Weingarten’s dangerous power play

A mark of any great leader with a plan is his or her ability to consolidate power into the hands of a very few. In Soviet Russia, this meant the great Kremlin in Moscow where the elite exercised god-like powers to affect the lives of every worker-citizen. After all, five year plans are not easy.

President Harvey Weingarten appears to be on a similar mission at the University of Calgary. In his first year-and-a-half in office, Weingarten has all but consolidated most of the university’s power into a few offices and action groups under his direct control. Gone are the inefficient internal checks and balances against irrational rule. The almost hand-picked cabal of potential yes-men replacing the former team of academic executives will now be in a position to approve whatever changes Weingarten feels best for both student bodies, and quickly at that.

Of course, with the university’s new Minister of Information, or “VP External Relations,” speculation is often all we can do for lack of reliable information. Much like a dancing bear in some tired traveling proletariat’s circus, asking the university an unpleasant question about the abrupt Soviet-style departure of the VP Finance and Services over the winter break garners an undesirable response for the spectators. Exposing any deficiency (real or imagined) garners talk about restructuring to increase monetary efficiency for both the circus and the proletariat.

While we cannot draw any connections between the former U of C VP Finance and Services’ ability to rationalize and report financial numbers accurately, and her resignation, it is grand to speculate. And what bureau of efficiency wouldn’t admire various recent promotions or reassignments? Those with influence but not formal power were removed from the Kremlin’s ground level offices in the Administration building to comfortable, though remote posts in the provinces. Others simply seek duties in other departments because of an overwhelming workload (again, real or imagined).

Those who admit to finding their true calling in “research” after only 20 years in their department are to be congratulated. However, for all its grand expectations and grand designs, the Soviet Empire imploded after years of nobody saying “no.” Perhaps Harvey Weingarten, the man of interesting times, will realize this before the rats leave the sinking ship.

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