President lays out short-term strategy
By Sara Marett
As the third week of classes begins and assignments start pouring in, students aren't the only ones with their work cut out for them. During Friday's Senate meeting, President Paul Davenport announced his course load for the 1997-98 school year.
The president's priorities for the up-coming year fall into three categories student recruitment, faculty and staff and research. Before outlining his plans in these areas, Davenport reminded Senate members that goals are only met when staff and faculty work together.
This year's student recruitment effort was a wonderful example of this cooperation, he said. "If I were to point to one thing I think we did very well this year it was pulling together in recruiting efforts."
Davenport explained not only did Western's enrollment numbers go up, so did the average entering grade, as all first-year students met a 75 per cent cut-off. "We are now seen as an outstanding place to send outstanding students," he said, adding approximately 55 per cent of first-year students were accepted to Western with an 80 per cent average or higher.
Regarding research efforts, Davenport admitted it was well known Western has not done well in the past competing with other institutions.
However, both the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, introduced by the federal government and Ontario's $5-million Research and Development Challenge Fund, will provide Western with the opportunity this year to prove its ability to compete in the field of research, he said.
Davenport commended the recruitment of new faculty members as well, as there were 60 new faculty appointments this past year. "This proves the most important thing we do as a university is bring in the faculty," he said, adding the relationship between Western's administration and the faculty association will also be renewed this year.
These initiatives will not occur without obstacles, Davenport admitted. Ensuring accessibility to a university education is an issue that must be addressed and an income-contingent loan-repayment-program must be in place as soon as possible to give students a leg up on the loan issue, he said. "This is a critical issue for students, our society and our institution as it is an issue of fairness."
Another possible roadblock in Davenport's plans is underfunding to Ontario's universities. "We are 10th in the country and one-third below other provinces, which means we are simply not in a competitive position." He added solutions to this problem involve an improved grant system and more flexibility with fees.
University Students' Council President Ryan Parks said Davenport's focus on student recruitment should be commended but hopes within these priorities the students who presently attend the university are not forgotten, adding the administration must keep an eye on the quality of education as numbers soar.
"The areas of research and faculty are also very important to the university but there seems to be an omission of issues directly affecting the undergraduate population," he added.