Volume 29, No. 7 Editor: Bob Rupert May 1999.

Toronto Star

May 25, 1999

Wrong time to skimp on universities

Ontario is the second-richest province in the country, in terms of income

per person. But in terms of public funding for our universities, per

person, we rank 10th out of 10.

Our young people pay the price. We jam too many students into each lecture

hall. We expect them to work in aging laboratories with outdated equipment.

We deprive them of the seminars and discussions with professors that

stimulate innovative thinking.

Despite all this corner-cutting, our universities charge some of the

highest tuition fees in the country.

This is just not embarrassing. It is extremely short-sighted.

A strong post-secondary system is the best investment a province can make

in its economic future. Without a highly educated workforce, Ontario's

standard of living will soon begin to slip.

Unfortunately, colleges and universities don't get much attention at

election time. Some voters still consider higher learning a frill. Others

are unaware how underfunded our post-secondary institutions are.

Consider a few telling facts.

The average university building in Ontario is 28 years old and badly run-down.

Ontario's student/faculty ratio is the highest in Canada; 21 per cent above

the average of the other nine provinces.

The average debt load for an Ontario graduate of a four-year university

program is $20,000.

The number of full-time faculty and staff employed by Ontario's

universities has declined by 4,500 since 1990-91.

It would be wrong to single out Premier Mike Harris for all the blame.

Ontario's last three governments - one Liberal, one New Democratic and one

Tory - have cut support to the post-secondary sector. Without a

substantial increase in funds - the Council of Ontario Universities is

calling for an additional $1 billion a year - universities will have to

start turning away students, neglecting maintenance and saying good-bye to

their best professors. A billion dollars sounds like a lot. But it

amounts to $88 per citizen. For any parent, employer, or citizen with a

stake in Ontario's future, that is a bargain.

The Conservatives, after cutting university funding by $400 million in

their first two years in office, took a small step in the right direction

in their recent budget. They put $23 million in annual operating funds

back in. They also earmarked $742 million in capital funding for the

construction of new classrooms and facilities to accommodate the surge in

enrolment expected in 2002 and beyond. The only new commitment in their

election platform is to provide tuition scholarships to the top 10,000

high school graduates in the province.

The Liberals and New Democrats have both pledged to bring operating grants

to the province's 17 universities up to the national average. That would

amount to an additional $580 million, or $51 per citizen. But neither party

has made any commitment to expand the post-secondary sector to cope with the

40 per cent increase in enrolment expected over the next decade.

It is understandable that schools and health care are voters' top

concerns, after four years of painful retrenchment. Crowded emergency

wards and classroom cutbacks are more visible than deteriorating

universities. But a province that doesn't plan for its future discovers,

too late, that it has short-changed its next generation.

Toronto Star ...Wednesday May 19

Dalton Camp

Ontario's folly of education conformity

Ontario is large enough to be a country. To a considerable extent, it is.

It is beginning to look like Texas, with its own quirky politics and

overblown politicians, and a political culture fashioned out of a powerful

plutocracy and a growing underclass.

To the size of states,'' Aristotle warned,there is a limit.'' As

with anything else in life, including dinosaurs, they will not retain

``their power or facility when they are too large.''

In support of the great philosopher's tenet, consider Prince Edward

Island, Canada's smallest province with the highest percentage of federal

subsidy, the fewest smoke stacks, and least population. The Island has the

lowest percentage of its population living in poverty and the lowest

percentage of children living in poverty, leading the nation. The

government of P.E.I. spends more per capita on the arts than any province

in Canada, according to a Statistics Canada survey. This is surely worrisome.

By Ontario standards, the Island has the wrong priorities. On the Island,

however, Mike Harris, Ontario's Tory leader, would be lucky to win a

nomination, much less become the province's premier. Any politician who

cut Island taxes at the cost of education and health programs would end up

in Toronto, looking for work.

