Year of Struggle

Students gathered in Campus Centre

Biafra teach-in held in the Campus Centre great hall November 27.

I was glad not to be acting president of your university during 1969 -- not that anybody had offered me the job, you understand. They gave it to Howard Petch instead, who had come to Waterloo to be vice-president (academic) and ended up "president pro tem" when Gerry Hagey retired officially on January 31 of that year. Consider what the poor pro-temmer had to deal with over the next few months: a sit-in, a fire, tumult over the university's new form of government, a controversy about foreign professors, construction projects, booming enrolment, and student reaction to the less than salubrious news of the world. I hope he at least took a July evening off to watch Neil Armstrong take that first walk on the moon.

But let me tell you about it all, starting with the sit-in, which hit the Dana Porter Library in mid-March. You'll laugh, I think, when I tell you what the issue was: inadequate spending for the library in the university's budget. Do you suppose today's undergraduates could be mobilized for a cause like that? I doubt it; but in 1969 it must have gratified the new chief librarian, William Watson, as long as nobody up on the executive floors of Dana Porter thought he'd instigated the affair.

Of course nobody would suspect any administrator of having set the fire that hit the optometry clinic early on a Saturday morning in February. Optometry was based in the old Waterloo post office, as you'll remember, and about six o'clock in the morning, passers-by smelled smoke. Within half an hour the firefighters were joined at the scene by students, faculty, staff, trolls and other interested parties, many of whom made their way into the building and emerged, coughing markedly, with armloads of salvaged books and equipment. Al Adlington, the university's vice-president, showed up right on the heels of the central stores and security crew who were doing what they could to protect university property. He took one look around (so it was said afterwards), spotted an empty building across the street, and got on the phone to the president of the insurance company that owned it. By mid-morning, the clinic apparatus was being reassembled there. And on Monday, would you believe it, the optometry folks were doing eye examinations according to their appointment schedule, almost as if nothing had happened. It would be another four years before the Columbia Street building was ready for the optometry school, but from that point things had to go uphill; no other direction was possible.

As for the news of the world, that year it consisted mostly of the Vietnam war (Ho Chi Minh died in September, but Richard Nixon didn't) and the civil war in the Biafra region of Nigeria, which killed a million and a half people. The Campus Centre saw a "moratorium" on Vietnam on October 15, and six weeks later came a "teach-in" about Biafra. The latter was (in spite of Pierre Trudeau's famous "Where's Biafra?" quip) seen as more of a humanitarian issue than a political one, so even president-pro-tem Petch endorsed the teach-in, which I seem to remember included music as well as many, many earnest words.

Very little of the news, in 1969, touched on what we would now call environmentalism. For a long time I thought only the trolls at Waterloo cared about protecting the air, the land and the water. But there were some far-seeing human beings too, it turned out, for in February the university senate approved the creation of a "division of environmental studies", officially as of July 1. It would include the existing department of geography, school of architecture and school of urban and regional planning, as well as a new department that was to be called "man-environment studies". It took the Gazette a column and a half to explain, not very well, what "man-environment studies" might be, but there seemed to be no doubt that whatever it was, it was the essential approach to the social problems of the day after tomorrow. Later, as you presumably know, it would become today's "department of environment and resource studies", but in 1969 people didn't have to apologize for saying "man" when they meant the human race. They apparently didn't have to apologize for putting pinup-girl pictures on the front page of the Gazette either, by the way.

Ah yes, the Gazette. In mid--March - the same day the Radical Student Movement sit-in hit Porter Library, just by coincidence -- it was announced that in two weeks the newsletter-style Gazette was going to be reborn as a tabloid newspaper, with more space for news and pictures, and the ability to cover the campus in a timely, lively way. Bob Whitton and his colleagues in the information services department were still at work on their first newspaper-style issue, though, when something hit the campus called Admininews, a brilliant hoax by (do I have to tell you who it was?) the energetic fellows down at The Chevron. No Canadian university had a newspaper of that kind in those days, and the chevrics couldn't imagine that it would be anything but Pravda. Still, their preparody (if "prequel" is a word, why not "preparody"?) was so incisive that Whitton and company got more than one phone call from readers who thought they were looking at the real thing and wondered how information services dared to tell such administrative secrets. The real thing was something of an anticlimax when it came out on March 26, with the library study-in as the front page headline.

It had plenty of changes to report as 1969 continued. Besides man-environment studies, there were several other new academic ventures: the "integrated studies" program (you'd know it as independent studies), an undergraduate program in systems design engineering, a graduate program in management studies. There was the founding of a staff association (the faculty association had been in operation since 1958). There was the creation of Chem 13 News, published by the chemistry department -- as it still is -- to help high school science teachers and bind them ever closer to Waterloo. There was the spring convocation, held in the brand-new Physical Activities Complex, at which Ed Mirvish was given an honorary degree along with ex-president Hagey. The basketball Warriors finished their 1968-69 season in the PAC, and barely missed a spot in the playoffs. The national championships were held at Waterloo, though, drawing a crowd of 4,999 human beings and one troll for the final game. Dan Pugliese announced he was giving up coaching the cagers, to devote full time to heading the school of physical education and recreation.

