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1972

The Act and the moratorium

Students protest fee increases

The Ontario government announced a tuition fee increase, the first in eight
years, which raised undergraduate fees from $255 a term (plus a $60 co-op fee) to $312. And for the first time, graduate students would have to pay fees for three terms a year. Jack McNie, minister of colleges and universities, faced protesters when he visited UW for the official opening of Chemistry II.

An act respecting the University of Waterloo was finally passed by the Ontario legislature on May 10, 1972, and signed by the lieutenant-governor of the province, William Ross MacDonald, on the 26th. As a law setting out how a university should be governed, it's not bad, I guess, although some of the Waterloo people who sat through the sessions of the Private Bills Committee had a few bad moments over it. The legislators, heedless of the hours and years of work Lynn Watt and his colleagues had put into the matter back on campus, tinkered here and tinkered there, in particular changing the number of outsiders, the number of students and the number of professors who were to serve on the board of governors. I notice with interest that 25 years later, the resulting formula has been taken pretty much as a model by other universities as they overhaul their own forms of government. If you can believe it, Waterloo became the first Ontario university to have students and faculty (and staff too) on its board, and some institutions haven't taken that daring step even yet.

The passing of that new Act was pretty much the highlight of life at Waterloo in 1972 -- well, no; I don't suppose I can really get you to believe that. The highlight of the year was, in fact, the Canada-Russia hockey series in the fall. As it reached a climax, nobody much on campus was doing anything but following the game on radio or television, or just by listening to the shouts at moments of action. "Chem 436 Cancelled Due to a National Emergency," said a sign posted on one classroom door. When Paul Henderson scored that final goal for Canada, the reaction was such that the Humanities building shook on its foundations, and the Schweitzer farmhouse (which had just become the Graduate Club a few weeks earlier) lost a few chunks of plaster. It was such an exciting moment that one or two of the trolls in the neighbourhood actually cracked a smile.

The year had begun with unsettling news for the university: the announcement that seven staff members in the science shops were being laid off. Your university's early years had not been ones of affluence, but by the end of the sixties people were used to steadily expanding budgets. In 1969-70, the year's expenditures had been $29.3 million, and there was a budget surplus of more than a million and a half. In 1970-71, spending hit $36.0 million and the university ran a half-million-dollar deficit -- not at all the kind of thing to bring a smile to the round face of Bruce Gellatly, the vice-president (finance and operations). Then in the fall of 1971 the enrolment was unexpectedly low, and it was belt-tightening season. For the first time in the university's history, people had to be let go.

There was also an officially proclaimed two-year freeze on building projects. In fact, it would be a lot more than two years before UW would see any new construction, after the end of what was being done in 1972. Matthews Hall and Needles Hall opened that fall, the Psychology (later PAS) building was under way, and ground was broken for the Optometry building, which had originally been intended as the beachhead for major development north of Columbia Street. Postponed or cancelled, as a result of the freeze, were an addition to the Physical Activities Complex, a second Environmental Studies building (that one didn't come, as it turned out, until 1981), and a proposed lecture hall on part of parking lot B, where the Davis Centre now stands. I've already mentioned that the Schweitzer farmhouse, the one pre-university structure standing on the south campus, was taken over that year by the Graduate Student Union; opening of a grad house was made possible when Cail Vinnicombe's housing office moved into the new Student Services Building, which now of course is Needles Hall.

You might say the university was coming into the modern age. Several of its other modern accoutrements were acquired that year too: its current phone number, for instance, 885-1211, and its postal code, as the Canada Post Corporation gave every spot in the nation a six-letter mnemonic. A laminated-wood sculpture was installed on the rooftop of Engineering IV (that's Carl Pollock Hall to you) when it turned out that there wasn't enough money to install and maintain the intended Japanese garden there. In September, the Humanities Theatre was the site for the inaugural meeting of the Waterloo Regional Council, as Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and the surrounding townships were turned into what nowadays would be called a megacity. Academically, one accomplishment was the creation of the department of "human relations and counselling studies", separate from the psychology department: a noble experiment but not a success, as would be clear within two or three years. That's a story I'll tell you in due time.

Lynn Watt, having triumphed with the University Act, was named dean of graduate studies, and Bill Forbes, pipe-wielding health researcher turned smoking statistician, be came dean of mathematics. New professors? Certainly there were some - Wayne Hawthorn as an ecologist in the biology department, for instance, and you'll realize something about what the early seventies were like when I tell you that he got the Waterloo job as the result of his very first job interview. He arrived for work on the first of September just in time to spend his first week as a professor off in Algonquin Park, helping to supervise the required field course for biology students.

If 1972 was mostly a year of austerity and consolidation, well, it was a year of controversy too; I wouldn't want you to think things were peaceful. For one thing, graduate students grew irate when a tuition fee increase was announced, boosting the bill by all of $100 a year. There was the continuing unrest over Canadianization of Canadian universities, with the emphasis in 1972 shifting from Americans in faculty positions to American content in the curriculum, and suggestions that everybody graduating from Waterloo should be required to take one course (at least) in something explicitly Canadian. And what, some dissenters asked, would a distinctively Canadian turbine look like?

