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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.