Improving the University of Waterloo: A Modest Proposal

It is simply beyond dispute that the University of Waterloo is an excellent place to work and study. After all, year after year, Maclean's tells us it is so. Only a fool, it seems, would believe that beneficial changes could be made. Nevertheless, I would like to offer the following eight modest suggestions for improving the University.

  1. Increase class sizes. Although there have been some admirable attempts in this direction, they have not gone far enough. Doubling the size of each class would evidently save money by decreasing the number of instructors required, but there are other less evident savings that are not widely appreciated. For example, by scheduling a winter term class of 200 into a room meant for 30, the university could eliminate the need for heating the room. Furthermore, having shivering students huddle together for warmth would increase group cohesion and team spirit.

  2. Hire only Canadian instructors. Although some believe that the goal of university hiring should be to employ the world's best researchers and teachers, this is clearly erroneous. The true purpose of university hiring is to give jobs to Canadians, particularly Ontarians. Therefore, we should immediately institute a freeze on hiring of non-Canadians. To be sure that new hires really understand the way things work at Waterloo, at least 75% of all new hires should be Waterloo graduates.

  3. Decrease the disparity in faculty salaries. Having successful faculty earn more than their peers increases the competitive atmosphere and discourages collaboration. Therefore, we should immediately change the salary structure so that every professor earns less than the average salary. In light of the well-known difficulty of finding good administrative staff, the savings could be used to increase the salaries of the President and Provost.

  4. Change the name of the University. Students are not attracted by superficial attributes such as small classes or good instructors. What they really want is a University that appeals to the senses. The University's new logo is clearly an important change, and worth every penny we paid for it, but it does not go far enough. We need something to attract a prospective student's attention right away. Therefore, I suggest we change the UW's name to "Princess Diana University". In recognition of this beloved royal, we could alter the university's new logo by adding the depiction of a car crash.

  5. Give the Ethics Committee increased powers. As the University's moral guardian, the Ethics Committee is widely admired for the speed, fairness, and wisdom of its decisions. But it has been hampered by its essentially reactive nature -- it can only take action when a complaint is made. To be more pro-active, I recommend posting observers to all classes, trained to detect inappropriate speech on the part of professors. Upon observation of an offense, the Ethics Committee could be notified to meet in the hall outside the classroom, and immediately vote on the appropriate penalty. To increase speed, observers could be equipped with cellular phones.

  6. Proclaim the decisions of senior administrators to be infallible. Although some already believe this is the case, an explicit declaration would make it clearer. The University of Waterloo has gained a well-deserved reputation for for the willingness of its administrators to admit mistakes. In fact, far too much time has been spent on these many public mea culpas. To allow these administrators to perform their other duties -- whatever they may be -- with more alacrity, we should simply declare all their decisions to be infallible. This would eliminate the need for the Grievance Committee and embarrassing adjudication hearings, resulting in great savings. We could start with the President and Provost, and, if the idea works well, eventually work our way down to Deans and department chairs.

  7. Increase the powers of the Provost. As chief academic and financial officer, Jim Kalbfleisch has won wide respect for his firm hand, particularly with regard to making sure our libraries and computers are free of subversive and suggestive materials. But he has been handicapped by severe restrictions imposed by University policy. We should change policy to give him wide latitude in deciding what books the library should acquire, what web sites our computers may access, and -- most important of all -- to give him the ability to dock the salary of any professor whose behaviour is unacceptable. We can be sure, based on his performance to date, that he would not abuse these new powers, particularly if suggestion 6 is implemented.

  8. Reappoint James Downey to a second term as President. During his first term, President Downey has been widely admired for the intelligence, fairness, and sensitivity of his decisions -- particularly the ones that weren't later overruled by independent adjudicators. Despite minor flaws (his speaking style could use improvement), he has demonstrated great vision for the future of Waterloo, and a firm hand in dealing with insubordination. Clearly, this is a man we need to take us into the 21st century.