Take it like a President, Harvey

By Dale Miller

Last month, the University of Calgary Faculty Association conducted a survey pointing out the poor performance of the university’s president, Dr. Harvey Weingarten. Despite obvious grievances from the faculty, he has failed to adequately address the issues raised by the survey.

The survey gives Weingarten an overall GPA of 1.54, with grades ranging from D- to C for his relationship to the teaching/learning environment and responding to the concerns of academic staff. The survey also states that if his renewal as president were to come under review now, only 28 per cent of respondents would support it.

Unfortunately though, both administration and the Board of Governors have criticized and dismissed the results, citing a low response rate and the inflammatory format of the Survey as disqualifying factors.

Granted, the 16 per cent response rate is not statistically representative of the university’s faculty and the survey uses sensationalist GPA grading. However, Dr. Weingarten’s silence belies the realities of faculty dissatisfaction.

University morale is at an all-time low. With staff cuts and budget reallocations hammering away at the base of this institution, it seems logical such direct concerns about Weingarten’s leadership should incite some sort of response or explanation from the university’s president himself.

Instead of responding directly to students and faculty and showing the strength of leadership required to face criticism head on, Weingarten was advised by his handler and Vice-President External Relations Roman Cooney to ignore the survey in fear of legitimizing it.

For the last few years U of C administration has been undertaking an external relations frenzy. The external department has bombarded media with breakthrough research announcements while down playing external and internal criticisms. The slick and expensive publications U and OnCampus trumpet U of C successes to alumni and the greater Calgary community in an attempt to hoodwink the public into believing the U of C isn’t as bad as its graduates and Maclean’s magazine suggest.

Why not re-focus the resources of this expensive PR campaign into actually addressing the complaints of staff and students as a means to improve the overall community’s view of the U of C?

Weingarten claims he’d like to improve the happiness and satisfaction of staff and faculty. We’d like to believe him, but it’ll take more than an overblown external campaign and a hand full of good intentions to do this.

Weingarten needs to communicate more effectively with both students and faculty to make this happen. To avoid yet another embarrassing Maclean’s ranking and ensure the contentment of campus stakeholders, Weingarten needs to be the visible leader this university longs for, instead of the quiet, back room administrator he is now.

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