By Rob South
Facing a packed room of attentive listeners, University of Calgary President Dr. Terry White laid out his vision of the university’s future and highlighted its recent accomplishments. Dr. White’s Sept. 21 annual report to the community addressed a number of topics including student affordability and large class sizes.
"It was a pretty good speech; it addressed a lot of good aspects of the university and what we accomplished," said U of C Students’ Union President Toby White. "[Dr. White] also brought up a lot of challenges we are facing."
As well as class sizes and student affordability, Dr. White identified the recruitment and retention of faculty, increased infrastructure demands, a growing number of qualified applicants to the university and the replacement of aging equipment as big challenges facing the U of C.
"A number of these issues would be addressed by an increase in the university’s core operating budget," Dr. White told the crowd. "This is the key to being able to provide a top- quality university education."
Dr. White expressed optimism that the U of C will see the provincial government take some positive steps in regard to the university once its current post-secondary funding review is completed. He further added that the university is working with the private sector to increase the number and value of scholarships and bursaries at the U of C.
"Thanks to the generous support of corporate and individual donors, the university was able to provide more than $16 million on a variety of student support programs in 1999/2000," said Dr. White. "Our immediate goal is to raise a further $10 million endowment for undergraduate awards and the same amount for graduate students. We also want to increase awards for international students."
One member of the audience asked Dr. White why the university had not lowered tuition given the difficult financial situation students face; Dr. White responded by stating he feels the U of C’s responsibility is to provide a quality education and that tuition levels are essentially a public policy decision of the provincial government.
"I would have liked him to acknowledge that the university needs to send a message to the government that tuition has reached an unaffordable level," commented Mr. White after the event was over.
"While underfunding is the cause of high tuition, the university still sets its own tuition level," said Mr. White.
Other areas addressed in Dr. White’s speech included undergraduate curriculum redesign, the growth and excellence of research at the university and internationalization.
"It is a very good idea to see the community being made aware of all the accomplishments at the U of C," said Graduate Students’ Association President Viola Cassis.
Dr. White singled out Dr. Patrick Lee’s cancer research, Dr. Bill Glanzman’s excavation of the Mahram Bilqis in Yemen, and civil engineering graduate student Jennifer Rowell’s research on feedlot runoff as examples of research excellence at the U of C.
Cassis’s only complaint is that she would have liked to see an example of research excellence in the Arts or Humanities.
Hosted at the Hyatt Hotel, the event was well received by members of the business community present, but Mr. White questioned the diversity of the audience.
"It would have been nice to see more members of the outside community there," said Mr. White. "Most people there already have some affiliation with the university."
The event ended with an invitation from Dr. White.
"Please come and visit the campus," said White. "I say this because the U of C is your university–students, supporters, faculty, staff and alumni."