End of the old regime

In the final weeks of his term as prime minister, Lester B. Pearson was persuaded to pose in a Warrior helmet.
In the final weeks of his term as prime minister, Lester B. Pearson was persuaded to pose in a Warrior helmet.

Pierre Trudeau was the man of the year in Canada, and younger men than he were wearing their hair long. It was hardly an auspicious year to open a Campus Centre with a barber shop in the basement, but that's what your university did. A bank in the basement too, and a pub without a liquor licence, and a "great hall" with overhead hanging lights like weird elongated dice: oh, it was quite an erection, that new two-million-dollar CC. With relief, student services moved in, abandoning the chilly old portable building down here by the creek, and there were naive happy statements about how the new building would provide a wonderful place for teachers to meet with students in a low-pressure environment.

To explain what happened next, I'd better give some background about the atmosphere of the times, as I understood it from watching the people of the university with my unwinking trollian eye, and reading more than a few newspapers, including the regular issues of the student paper, now renamed The Chevron instead of the Coryphaeus. For all the euphoria of Trudeaumania that summer, 1968 was not a completely happy year, as the shadow of destruction continued to hang over the world. When the old "Annex I" portable was ripped down, after twelve years of service to the twelve-year-old university, the last graffito sprayed on its walls read "Better Red Than Dead". Some people certainly thought that way in Cold War days. And there was a hot war too; Canada was not exempt from indignation, if not terror, over the fighting in Vietnam. The "police riot" in Chicago in the summer of 1968, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, did not go unnoticed at Waterloo.

The events of Chicago were an extreme, but student demonstrations were starting to happen everywhere. Your university got its share of them in the course of that year, I can tell you - marches and picketings over such issues as parking, and a September "tent-in" to protest a shortage of housing around the university, which was growing much faster than the capacity of poor little Waterloo, Ontario, to make room for it. In February Howard Petch, who was acting president during another of Gerry Hagey's leaves of absence, found it necessary to issue a memo warning that while protests were all very well, they absolutely would not be allowed to interfere with co-op interviews. First things first at Waterloo!

The biggest demonstration of the year, I have to tell you, was over the management of that Campus Centre, which had been opened with such pride in the first week of April, the same week when Trudeau took over from Lester Pearson as prime minister of Canada. It was going to be "the hearthstone of the campus", said Paul Gerster, who combined the position of assistant to the provost (that being, you'll recall, the official in charge of student affairs) with the new title of CC manager. I won't venture to comment on his management style except to say that not everybody liked it; and of course with people like Brian Iler, the president of the Federation of Students, talking about hierarchical management as "an immoral system", it was only a matter of time before something was going to happen. One night just before Thanksgiving it did happen. I was present (trolls have a way of being present at historic moments) but I deny having so much as touched any of the furniture, and I won't tell you who did touch it. Suffice it to say that when Paul Gerster showed up for work the next morning, he found every stick and scrap moved out of his office, which was now in possession of a new regime, and his belongings neatly reassembled in the middle of that pink-and-grey great hall.

Panic ensued, followed by negotiations over a "demand" from the Federation that it should take over management of the CC. "Administration Yields", said a Federation-sponsored flyer that happened to blow across the new ring road in the direction of my home under the bridge. Not true, countered president Gerry Hagey. "A reply to the Federation of Students contradicting their claim is being prepared," he wrote in a memo. However, pretty soon an "interim" agreement was reached, a form of joint management. It acknowledged the university's ownership of the building (presumably including those chandeliers) and the Federation's status as representative of most of the people it had been built for. In fact, students had even contributed something to the construction project, a generous $30,000 out of the $2 million budget if I remember correctly. As part of the deal, Paul Gerster gave up trying to manage the building and went back to the provost's office. By the end of the year the provost himself -- rumpled, motorbike-riding Bill Scott -- would be gone too, back to the sociology department. Trying to administer student services centrally in the late 1960s was a thankless task.

A week and a half after the CC takeover, the UW senate voted to make its meetings open to the public for the first time. There were still no students members of the senate, or the board of governors either, but change was clearly coming. The "committee on the study of university government" issued its report that month, made a few slighting remarks about the trendy phrase "student power", but said student (and faculty) members should be added to both governing bodies. Four years later, it would actually happen.

Not everything at Waterloo that year was politics. The most important academic development of the year, as I recall things, was the creation on January 1 of a "department of kinesiology" from the old "department of physical and health education", and creation of a sibling for it, the "department of recreation". The old jock operation, in which you could take dribbling for credit, was giving way to the academic study of leisure, body movement and other such subjects. In the course of 1968 the overlapping of the "school" with the athletics department -- Dan Pugliese had been director of them both for a while -- was sorted out, sports skills courses were all made non-credit, and kinesiology labs were built. Of course many of the faculty members were still sports people. Take, for example, Norm Ashton, a one-time water polo coach as well as an experienced administrator, who had come to Waterloo in 1965 already famous as the creator of the air force exercise programs, dubbed XBX and 5BX. It was very much through his nudging that the old one-year phys ed program, intended for schoolteachers, was ended; a first class of students was admitted to a whole new program, to last four years like most other undergraduate programs.

