the population of the next biggest Nova Scotia university with more than 15,000 full-time students.
How the traditional university is under attack from all sides
The epic battle waged between Gábor Lukács and the University of Manitoba, which ended last week, has shone an unflattering light onto the state of academic integrity at our universities.
Listening to most recent observers, one would think that our universities need to be completely “reinvented” because professors spend too much time either not teaching at all or at least not teaching practical job skills.
But the Lukács case shows what’s really wrong.
As universities become increasingly defined by their administrations—as opposed to their faculty—the traditional values of higher education come under assault from all sides: from management, from the public, and even from the associations that represent professors themselves.
It’s not the first time a president has praised a politician
A University of Saskatchewan professor says President Peter MacKinnon’s endorsement of a Saskatchewan Party minister is unprecedented and constitutes an “abuse of power.”
MacKinnon is quoted in a brochure saying: “Rob Norris is the finest minister responsible for post-secondary education that I have been privileged to work with in my (13) years as (president).”
Len Findlay, Director of the Humanities Research Unit at the university, said presidents are required to stay neutral. “It’s a publicly funded institution and it’s a provincial responsibility,” Findlay told the StarPhoeix. “Provincial governments change and the interests of the institution and the public interest is best served by the university not being seen to align itself with one party…”
MacKinnon said there’s nothing wrong with the comment. He said that it’s important to be careful during election campaigns, but the comment was made in a speech before the writ was dropped.
But are such endorsements, even during elections, really unprecedented as Findlay suggests?
Here are some recent examples of how university and college presidents have praised political parties. You be the judge.
In March, University of Guelph President Alastair Summerlee endorsed federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s “Learning Passport,” calling it “absolutely amazing” and “a very, very positive contribution,” reported the Guelph Mercury.
In September, York University President Mamdouh Shoukri said in response to the Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal platform that: ”the goals of having the highest postsecondary attainment rate and most educated workforce in the world are the right ones.”
That same week, Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University, said that the Ontario Liberal’s platform included “the most progressive change in tuition policy I have seen in 40 years.”
And while their words came after the election in October, both University of Manitoba President David Barnard and Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth offered their gratitude to the NDP for promises of new funding that came in Manitoba’s Throne Speech, according to CKNW.
MacKinnon’s comments may be controversial, but such endorsements aren’t unprecedented.
On Campus shows you where to look
Want to know how much the people running your university make? Is it $100,000? Would $300,000 shock you?
Finding out administrators’ salaries is easy if you go to a school in Ontario, British Columbia or Alberta, thanks to forward-thinking laws. But if you live in New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island, it’s next to impossible. Here’s a province-by-province breakdown of salary disclosure requirements.
Quebec: The information is public, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find. Salaries and other compensation paid to senior university administrators must be included in the annual reports that all universities submit to the National Assembly’s Culture and Education committee. Those documents can be found online here. It would be easier if the universities would post them.
Alexa McDonough, new president at Mount Saint Vincent, is latest non-academic to head an academic institution
Mount Saint Vincent university in Halifax has named Alexa McDonough, the former leader of the federal New Democratic Party, as its interim president. McDonough is the latest in a growing list of university presidents who do not have a Ph.D. and are not academics. McDonough earned a B.A. and a Master’s of Social Work at Dalhousie.
What does the trend mean for universities? For students? As I wrote earlier this year, there are compelling reasons for at least some universities to want a person with non-academic experience at the top of the academic pyramid:
The position of university president—which used to be given to a distinguished professor—is now often going to someone who has made a career as a manager, not a researcher. Most other sectors of the economy long ago moved to this model: to become CEO of an airline, you don’t have to spend 20 years piloting 747s; to run a telecom company, you don’t have to spend a lifetime becoming your company’s most experienced telephone line installer; to run a TV network, you don’t have be a professional camera operator or have hosted your own TV show. What’s more, a university president is not only the manager of a large organization, he or she is managing an organization more decentralized than almost any other. Employees (professors) have an extremely high degree of autonomy (not to mention tenure), as do the various departments and schools within the university. The job requires managerial talents that are often more akin to politics than traditional, private-sector management. And a large and growing part of the president’s job is fund-raising: another unusual skill that combines elements of politics, salesmanship, vision and innate charm. None of these attributes is likely to be developed by spending most of one’s life conducting experiments and writing papers.
Re-read those last few sentences: being a university president is partly about being a politician. (That’s not a put-down. Honestly.) You have to be diplomatic, charming and very, very patient. So it’s no surprise that many of these new non-professorial presidents are ex-politicians or at least closely connected to the worlds of politics and government.
The list of other university heads who are not academics include the University of Winnipeg’s Lloyd Axworthy (has a Ph.D. but spent most of his working life in politics); Acadia University’s Ray Ivany (has an M.Sc., is a career academic and public sector administrator); Sean Riley of St. Francis Xavier (has a Ph.D. but worked mostly in government and the private sector); Michael Goldbloom of Bishop’s (lawyer, former head of English-rights lobby group Alliance Quebec, corporate executive, university administrator) and Allan Rock at the University of Ottawa (lawyer and politician).