Monday, May 5, 2014

So Why UW, Part 2

Happy first day of Spring term! Today, FAUW President David Porreca continues his list of the ways that UW operates far differently from other institutions, and how those ways contribute to our success.

6) An astute Board of Governors

UW has been blessed with a financial situation that has been much more favourable than other places. It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors to tend to such matters, and on this front, the Governors have been very successful in fulfilling their mandate.

7) A faculty-friendly working environment

Daffodils near the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo. Credit: George Freeman
Credit: George Freeman
  1. There are few (if any) other institutions that offer a 6-month sabbatical leave for tenure-track faculty members after their first contract.
  2. UW offers 100% ownership to the creators of the intellectual property generated on our campus.
  3. UW offers an automatic one-year delay on the tenure clock for those taking parental leave.
  4. The consolidated daycare, with 160 spots, opened in early 2014, is a potent recruitment device for prospective faculty members with young families.

8) UW prosperity ⇔ local prosperity feedback loop

UW has both contributed to and benefited immensely from the prosperity of local business.

9) Distinctive programs

UW shines in many ways, but the following are particularly potent recruitment tools for top student talent at all levels:
  1. We all know it already, but UW’s Cooperative Education is distinctive and valuable. 
  2. UW has a full-on Faculty of Mathematics, which is a rarity in the academic world (as compared to Math being merely a department that is part of a larger faculty).  This creates a high-profile entry point whose benefits are not limited to the Faculty of Mathematics. Indeed, I know a good many extremely talented students who entered UW in Math, finished their degrees, and carried on at UW for second degrees in other faculties where they’ve become extremely successful.

10) Sheer dumb luck

If luck, like many other natural things, is likely distributed along a bell curve, then UW would appear to occupy a spot somewhere on the thin, right-hand end of the graph.  This may be the result of the concatenation of the nine reasons listed above, but sometimes, both people and institutions just are lucky. At the very least, it is a factor that cannot be excluded!

The observations above are not meant to paint an exclusively rosy picture of our institution. It has its fair share of wrinkles like any other. In a perfect world, for example, FAUW wouldn’t need an Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

I write the above from my own observations and involvement with FAUW, but this platform is not a panopticon. I’m certain to be missing things, both good and bad. It remains our responsibility as faculty members – especially those with tenure – to stand up and defend the good elements of our institution as well as fix any problems we see.

Principles of academic freedom, collegial governance and equity must be actively lived to have any real meaning, and if a university cannot embody in its operations the ideals of a society, we will no longer have a civil society worth defending.

Follow FAUW’s blog to keep up with what’s going on, and feel free to be in touch with any concerns or, better yet, become involved in FAUW’s activities. We need all the critically-minded help we can get to keep UW the outstanding place that it is!

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