Opinions

An open letter to Harvey Weingarten

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Dear Dr. Weingarten,

On behalf of the students at the University of Calgary I welcome you to your position as our President and Vice-Chancellor. The University of Calgary is a growing institution, still not having hit its stride. A young university with plenty of potential and an abundance of good people working very hard to make the university run. The U of C is a medium sized research university with a burgeoning enrolment and ever increasing research funding. However, with all this growth comes problems. This open letter aims to give you a better handle on the student issues of today.

Tuition seems to always come up as one of the major issues affecting the students today. Tuition is a means of generating funds for the university by charging user fees. The inherent problem with tuition is the inevitable increases that don't seem to have any real link to everyday cost measures. The university uses static enrolment and denies the existence of extra money. Increase proposals seem to come out of thin air. Yet students understand that the costs of running a university aren't static, they may even increase by more than inflation. What students do want is a rationale for the continual perceived exploitation of our tuition, and a better, more public, accounting of where tuition money goes.

Enrolment management has also been on my mind lately. I am concerned that this change will lead to greater problems, such as the introduction of differential tuition. How did the university get by all these years with no management and now it is imperative that a suspect system must replace the status quo? Why must we have quotas on faculties?

And what about the increases in section sizes? Class sizes are getting bigger and it seems there is no end in sight. The current limits seem to be that we don't have any lecture theatres big enough to hold bigger classes. Is there a way for students to assist the university in lowering class sizes? We all have something to gain when each class is smaller and more intimate. This is also the root of the quality professor problem. With little or no personal contact students have only lectures to judge the professor's worth, and professors don't enjoy preaching to a class of people who could care less about the subject matter. We also can't pay our professors' competitive salaries, and with recent advances, or setbacks, in collective bargaining that trend will be on the rise.

Infrastructure and maintenance have never been solved; they are perennial problems. We don't have enough space to house all our new professors, in fact we have had to cannibalize classrooms in order to build offices and place shiny new trailers on campus to make up for our lack of classroom and office space. The current 125 per cent occupancy rate means we ran out of space for new students five or six years ago.

These are just a small sampling of the many student and university issues that are paramount today. The Students' Union is willing to work with the university on dealing with these issues but in order to do this an atmosphere of openness needs to be created.

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Comments

Kind Sir Harvey.

Sadly, it appears you forgot to address all of these concerns, bankrupted the University AND walked off with almost $5,000,000 in pension money AT THE SAME TIME AS a third of the University's staff were being laid off for budget concerns.

Nice work, selling off half the buildings on campus. That is a super-sustainable practice, considering when the building falls to pieces you can't re-sell it to another investor. I am proud of you for pocketing money while trashing campus green space for the new Taylor Family Digital Landfill and the new residence. I won't forget to mention your participation in letting three residence buildings fall into such disrepair that they will need to be demolished for a cost-effective solution to come about. You really have campus real-estate under wraps!

Furthermore, props to you for building a residence to stuff all the international students into. Sequestering foreigners into their own building with a couple of locals to help them "develop a global conscience" shows dedication to humanity. The importance of being able to communicate, rather than just pay double tuition and fail all your English-taught classes, has clearly been lost on you. I suppose I am somewhat resentful that the goals of this endeavor do not include the "Learn English" initiative, a venture which I strongly support.

In short, excellent work in destroying my University. I will forever respect you for making my degree appear worthless next the thousands of new graduates' from the U of C, which now offers even lower admission requirements and classes too large to properly teach students! I will never let the warmth fade from my heart from the time you made off like a bandit with all the money, leaving myself and my colleagues to die like dogs in the employment slaughterhouse you built.

You, sir, should be running NASA. They could use an economically-minded genius such as yourself in these trying times.

Sincerely,
The rest of the University.