The writing of policies

Carl Totzke with his mug collection

Carl Totzke, athletics director from UW’s beginnings until his retirement that year, liked to show off his collection of mugs from institutions where Waterloo teams had played games. (The photo was taken in 1986.)

There were big changes in the governance of your university during 1989 - not least, the arrival of Jim Kalbfleisch in Needles Hall - but you'd probably find the whole subject boring, so let me tell you instead about the three days in February when people weren't allowed to drink the water. "Danger!" said the signs on some 200 drinking fountains."Do not operate. Bacterial contamination!"

The water famine hit the whole city, for reasons that I don't now remember if I ever did know them. People had to boil their water - in eighty-gallon soup kettles, in the case of the food services kitchens - while the regional health and water authorities traced the problem and sterilized the pipes with chlorine. "Coffee sales definitely dropped," the director of food services reported, presumably because the only coffee was instant. "We sold more juice and canned pop." And the monkeys in the psychology department had to adjust to chlorine in their drinking bottles.

The irony is that the water on campus was just fine, although there may well have been coliform bacteria, as advertised, in the pipes elsewhere in the city. As a dweller beside Laurel Creek, which has deteriorated over the past century from a lovely cool fast-flowing stream to a dirty, warm, sluggish one, I know a great deal about water quality, and what I tell you is true. Perhaps you aren't aware that your university's water supply comes from a well right here on campus, a well that was in no way contaminated. (Yes, I know, the pipes are all connected, and something could have slithered through them; the health authorities had to be on the safe side; but believe me, things were perfectly okay.) Next time you walk down to the bridge here in the futile hope of catching me in a hospitable mood, glance at that latticework structure opposite Needles Hall, and remember that it houses the Dearborn Well, from which fine pure water is drawn 24 hours a day by Waterloo Region pumps. I was not the least bit surprised, just last spring, when the water services people checked all the wells and found that Dearborn water had zero coliform and the lowest ratings in town for chlorides, fluorides, nitrites and all that other stuff that isn't dihydrogen monoxide. It also had a turbidity of 0.41, whatever that means.

Well, enough about water; let me tell you some of the other developments of the year 1989, the year free trade with the United States went into effect and the year of the "Tienanmen Square massacre" in China. (After that one, the senate of your university heard some sober discussions about the wisdom of suspending academic relations between Canada and China.) There was, as you probably recall, a second "massacre" almost at the end of the year: the shooting of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal. People at Waterloo, and even trolls at Waterloo, wept as they did all across Canada, and a memorial service was held in Federation Hall.

Protests that year? People marched around the ring road after the Tienanmen violence; they marched outside Needles Hall during co-op employer interviews, to protest the involvement of some of the employers - about four dozen firms, it was claimed - in research for the American military. There were even a few sharp criticisms when the university gave an honorary degree that spring to George Emmett Carter, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto, but my recollection is that most people felt admiration, rather than anger, when they saw him roll up in his white limousine with its custom licence plates: PAX LUX.

Celebrations that year? Besides convocation (more ceremonies than before, five in the spring and two in the fall), the university partied at Homecoming with a giant tent beside Federation Hall, "the Big Top", a feature that's been repeated every year since. Alumni partied in Toronto's new SkyDome in June - a Waterloo get-together was the first private event held in the Blue Jays' hemispherical home, which Doug Wright had helped to design. More sedate celebrations were held to mark the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, compiled with intense involvement of researchers at your university. Other causes for rejoicing in 1989 included the Wadsworth Chair in the school of accountancy, a new East Asian studies program at Renison College (when did Anglicanism become an east Asian religion, I wondered), the creation of a Centre for Soviet Studies, and the opening of the Centre for Cultural Management with nearly $2 million in private-sector seed money.

And I'll bet the computer engineers heaved a sigh of relief, and maybe heaved a glass or two, when the new microchip laboratory finally opened in the Davis Centre. That came at just about the same time that the department of electrical engineering pried its name apart and stuck the words "and computer" in the middle.

Ah, but I'm forgetting what must have been the biggest celebration of all that year - on Saturday afternoon, September 30, when the football Warriors defeated the stunned Yeomen 32-9 in a game played at York University on the same day that the Blue Jays clinched their division championship in the SkyDome. "We can still make the playoffs," said coach Tuffy Knight, giddy at the ending of a 33-game losing streak. Well, maybe not that year, but it wouldn't be long. That day was the end of an era at Waterloo in other ways too; the victory was something of a retirement gift for the director of athletics, Carl Totzke, who was on his last day on the payroll. Totzke could honestly claim to have been working for the university longer than anyone else (he signed on in 1954 at Waterloo College), and never to have had a promotion.

I could mention many other developments that year, from the introduction of the University of Waterloo MasterCard to the arrival of 1,000 white boxes for paper recycling. Alan George, the provost, introduced "administrative procedures" to encourage the hiring of women in faculty positions. The retirees' association gained some status with the right to name a member to the pension and benefits committee. An all-merit salary increase program was introduced for staff. The red-and-grey "pedestrian spine" of artificial stone was laid down the centre of the campus. Father "Corky" Siegfried, described as "the last founder" of the university, died in late July. And the university learned with some pride that its researchers were involved in five of the fourteen "networks of centres of excellence" - now there's a mouthful for you - being established by the federal government.

Oh, I suppose I'll have to say something about university governance after all. I've mentioned that Jim Kalbfleisch, until then dean of mathematics, arrived at the centre of the action late in the year; his title was associate provost (academic affairs). The title of "associate provost" was created for the first time that year, as part of a reorganization after some senior retirements. The towering figure who was leaving - he postponed his actual departure until the spring of 1990, in fact - was Pat Robertson, known to many as the most powerful man in theuniversity, though largely behind the scenes. He'd been an assistant to the registrar in his youth, and ended up as a vice-president and treasurer of the university, as well as the acknowledged champion of staff members, who have always been more respected and more secure at Waterloo than their counterparts are at most other universities. More than once I sat inconspicuous in a corner of his office and watched him deal with crises and quirks in his characteristic no-nonsense fashion, mostly by telephone (he hated writing memos) and sometimes in brief face-to-face conversations (brief, because he kept a ceiling ventilator blowing an Arctic blast at the chair where his visitors would naturally sit).

Anyway, with Robertson and other senior people retiring, the top administration was reorganized, and Kalbfleisch, Bob Elliott and Johnny Wong became "associate provosts". Dorothy Battae, who had started at Waterloo as a teenage payroll clerk and moved up the organization steadily, was named treasurer of the university, the first woman to enter the senior non-academic management. Among other changes in the administration that year, Roger Downer of the biology department became vice-president (university development), and Arthur Carty of chemistry was named dean of research. When Carty arrived, it was another milestone: the end of the last senior administrative job for Lynn Watt, the once and future dean of almost everything.

But the changes in governance didn't end with changes in names and faces. More important, really, was a series of policy developments during 1989. The rules on student discipline and grievances were overhauled, bringing "natural justice" into the mainstream of how things are done at your university. A committee headed by Lois Claxton of the library looked at revisions to the ethics policy and recommended a more powerful role for the ethics committee.

New policies on appointment of deans, department chairs and top administrators were put into the books. A statement on "computing directions" was issued ("some choices must be made," it said, observing that the university couldn't possibly support all the hardware and software in the world).

Most important of all, a new Policy 1 was approved, giving rights and status to the staff relations committee and faculty relations committee, bodies that until then had been little more than advisory. "He's given the farm away," Robertson was said to have snorted when he heard that the president had signed the final draft of the new policy. From now on, it seemed, faculty members had power that the president couldn't take away from them.

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