Other academic changes? Well, the teaching option in mathematics started that fall too. A plan was cooking for the creation of an "integrated studies" program in which students could work out their own course of study, drawing on many different academic fields. The chemical engineering department began teaching graduate courses off campus, near the concentration of refineries and laboratories in Sarnia. At the end of the year, a proposal came forward for the creation of what was at first going to be called a "college of environmental studies", built around the geography department and the architecture school, which was being administered all on its own after failing to fit comfortably into the faculty of engineering.

Oh, and the department of physics bought a tape duplicating machine. For several years physics had been teaching Saturday and evening courses for the benefit of teachers who wanted to improve their qualifications (19-year-olds could, and did, face public school classes in those days, with just one year of "teachers' college" after grade 13). They were driving for hours, sometimes through Ontario snow, and Jim Leslie, quickly joined by Ted Dixon, thought there had to be a better way: put the lectures on tape and send them by mail. How ironic it is that six-day-a-week mail delivery in Canada was about to be abandoned; on the other hand, it must have been a relief not too long after that when reel-to-reel tape was replaced by the cassettes with which we're still familiar. I've taken a couple of correspondence courses myself, as a matter of fact, although as a troll I deny any need to know the slightest thing about "Biophysics of Organ Systems". Any way, in 1968 UW's senate approved the offering of four physics courses by "correspondence", little imagining that a day would come when one of the university's departments did more than half of all its teaching through what would later be called "distance education".

New people were coming to campus constantly. Gary Waller of psychology made his appearance in 1968, and John Baker of "applied analysis and computer science", as the department was then called, and Harry Sullivan of mechanical engineering. Bill Dick arrived as director of counselling services, and Wally Delahey as the football coach. (The Warriors played their first season in the Ontario-Quebec Athletic Association; they didn't do too well, frankly, but they did beat Western 30-6 in the Homecoming game, and I suppose that makes up for the rest.) Also new at Waterloo was the Ridgid Tool, donated to the Engineering Society by the Ridge Tool Company and adopted as the somewhat intimidating "mascot" for generations of engineers.

The building program didn't slow down, much. Mathematics and Computer, under construction for so long, was finally ready for its official opening in May. The guest of honour for that was John Robarts, premier of Ontario - Waterloo didn't let him get away until he was seized, put into black robes and forced to accept an honorary Doctorate of Laws. The "food services and bookstore" building, later South Campus Hall, also opened, as did Health Services and the Minota Hagey Residence. As the year ended, work was under way on Arts III (the Humanities building) and on Village II. That second residence complex was the occasion for another round of protests and indignation, by the way. It happened after a fearless SWAT team from The Chevron, led by Bob Verdun, just happened to be exploring the first floor of the Dana Porter Library (most of the administrative offices were still there, remember) and just happened to find an architect's model of the new Village that was awaiting approval by the board of governors. It didn't exactly meet with student approval, although in the end, it seems to be me, it was built pretty much as proposed - and derisively dubbed "Habitat '69". That was only one of the Chevron's achievements that year; in July Hagey announced that he wasn't speaking to its reporters any more, after a sensational front-page story about an administrator whom the president was, according to the newspaper at any rate, "reluctant" to fire.

But I was talking about construction projects. The other big one was the Physical Activities Complex, which would have opened a lot sooner if it hadn't been for a freak rainstorm in early August. The walls weren't finished, the water came pouring in, the almost-complete hardwood floor of the gymnasium was completely wrecked and had to be taken out in its entirety; the project was delayed for weeks. No, I positively deny that I, or any of my relatives, had anything to do with the disaster. I had pretty much learned, by that time, to stick to the more bucolic areas of the campus, down by Laurel Creek, looking over at parking lot D, surrounded by that picturesque split- rail fence, where Needles Hall now stands. They even removed an eyesore for me that year by building a gazebo, or pergola, or whatever you'd like to call it, around the Dearborn pumping station here at creekside.

What else happened at Waterloo in 1968? Well, the observatory opened on top of the Physics building. Parking rates at most of the lots were raised from $2 a month to an almost unimaginable $3. With the help of a $120,000 government grant, the university acquired a computer program for course schedules that had been developed at Purdue, tweaked it for use here and unveiled it as WASS, the Waterloo Automated Scheduling System. The "museum of natural sciences" opened in the Biology building. Early in the year, $784,000 had been raised for the Tenth Anniversary Fund, three-quarters of it within Kitchener-Waterloo. Gifts kept pouring in, from corporate friends and even from the sometimes restless students, who collectively pledged half a million; by year's end the $5.5 million goal was in sight.

And on November 14, history was made at a meeting of the board of governors, still at the old board room in Engineering II. Gerry Hagey, tired from his battle against cancer, had realized that although he could now speak with an artificial voice, he could not be understood well enough to continue doing the work of a university president. He couldn't even make his farewell statement to the board with his own breath, and board secretary Jack Brown read it for him: "I am prepared to carry on as long as it is necessary to find a suitable candidate to become the next President." Your university was well enough established now, that it was going to be able to outlive its founder.

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