Volume 96, Issue 6
Friday September 6, 2002

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One on one with the big guy:
Q & A with President Paul Davenport

Gazette File Photo

DAVENPORT. Western's president and resident dragon slayer.

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

The theme of The Gazette's recent Frosh Issue was superheroes. Did you have any particular heroes as you were growing up?

When I was very young I would identify with members of The Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson was a great hero – not only because he was an outstanding ball player, but because he was a black man who overcame great racism to succeed in the major leagues.

You received the Order of Canada this summer. How does that compare with your other recent achievements, including last year's French Knighthood [the legion d'honneur] and your honorary degree from the University of Toronto?

I was absolutely thrilled and humbled to be named an officer in the Order of Canada. I owe a great debt to this country – I immigrated here when I began graduate school. Canada has been very, very good to me and my family and it was wonderful to be recognized.

Anything you're going to be striving for next – Academy award, Nobel Peace Prize?

[nervous laughter] No, no, no.

Seriously, though, can you defect to another knighthood?

I think [France] was the last of my knighthoods (more laughter as we both glance at the mounted dragon heads on his wall).

It's not like baseball where you can be a free-agent knight, eh?

(smiling – yet, possibly preparing to call security)

What is your opinion of Ernie Eves, the new premier of Ontario and what policy impact do you think he may have on the future of post-secondary education in Ontario?

I knew Mr. Eves well when he was minister of finance – both as president of Western and as a leader with the [Council of Ontario Universities] and I believe he is very well informed on post-secondary issues, so that's a good starting point.

With a provincial election on the horizon, how do the universities, and Western in particular, go about lobbying to place post-secondary issues on all three [major] parties' agendas during the campaign?

Individually, of course, we're always talking to the members of the three parties on a regular basis. Collectively, we try and get those issues talked about by [leaders beyond the] universities. Community leaders, business leaders, parents – it's very important that all three parties see the importance of university education to those outside of the university [sphere]. We're working hard to get university education to be a priority among the general population.

What was your favourite movie of the summer and why?

Ameliť – a great French movie. My wife and I and our kids have always loved French cinema – as you know, my wife is from France. Ameliť was just the best and I'm told it was also successful financially [in North America]. It kind of represents a comeback for the French [here].

Rising tuition is currently a contentious issue in post-secondary institutions across Canada. Tuition fees, especially in professional programs, have seen vast increases at Western and across Ontario. What are your concerns when it comes to this trend and the future of education?

At Western, we need to find the right balance of funding the university through tuition – which means allowing us to hire more faculty and staff – and making sure an education here is affordable and accessible. If fees get too high, they hurt accessibility; if they are too low for too long, we lose the ability to give students the quality education they should get.

It's a balancing act. With professional programs, we have a special responsibility to make sure admissions are based upon academic merits and not on the ability to pay. We have a very strong system of loans and grants to make sure that is the case.

If you're asking me what the big issue is for the coming years, it's quality; it's hiring the faculty and staff so we can [provide] a quality education. There's a great commitment to accessibility on campus, but we need the resources from the government – the public funding – to give our students a quality education.


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