Structure and sculpture

Student wearing hot pants under convocaton gown

Hot pants, showing lots of leg, were the fashion for women in that hot spring. Judith Zakrewski, a member of the first graduating class in kinesiology, was among those who wore them to convocation.

I fear that I haven't given you a full understanding of just how political your university was at the end of the sixties and into the early seventies. People were cranky and naive at the same time, you might say, if you accept (as trolls certainly do) that only naive individuals believe they can change the world. Some students even came out to the arts quadrangle one day in the fall of 1971 to protest United States nuclear testing on Amchitka Island, a distant spot in the Alaskan archipelago; what do you call that if not naive?

You can't even call it sophisticated as political theatre -- not like the incident of November 13, 1968, which I realize I didn't mention when I was telling you about Waterloo life in that golden year. The issue then was the Vietnam war, and the worst outrage of all was napalm, a sort of jellied gasoline, used to burn vegetation and anything else it came into contact with, including human beings. In a brilliant piece of guerrilla protest, an antiwar group at Waterloo announced that on the appointed day, at noon sharp, it would demonstrate the horror of napalm by burning a dog in the arts quad. Well, you can imagine the reaction. The quadrangle was crowded with people -- some of them intending to rescue the dog, many of them just wanting to watch the confrontation, and perhaps a few concentrating on the actual issue, the savage weapons being deployed in southeast Asia. On schedule, out came the protesters, bringing their dog to the fire; and perhaps you can guess what kind of dog it was. The hot variety, Schneider's finest.

Excitement, always excitement. The Chevron came out twice a week in those days, full of political consciousness- raising about Ché Guevara, the crazy Asian war, and the picket line at Dare Cookies in Kitchener. At one point in 1971 Jim Tomecko, the director of the office of research administration, made a special appearance at one of the president's news conferences to issue an official denial that there was any classified war research going on at Waterloo.

People didn't trust the authorities in the late sixties and early seventies, the way they perhaps do now. I'll give you an example closer to home: the "Student Services Building" was under construction west of the library -- you'd know it as Needles Hall now -- and a rumour went round campus that among its amenities would be a "presidential bedroom". No bedroom, the administration promised. The building, when finally completed in 1972, did include a presidential bathroom (I don't think I'm telling any secrets by letting you know that) and also a presidential balcony, on which any members of the senior administration who smoke can occasionally take a lawful puff. A few years later, the balcony was briefly inhabited by a squirrel and her litter of kits; the staff in the president's office dubbed her, inevitably, Juliet.

The political ferment wasn't only about international issues, labour disputes and feminism. (Among visitors to campus in 1971 were Germaine Greer and folksinger Melanie -- the latter being outspokenly a vegetarian but not, I think, particularly a feminist. And there weren't yet strong protests, only a few self-conscious jokes, about chauvinist cartoons in the Gazette and a weekly series of photos of pretty women, titled Nitta's Girls.) There was also political agitation, constantly, about the affairs of the university itself, and above all about the salaries and working conditions of faculty members. Some things, I'd say from my vantage point here under a tomato-proof bridge, never change. At one point the faculty association solemnly voted to "bypass" the president and "deal directly with the board of governors" in future salary negotiations, as though the board were united enough to engage in bargaining over anything. At another point, faculty association leaders just as solemnly filed papers with the Ontario ministry of labour claiming that they were, de facto, a trade union, and asking for a conciliation officer to help in the negotiations. The outcome of all that allegation-trading was something called the Matthews-Dubinski Agreement, signed by Burt Matthews, the university's new president, and Roman Dubinski, president of the faculty association. It governed salary negotiations, and much else, from 1971 until a new Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 1985.

There were still no faculty members and no students on the board of governors; work was still going on to write a new University of Waterloo Act, and various preposterous suggestions kept coming forward about how the university could be governed. The idea of a "unicameral" system, combining the board and senate in one magnificently dysfunctional council, was finally killed off that year, and serious work on a new Act got under way. It would become law the following year. As I recall the pace of progress, task forces might still be at work today if sharp ears hadn't started to pick up the words "University of Ontario" being muttered somewhere around Toronto. The Commission on Post- Secondary Education, chaired by none other than Waterloo's former engineering dean, Doug Wright, was hard at work, and one of the proposals put before it was to organize higher education in Ontario on the model of California or New York, with a dozen or more campuses of one big university. The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully, as one of your human philosophers has observed, and Waterloo wasn't the only campus to get its mind concentrated; seems to me it was just about at that time that the University of Guelph reorganized itself also.