The PAC wasn't the only new building that year, of course. Village II was ready, just barely, in time for the arrival of new students in September, and there was continued grumbling about how its "960 beds" (why do they measure capacity at a university residence in beds, not desks?) were all arranged in double rooms. Housing was tight all over, though, and as enrolment passed 10,000 for the first time that fall, a double room in the Village probably seemed better than looking for a vacancy here under the bridge. The other major construction project of the year was Arts III, later to be the Humanities building; on December 10 the first audience hit the Humanities Theatre, seeing a production of "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade". "Marat/Sade", to you. The Gazette, with the élan which has distinguished it ever since, published a front-page photo of the new theatre, absolutely empty.

As for other construction work: well, a Faculty Club (later the University Club) was in progress, work started on the Married Student Apartments over at University Avenue and Seagram Drive, and the top three floors were being added to Porter Library, while administrative offices tried to carry on their work on the seventh floor right below the hammers. Plans were announced for an "administration building" on the site of parking lot D, and not everybody was pleased by that idea. You know what came of that, of course -- the "Student Services Building", opened in 1972 and later renamed Needles Hall. I regret to tell you that another fine idea in the campus plans of 1969 never did come true. That was a proposal to put a three-storey annex to Porter Library underneath the hill by the Graduate House, linked to Porter by a walkway under the arts quadrangle. It would have been a lot closer than Malcolm Road in Guelph, anyway, and as a somewhat literate fellow who's fond of underground burrows, I sincerely wish they'd gone ahead with it. Ah well.

I mentioned a few minutes ago the controversy over foreign professors -- "foreign" being a euphemism for "American". Waterloo, like other Canadian universities, had expanded at a breathtaking rate in the previous five or ten years, and Canadian graduate schools apparently hadn't been equal to providing all the faculty members who were needed. Suddenly the cry went up: why are all these Americans (often perceived as draft-dodgers) teaching our kids? Leader of the hue and cry was Robin Mathews of Carleton University, who took many of his examples and statistics from a survey done at Waterloo. In September a statement came out from Petch's office, calling it "self-evident that in normal circumstances a Canadian university ought to be staffed and managed mainly by Canadians", but adding that "circumstances have not been normal for the past decade." Not more than 20 per cent of Waterloo professors were American, he said, and maybe another 20 per cent were from other countries. It was almost an anti-climax when Mathews's book, The Struggle for Canadian Universities, came out in December (full-length books sold for prices like $3.50 in those days, by the way) and didn't mention Waterloo once. The issue remained sensitive for more than a decade, though, as the percentage of Americans gradually dropped.

At the fall convocation ceremony, Gerry Hagey was given the honour of unveiling a plaque from the historical branch of the Ontario government, the one that now stands on the patio of South Campus Hall. Imagine, your university, at the age of 12, already a historic site! But the early, difficult days were receding in people's minds a little. It hardly even seemed astonishing when UW and Waterloo Lutheran University, half a mile away down University Avenue, set up a joint committee to talk about letting students register for courses at each other's universities. Some of the central figures in the bitter controversy of 1959 had left the scene, and others were willing to let bygones be bygones.

I've already mentioned that Hagey was gone from the scene, officially at least, though in fact he was around the place a good deal (as he continued to be for more than another decade). Naming of the Humanities building in his honour hadn't yet been announced, but there were other honours in the weeks following his retirement. At a farewell tribute in February -- the concept of a "roast" had, thank goodness, not yet been invented -- the university authorities and the faculty association announced that they would jointly sponsor a major annual event to be called the Hagey Lectures. Less rarefied, but surely just as enduring, was the creation of the Dr. Hagey Mixed Jitney Bonspiel, a curling event for faculty, staff and their friends.

Two other important figures retired from administrative duties that year. Ted Batke left his vice-presidency to return to the chemical engineering department, and Pete McBryde, the long-time dean of science, was succeeded by Bill Pearson, fresh from the National Research Council. Petch's promotion to be president-pro-tem led to a domino effect elsewhere: J. S. Minas was acting vice-president and Warren Ober became acting dean of arts. Don Scott was acting dean of engineering, Bill Forbes acting dean of math, Lynn Watt acting dean of graduate studies. There was a whole lot of acting going on, some of it not in the executive suite but in the Theatre of the Arts, where St. Aethelwold's Players from St. Jerome's College did a trick or two. (Performing arts? Lots of it at Waterloo in those days, quite apart from the big-name entertainment acts, which in 1969 included Tiny Tim in the winter and Iron Butterfly in the fall.)

And all through the year, the university was in search of a new president, a successor to Gerry Hagey. Howard Petch had made it clear that he didn't want the job -- he'd take a presidency later, at Victoria on the west coast, as you probably know -- and a search committee headed by Ira Needles looked for other candidates. In November and December, a short-list of three potential presidents was announced, and one by one they visited the campus to audition. I was sorry, but not surprised, to learn that there wasn't a troll in the lot of them.

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