Halfway through a provincial election, the Ontario voters are considering

their given options reduced taxes and improved health and education

programs, or reduced taxes without improvements. In Texas, that's a

no-brainer. Take the money, everything else is bookkeeping.

The case for making education a priority, rather than tax cuts, is

compelling, as the people, if not Harris or the corporate media, clearly

believe.

The other day, at a national academic conference, an Ontario teacher

brought down the house with her biting and incisive analysis of the state

of education in Canada's richest province. One of her exhibits was the new

Ontario provincial report card, a one-page, one-size-suits-all model of

economy and incomprehension that is simply stunning to anyone with some

proximate understanding of the problems and challenges in educating

today's children. But it has been designed - by God knows who, perhaps a

speech-writer during coffee break - entirely for the computer.

It is an update of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, now starring a luckless

teacher, one of many, who may not have a computer or be trained to use

one. But even of the teacher-nerd, the Ontario report card demands

compliance with a standardized language and pre-selected ``choices'' so

that the teacher can no longer particularize, individualize, or cogently

report on the student's progress, or lack of it, lest the computer go into

shock, or the Minister of Education be reduced to tears. In this folly of

conformity - so revealing of the government's mind - students, teachers,

and parents are the certain losers.

Having programmed the teachers to report only what the government wants

reported, the role of the teacher has been further changed. This is

clearly not about the child, but about the need for government control and

management over the teacher, and - given the decision to submit teachers

to ``examinations'' - also about intimidation. Given a choice, I'd rather

educate my kids in Prince Edward Island.

The irony is apparent. The people who hollered from the ramparts that we

were endangering our children's future by loading them with our debt are

now hollering for tax cuts at the expense of the same children's education

which bears so directly upon that future. Even the hollerers know - or

ought to - that almost 60 per cent of single people now living in poverty

had only elementary education; they know children learn best, and are more

likely to proceed to college, if they are educated in smaller classes of

seven to 13 students. The children were simply used in all that worry and

angst over the deficit; in today's Ontario election campaign, it doesn't

seem the worriers really give a damn about their former clients.

The following is a list of all-candidates debates in Ottawa Centre

Wednesday, May 26, 8 pm, Carleton U, St. Pat's Building

Thursday, May 27, 1 pm, All Saints Anglican Ch., 347 Richmond

Friday, May 29, 10 am, 411 Dover Ct.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AT RISK

CAUT has written to The Hon. John Manley protesting the recommendations of

a federal panel that faculty be denied rights to all intellectual property

created in research fully funded by the federal government. Prepared by

the Expert Panel on the Commercialization of University Research, the

draft report also says that commercialization should rank with teaching,

research and community service as one of the four primary missions of

universities. Nine people make up the Expert Panel; six from private

sector firms including Nortel Networks, Innovitech Inc., and the Bank of

Canada.

CAUT has made representations on behalf of academic staff. The Panel

presented their final report to the Prime Minister's Advisory Council on

Science and Technology on May 3 and will table the report with Cabinet on

May 27. Copies of the Draft Report "Public Investments in University

Research: Reaping the Benefits" are available from CAUT by contacting

Johanne Smith by email (smith@caut.ca), phone (820-2270) or fax

(820-7244). The current CAUT Bulletin carries a full report on this

important issue.

HOUSING NOTICES

ACCOMMODATION TO SHARE: Available June 1, 1999, I am looking for two

non-smoking visiting professors/graduates to share a three-story townhouse

with my son, a graduate student of History of Art and Film

Studies, Carleton U. (He will be back from abroad in August.) Located in

Ottawa South within walking distance to Carleton. It has hardwood floors,

1 1/2 bathrooms, 5 appliances, cedar deck and charming back yard. The

garage is also available. Cost $ 550.00 plus 1/3 utilities (per person)

or, it could alternatively be available for one person only to share the

house with my son for $1100.00 plus 1/2 utilities. Please call (613) 235

5658 (eve) or work; Hull (819) 776 8434.