There was dissension on campus when Paul Cornell, the acting vice-president, sent out what was described as a "stocktaking" memo, asking department chairs to rate each faculty member -- confidentially, of course -- on a scale that ranged roughly from world-class to no-class. There was dissension when the senate voted to defrock the "division" of solid mechanics, which had been on its way to being an academic department of its own, and make clear that it was just a constituent part of mechanical engineering.

And there was dissension -- oh, there was dissension -- when the senate reviewed the integrated studies program in an attempt to make some rules about how IS students could receive degrees, and what such a degree might mean, anyway. As that controversy reached its peak, the senate executive committee drew what must have been the biggest audience in all its history, with students packing the old meeting room in Engineering II until there was nowhere for them to sit but on the table-tops. I didn't actually squeeze in to watch that meeting in progress, but I've seen a picture of it, Burt Matthews at the front of the room smiling in what looks like a mixture of amusement and nerves. I hardly need tell you that the university didn't get through that crisis without a few self-righteous resignations, several interesting revelations about which people involved with IS were "close friends" (there's a euphemism for you!) with other people involved with IS, and a lot of letters to editors. Equally, I hardly need tell you that although it did get through the crisis, the future of the IS program was far from settled, and wouldn't be settled until after the program moved from its north campus lotus-land, Isafarm, into the basement of the Psychology building.

Even more exciting than the IS controversy was the whole business of the "moratorium on university education" which student leaders decided to hold one day in March. The senate regretfully said no, it wasn't going to cancel classes for yet another teach-in, but the event went ahead anyway, with a mixture of rabble-rousing speeches and intense seminars. Then things got a little out of hand when quite a number of participants decided it was time to move from talk to action, and paraded up to the fifth floor of the Dana Porter Library to hold an all-night sit-in at the university's business office. By the time the affair was over, five people had been arrested, something that didn't happen too often at Waterloo even in the ugliest days of protest and confrontation. Other "moratorium" participants, by the way, skirted the library, headed up to the Faculty Club, and ate all the visible leftovers from the day's buffet lunch.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Post-Secondary Education in Ontario reported in 1972 -- that was the commission headed by Doug Wright, former dean of engineering and future president at Waterloo -- and a great deal of ink was used up in explanation and analysis of its recommendations. It was firmly opposed to creation of a "University of Ontario"; all it proposed was a "coordinating board" which of course would have no power, other than the authority to regulate the existing universities, determine what programs they could and could not offer, and rationalize their activities as might be necessary from time to time. The official response from Waterloo expressed two parts opposition and one part confusion, and you'll notice that no such coordinating board was ever created.

As the year went on, the university's own new board was being organized, in preparation for the Act coming into effect on November 1. Student and faculty members were elected by the senate, two staff members (Ernie Lappin and Wally Buzza) were chosen by ballot, the government made its appointments, the old board picked the "community-at-large" members, and when the date came, it moved smoothly into doing the university's business. So did the newly constituted senate, which held an inaugural meeting actually on the first day of November. Some kind of record may have been set when one of the new student representatives loudly resigned just three days later, discovering that "our influence is only token" when the senate turned down a motion he supported.

Not everybody at Waterloo took everything so seriously, of course. The favourite recreational activity that winter involved swiping trays from the Village I cafeteria and using them to slide down the hills near the creek. As a creek-dweller myself I once or twice narrowly escaped serious injury from that sort of reckless descent.

There was also indoor entertainment, including FASS in January, which starred Bill Pearson, the rubber-visaged dean of science, posing as a Hagey Lecturer under the considerable influence of alcohol. The real Hagey Lecturer for that winter was under no such influence. He was David Suzuki, young geneticist from the University of British Columbia -- all long hair, earnestness, and insistence that the people reclaim power from the scientific and medical establishment. Such a "radical" was he (that was the favoured word in 1972, "radical") that when the tickets for his lectures were made available in the Modern Languages lobby, the place was mobbed, and every seat was spoken for within two hours.

Cat Stevens came to campus in the spring (I don't suppose you're old enough to remember Cat Stevens, are you?) and in the fall, on the Sunday evening before classes began, came the big concert of the year: Ike and Tina Turner in the big gymnasium. The show was hours late in starting, and none of the impatient students in the smoke-sweetened crowd knew why they were getting more and more of the Good Brothers and King Biscuit Boy instead of the feature act. The story came out later -- a convoluted saga of bad directions, arrogant roadies, confusion over light and sound equipment, financial disputes and, eventually, plain hunger. Ike wasn't going on stage until everybody got a hamburger, and one of the Board of Student Activities volunteers had to drive all the way down to King Street to bring back a snack from Harvey's. It was all worth it, though, when Tina started in on "Proud Mary". I should know: I was there.

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