September 17, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 11  

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Western's prez joins The Gazette for a chat

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

The Gazette caught up with Western President Paul Davenport yesterday to talk about deregulated tuition, freedom fries and retirement.

What political challenges has Western been facing in recent years?
The fundamental challenge is to accept an increasing number of students with budgets that lag behind the student numbers in real terms. There's been a trend for the last 20 years in budgets that don't keep pace with student enrollment for Ontario generally and for Western in particular. That shows up in a rising student-faculty ratio and a rising student-staff ratio and we need to get those ratios down.

Do you support deregulated undergraduate tuition?
I do support deregulated undergraduate tuition. Having taken that position, I would point out to you, for example, in the graduate student area, where we've had deregulated fees for many years, those fees have not been going up rapidly in most graduate programs. Indeed, we've kept the growth of the fee in the PhD area at about the same two per cent that we've applied to the undergraduate students in the regulated programs.

Which is more important to Western: the humanities or the sciences?
We would be one of those universities, maybe a leading university in this regard, that has strengths across the board. We traditionally have a larger share of our budget in the humanities and the social sciences than the other large research universities. I'm proud of that fact. That said, we have an enormously strong faculty in science, and engineering, and medicine and the professional schools. For a university of our size, it's not a question of picking only one area, it's identifying strengths across the university and investing in them.

A game of word association:
The Gazette - Good reporting.
University Students' Council President Paul Yeoman - Excellent lunch companion.
Ontario Premier Ernie Eves - Involved in a tough election.

If you could design a Homecoming float that would symbolize yourself, what would it look like?
It would have me reading a good book by the Indre river in the Loire valley (in France) on a sunny day.

As a French knight, what do you think about french fries being renamed freedom fries in the United States?
The links between the American people and the French people are profound and are of historical importance. Frankly I thought it was sad to see the extremely negative reaction. I hope these two great countries can get back together again.

What are your personal pursuits?
I enjoy biking - I wish I had more time for that. Jazz music - I've just been on the CHRW [94.7 FM] jazz show with Barney Booth today. And impressionist painting - I like not only viewing the paintings but reading about it.

When your presidential term expires, what do you plan to do?
My current contract is for my third term at Western that finishes in 2009 when I'll be 62 years old and I promised my wife that I'll retire at that time. It's the one clause in our marriage contract [laughs].



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