UW doesn't win the lottery

Students march in front of the Dana Porter Library

Music director Alfred Kunz takes his charges on a publicity march.

I remember 1977 as the year a whole lot of phrases crept into the Waterloo vocabulary that have been part of it ever since. "Technology transfer" was one, and "research park" was another -- that one in connection with a proposal to build a privately-funded facility at the corner of Columbia and Phillip Streets. Twenty years later, there's no "park", but the sprawl of nondescript buildings housing high-tech companies along those two streets is probably more extensive than anything people were imagining then. Other new phrases that year: "international student fees", "flextime" (it was introduced at first in two departments, financial services and personnel), and -- alas -- "hiring freeze".

The hiring freeze came hand-in-hand with another feature of the year: a drop in enrolment. Your university had grown every year since its creation, so it was something of a shock when a government funding announcement led the president to talk in June about "no-growth" plans for the coming year. By October, as enrolment figures trickled in, it was clear that not only was there no growth, there had been a drop of some 2 per cent in the number of students, not just at Waterloo but across Ontario. Budget retrenchment naturally followed, hence the hiring freeze (but, the president promised, no layoffs). It's only fair to add that the drop wasn't permanent, as students soon started returning to the universities in droves, but 1977 created the "declining enrolment" myth that's been part of the public view of higher education ever since.

(The human public, I mean. The troll public, which is smaller and a good deal more select, sees universities in an entirely different way, in which enrolment plays a less significant part than, say, the massive 1977 campaign to eradicate cockroaches from the Married Student Apartments. It took four solid days of spraying, while some of us cackled in amusement. Humans are not a very clean species, I sometimes think, compared with folk who live under bridges.)

But to continue my recollections about money: while funding for universities' year-to-year operations was being squeezed, not for the last time, universities kept trying for money for new buildings. The leaders of your university looked around them and saw Wilfrid Laurier University putting up a "professional teaching building" at the corner of Albert Street, not to mention the city of Waterloo erecting what would come to be called the Rink in the Park. With a little less discouragement than usual, then, they put in the annual request to the Ontario government to pay for an architecture building and a building for "human kinetics and leisure studies", as applied health sciences was called then. Surprise: no money turned up.

The closest thing there was to a government bonanza at Waterloo that year was a lottery draw held in late April in the Humanities Theatre. I don't suppose you remember how excited people were when lotteries were introduced in Canada that year, starting with Wintario. For a while people talked about nothing but the pools they were organizing to buy Wintario tickets in the hope of collecting that enormous $100,000 first prize. The weekly draws were held at various spots around Ontario and broadcast live on Global television (Global was new in 1977 too, if I remember correctly), starring Fred Davis and Faye Dance, and getting one for Waterloo in the lottery's first year was quite a publicity coup. No, I didn't have a ticket in that draw, so I was a bigger winner than most.

The only bigger event than the Wintario draw must have been the Third International Conference on Computing in the Humanities, held at Village I in August. Computing in the humanities was a novel and intriguing idea then, remember, and only visionaries like Paul Beam thought that concordances and textual analysis would ever amount to anything. However, computing was subtly creeping into people's consciousness. The department of computing services, previously hunkered down in the Math and Computer building (which does look like something from the Siegfried Line, you've got to admit), started opening "branch offices" that year to provide consulting services where the customers, or potential customers, were. And many people got their first serious look at bar codes when the library bought a new Geac circulation system and threw all its human resources into a crash project to glue bar codes onto a million books within a few weeks. I notice with interest that the Geac system is still creaking along, twenty years later, although I hear it's going to be replaced later this year.

Come to think of it, all sorts of things were introduced that year that are taken for granted now as part of the Waterloo scene. Nobody would call 1977 a year of growth, but it was a year of small-scale innovations, you might say. The "policies and procedures" tabloid was first published in 1977, for instance, to make the rules -- especially the rules about personnel decisions -- available to everybody, rather than tucked away in those three-ring binders that only department heads felt comfortable consulting. Another novelty: the engineering faculty introduced "frunching", a formula to adjust the high school marks of applicants, based on their schools' records, to make comparisons more accurate. Also in engineering, the Sandford Fleming Foundation was created. Elsewhere on campus, "Radio Waterloo", which had broadcast through various clever closed-circuit systems for years, got itself a licence and went on the air as CKMS. And the school of optometry introduced a PhD program, completing its evolution from a technical school to a real university unit with graduate study and research as a central part of its life.

Bob Farvolden of the earth sciences department became dean of science that year, and Barry McPherson filled in for a few months as dean of human kinetics and leisure studies while Gerry Kenyon went on sabbatical. Otherwise, there was continuity in the senior management. The same can't be said of the Federation of Students, for which 1977 was the year of the four presidents. As the year began, Shane Roberts - hopelessly tangled up in the endless Chevron controversy - resigned as president, making way for Dave McLellan. He was succeeded by Doug Thompson, who lasted a few months and resigned in favour of Rick Smit. Through all the presidencies, The Free Chevron kept publishing, and every so often there was a flurry of news about the affair: a referendum or two, an investigation or two, a couple of physical scuffles in the Campus Centre (one of which led to assault charges), and lots and lots of talk.

There was talk on other subjects too: talk, for instance, of photo identity cards, mostly to combat an apparent wave of fraud in which people were writing exams in other people's names. (Nobody commented on what motive might possibly induce anyone to write an extra exam.) That idea would eventually be adopted, but another idea sank without trace - a proposal to create a school of pharmacy at Waterloo. Then there were the words of Chris Knapper, newly arrived as "teaching resource person", who told the campus that "chalk and talk" wasn't all there was to teaching; he favoured various kinds of small-group activity, which was rather a novelty in the university classroom at that date.

You will have noted that 1977 marked twenty years since the university's founding, an anniversary that led the president to appoint Paul Cornell, former dean of arts, to be "honorary archivist" and start collecting some of the university's records. Twenty years is long enough for some wounds to start healing, and it was thought possible that the university could work more closely with Wilfrid Laurier University, its estranged sibling, than it had done before. Maybe the two could even reunite after all those years? A commission to study the relationship was set up, chaired by "Corky" Siegfried, the president of St. Jerome's College, apparently the only man in town whose integrity was above suspicion from any direction. In the spring the commission reported that a merger between UW and WLU was "undesirable, unnecessary, impractical, and affording no economic benefits". I guess that settled that! It did, however, suggest all kinds of lesser cooperation, from purchasing toilet paper jointly to having the two institutions' libraries "merged administratively into one".

And in one other note of inter-institutional cooperation, there was talk that year of links between UW and the Université de Sherbrooke, the home of Canada's second-largest co-op program. It was the year of Bill 101, the first of Québec's French language laws, and with a separatist referendum somewhere on the horizon, thoughts in English Canada were turning to the future of the country -- a project in which, just possibly, Waterloo could play a part.

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