Vox, Issue #12, March 1993 featured an interview with Peter Millard, past Head of the Department of English, member of the Executive of the Faculty Association, and Chair of the Association in 1987-88. Millard retired two decades ago on December 31, 1991, and passed away ten years ago in December 2001. (The full Issue #12 is available on the USFA website.)
“It’s difficult to now describe the university then, for everything is so structured now, and everybody’s so anxious” Millard said of his arrival in Saskatchewan in 1964. “In those days it was much looser, much more friendly in a way, except that the authorities were somewhat mysterious. One ignored them … you never worried about tenure. So there were people running things, and in a very private, close-fisted way, but it didn’t matter. … things were much looser, and rather more fun I must say. … [This all changed] in the seventies. It was gradual and yet perceptible. … It was a process, quite conscious on the part of Administration, to bring more and more decision-making powers into their aegis. The committees of Council were given less and less power. Part of this was necessary, of course, as the University had become very much bigger and decision-making had to be more streamlined but I think Administration overdid that. They wanted the power from Council and they took it, and it was Council’s fault because we let them do it. They set up more and more elaborate structures within Administration to take over the decision-making powers so that Council became less and less important. This was accompanied by a contempt for Council from both President Begg and President Kristjanson. … The university came of age with the strike [in 1988]. This process that I’ve been sketching continued, with an administration that was more and more centralized, more and more isolated, and more and more out of touch with the professors. An isolated administration that saw itself as beyond criticism. Also, and very important, was the worsening economic climate which had two effects: first of all it made it difficult to find money for things on campus such as the library, so that when the administration made decisions about where the money was going the effects of centralization became clearer: and secondly pressure was on the university to produce. … For the first time in my experience at this university, professors asked themselves several questions: ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘What is it worth?’ They were surprised by the answer. What they were doing was of absolutely essential value and it was worth a hell of a lot. The other questions were ‘Who makes the decisions around here?’ and ‘What are those decisions?’ … People around here thought ‘… I want some part in those decisions.’ It wasn’t about money primarily. It was about the Library. It was about how we wanted to be regarded by Administration, not simply as an unfortunate necessity, but as something absolutely central to the operation.”
Where are we now? Once again (still?) in a worsening economic climate, we are forced to reconsider the worth and value of our programs in quantitative terms. How are decisions being made today in terms of the partnership between Administration and Council?
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