By Eric Fung
How is the U of C doing these days? President Harvey Weingarten presented his own thoughts on the subject in his one-year report.
The report discusses issues Weingarten encountered in his first year in office, focusing on the University of Calgary’s new academic plan, student enrolment and the budget. Its purpose, he said, is to communicate with the various groups of the university and community.
“I believe that it’s important to report regularly to the community,” explained Weingarten. “This is to give a sense of the thinking and the issues faced by the university.”
Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh was pleased that the report tries to keep the university informed–in particular about budgetary problems which are often hidden from the public.
“This says nothing new,” explained Stambaugh. “That said, it does write about the university’s deficit, but it’s just a synopsis.”
A key topic of the report is accessibility. Recent growth in and around Calgary has pressured the U of C to accommodate increased demand for post-secondary education.
“The University of Calgary has been remarkably responsible in satisfying the increased demands,” said Weingarten. “The other thing asked for is quality. If we let enrolment increase and increase, our quality will no longer be acceptable.”
Weingarten believes that accessibility woes will require a system-wide solution, engaging government, business, and post-secondary institutions to increase capacity.
Stambaugh was also concerned with education quality, questioning Weingarten’s statement that the U of C offers a “research-based undergraduate experience.”
“The ‘research-based’ undergraduate education is not happening,” said Stambaugh. “Research is very much the domain of graduate students. I’m more in favour of a term like ‘learner-based.’ We need a broad, open education, to learn how to learn.”
Weingarten defended this term, however, claiming that the undergraduate experience incorporates many key elements of research.
“What is the essence of research? It is asking important questions, handling information, critically appraising information, and assembling this information into solutions,” he said. “That’s what an undergraduate education is about. It is to develop and foster the ability to think.”
Resource allocation and budget planning was also explored in the report. These financial decisions will be made according to Raising Our Sights, the U of C’s academic plan, which highlights four key areas of development. Stambaugh is concerned, however, that these areas are too broad to provide any real direction for the budget committee.
“It is too early to tell if the plan is a success,” he explained. “It’s very big picture and we really haven’t seen any decisions made yet. I’m afraid that the plan will be used to fulfill short-term needs, something the university can’t afford to do.”
Weingarten explained this breadth as the intent of the plan.
“A set of principles alone doesn’t give exact directions,” he said. “We are realizing not only strategic areas, but intentions of the academic plan. When faced with choices, the plan should point us where to go.”
Weingarten was happy with the progress made last year, but looks forward to further future growth.
“The best part of this year is that we now have a clear statement of where we are going,” said Weingarten. “We have taken action to go where we want to be. The most negative part is that there’s a sense of frustration that we can’t do more. We’re committed to worrying about quality, worrying about qualified students not getting a spot, worrying about class sizes.”
Weingarten’s one-year report can be found at www.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/oneyear.