Volume 95, Issue 17
Friday, September 28, 2001
Contentious debate in BOG
French knight squares off with business bigwig
By Joel Brown
Western's proposed strategic plan a document outlining the university's future goals came under fire by one of Canada's top executives yesterday.
President and CEO of London Life Insurance Ray McFeetors questioned the effectiveness of Western's proposed plan to, as stated in the 43-page draft, enhance the school's stature as one of Canada's leading research-intensive universities, during Thursday's Board of Governors meeting.
McFeetors, a member of BOG, was visibly worried about the business aspect and vagueness of the plan and fired his concerns at Western president, Strategic Planning Task Force chair and French Knight, Paul Davenport.
"The strategic plan should be a plan for action," McFeetors said. "We need to put this in an executable form with actual numbers.
"There seems to be no effort to talk about expenditures and cost."
Davenport responded by saying the plan's call for a balanced budget addressed the school's responsibility to remain fiscally responsible.
"As for the exact numbers, I'll leave that up to [vice-provost and registar Roma Harris] to present in her budget," he said.
Another concern was addressed by BOG student representative Joel Adams, who said he believed parts of the plan pertaining to Western's local and student community involvement were underdeveloped.
He wanted student organizations, such as the University Students' Council, to be mentioned specifically in the plan as a group Western would work with.
"They add greatly to the student experience," Adams said. "We should look to improve out partnerships with these groups."
Davenport agreed and said no specific student groups were mentioned as the task force did not want to make the strategic plan too long. "It was just a matter of us wanting to avoid a checklist," he said. "If we started, there'd be no end to that road."
During the question period, Davenport admitted implementation of the plan would be a challenge since Western runs what he called a decentralized operation.
"We're an open institution and to make this plan successful, we're going to need a concentrated effort from everybody," he said.
Before the questions, Davenport pointed out several areas of the plan which he believes will be vital to its success. At the top of the list was his desire to bring in qualified professors to help improve Western's research programs.
"In a period when it's tough to hire top people, it is important we maintain our high standards," he said. "We can't use the more competitive environment to lower our standards."
He added Western is under-performing in the area of hiring women and that a better job of mentoring female job candidates needs to be done.
Davenport also said Western has ambitious plans for expansion at the graduate level.
"There's an increasing demand for [graduate students] in the private sector, especially with start-up businesses," he said. "We don't want to starve them of what they need."
Copyright © The Gazette 2001