A further complication was something called the Lapp Report, commissioned by the professional engineers of the province to come up with some suggestions about engineering education. By 1971 Waterloo had the largest engineering faculty in Canada, and yet engineering didn't dominate the university as it had done a decade earlier. No surprise, then, that Lapp recommended turning the engineering faculty into some sort of "institute of technology" separate from, though affiliated with, the university as a whole. A couple of hundred people showed up in the Humanities Theatre to hear Philip Lapp explain himself (with the dean of engineering, Archie Sherbourne, sitting beside him on the stage). Some people pointed out that separating the engineering faculty from the rest of a university was exactly how the University of Waterloo had come into existence in the first place, and eventually the engineering faculty council voted its opinion that there was "no concrete reason" to change things. That was pretty much the end of that -- though I do remember that two decades later, when Jim Downey showed up as your new president and admitted that he was an English teacher, a few graffiti resurrected the idea of rescuing engineering from a university that had obviously passed the point of no return.

In 1971, as engineering was deciding it didn't want to leave, there was talk of whole new fields of study being added. It was a time of optimism, social programs and economic growth (although the inflation rate in 1971 dropped to 2.9 per cent), and one of the big boom areas was health care. It was briefly proposed that Waterloo be the home of a "health sciences centre" that would train physicians, technicians and goodness knows who else, all in an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, nouveau-technology wonderland. McMaster University had just introduced its new "people-centred" approach to medical education, and anything seemed possible. There was some interest at Waterloo -- even the optometrists seemed briefly willing to talk about living next door to MDs -- but there was also concern that it would "shift the university's centre of gravity", academically and I suppose geographically also. Nothing came of it in the end, and its last gasp was a request for Waterloo to consider opening a school of podiatry. We've got the eyes, let's add the toes, must have been the reasoning there.

Even without a new health sciences campus north of Columbia Street, there were new buildings on campus that year. Engineering IV, later to be renamed Carl Pollock Hall, was opened, completing the engineering quadrangle. So was Chemistry II, with an interior decor that in 1971 could be (and was) described without a trace of irony as "psychedelic". Work started on Student Services -- without the bedroom, as I've already mentioned -- and on a building near Columbia Street that was to be called "Administrative Services" or, at one point in the planning, "Academic Services". Admin Services won, and later it became Matthews Hall, when the kinesiologists and games researchers crowded the administrators out of the place. A new section of the General Services Complex, including the commissary, was also opened in 1971, and plans were announced for an optometry building and at long last a psychology building. The latter was a strange and wonderful creation with two ingeniously quarantined wings -- one for human beings, in effect, and one for mice. I have it on good authority that it was deisgned literally on the back of a cocktail napkin, by two faculty members who, for their sins, survived to work in the new building after it finally opened in 1973.

Other developments on campus that year? Bert Barber, who had headed the co-op program almost since its beginning (and no, I won't get into the dispute of whether George Dufault before him was officially "director" of coordination and placement or not), stepped aside in favour of Ray Wieser. John New became acting dean of arts for a year. Jack Brown took the new position of "university secretary", setting up an office that would serve the university's proliferating committees and other governing bodies and try to keep the paperwork straight. It was also responsible for relations with the still very modest number of Waterloo alumni, and for what fund-raising was going on in those days when the government provided almost as much money as the universities wanted.

The spread of computerization continued, as the library got its first electronic circulation system. No longer did students and faculty have to fill out three-part forms by hand every time they borrowed a book; yellow punched cards were assigned to each book, to be run through a card reader at the circulation desk. The first 60,000 books got carded that year, and the rest of the 450,000-volume collection was to be done in 1972, the library announced.

Speaking of carded, there was joy in some quarters when the Ontario drinking age was lowered from 21 to 18, although on-campus pubs were still only an occasional event. Perhaps in exchange for thirsty students heading off campus to party, groups of belligerent non-students occasionally ventured up the hill, heading especially to the Campus Centre. Your president finally had to issue an official memo: "gangs" of non-students would no longer be tolerated, and the security department was to do what it had to do to clear them out. At just about the same time, a university policy was issued forbidding the possession of firearms on campus. I see with amazement that it's still in your Policies and Procedures book, unchanged over all these years, and ranking as the oldest policy still in effect.

And speaking of joy, a new sculpture by that name, "Joy", was installed near South Campus Hall. There is absolutely no truth to any suggestion that it depicts me and one of my friends after a night of carousal.

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