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A Conversation with the President

In April, the University's board of governors enthusiastically supported the recommendation of its presidential review committee that Myer Horowitz be reappointed to serve a second five-year presidential term commencing August 1, 1984.

The review committee of 15 individuals, representing constituencies such as the board, the staff associations, Senate, the two student governments, and the Alumni Association, reported that their constituents strongly supported the leadership of Dr. Horowitz. The committee found that "The president was perceived to be effective at the local, national, and international levels. He was regarded as energetic, sensitive, approachable and decisive; and a man who loves his work."

Recently, New Trail spoke with Dr. Horowitz.

Congratulations on your selection for another presidential term and on the support shown for your presidency in the University community. Are you looking forward to another term?

Oh very definitely, I am enjoying what I am doing. There are a lot of problems, but it has been my experience that there are problems no matter what you do.

It was very important to me when I was approached by the chairman of the board and others to consider a second term that the board ascertain how people felt. Having made my decision that I was prepared to continue if people wanted me to, it then became very important that the various communities on campus have the opportunity to participate in a review.

Do particular highlights of your presidency to date come to mind?

It is not easy to sort out any one thing. If I had to describe what I consider to be my main activity, it is working with people. In that sense the presidency is just another level of the same kind of involvement that I experienced as vice-president, as dean, and as a department chairman. I suppose I have difficulty in hanging on to anything specific because my major concern has always been to be as effective as I possibly can in helping to create the atmosphere and structure which would enable people to be as productive as they possibly can be with regard to what a university is all about: high-quality teaching, high-quality research, and service to the community.

The president then is very much a facilitator?

Very much a facilitator. That doesn't mean that he is an inanimate chairman who simply waits to see what the will of the group is and then blindly accepts what he is hearing. No. I don't think I would want to be a president or a dean or a department chairman if it were just that. Any administrator is in a position of having some influence, of guiding people.

I've never been shy in advocating a position if I thought it was in the interests of the institution for me to do so. An example of that, I suppose, is the president's committee on international development, which was a very easy way for me to give focus to this area. Many people, of course, have been involved in international development for the longest while, but as president I can create a president's committee if I think I should, and I did. Another example is the president's advisory committee on sexual harassment. There are other ways of influencing - but it goes without saying that a president can push his ideas only as far as the community will permit him. There has to be sufficient willingness.

So, to come back to your question, a big part of the job is facilitating, but another part of the job is trying to help people to respond to certain initiatives, certain needs, to certain pressures. And I enjoy that.

Did you have specific goals when you entered the presidency four years ago?

Well, I certainly didn't make a long list of goals but, of course, I was thinking of a number of matters which I considered to be important. I suppose the first thing was to survive most of the five years. But seriously, I had a desire to help people to work together as harmoniously as possible - the climate within the institution. I spoke to that theme at my installation because it was important to me. I set as a goal reviewing the administrative arrangements within this building [University Hall, location of the senior University administration] and then encouraging the board and other bodies to consider changes. One of the changes is the Office of the Vice-President (Research), for example.

On the program side, I had been very close to it as the vice-president (academic), and my great aim when I was about to become president was to have a super vice-president who could provide the necessary leadership. And so really one of the first things I did as president was to chair the committee to appoint my successor - and we have had just a fantastic vicepresident (academic) (George Baldwin) during my four years. And that has been very, very important to me.

I was interested in achieving a better level of decision making at the vice-presidential and presidential level, and I think we have. We meet often to deal with matters which touch all of us.

I suppose those are the matters I though about five years ago . . . The one area where I am not content has to do with long-range planning. I don't think we are as far along as I would like to be. That is not to say we haven't achieved something in the last while. For me, that is the major concern for the next several years. I really think I'd have that concern even if we weren't facing dramatic increases in enrolments and serious pressures with regard to funding, but the fact that we are makes it that much more important to project into the future, to ask ourselves where we are going.

So that will be a priority with you in your next term of office?

That's right. Going back to your last question, I omitted something that was really very important: the desire to attract funding over and above governmental funding to enable us to do a number of important things that we are unable to do with the funding that we get from government and from fees. Here, too, we are just beginning - but at least we are into it with the 75th Anniversary financial campaign.

I suppose I am as pleased and excited about the decisions the University took regarding the use of income from sale of part of the University Farm and from a couple of very generous donations as I am about anything in the last four years. Those decisions have resulted in our bringing to life a number of Henry Marshal Tory Chairs, the McCalla Research Professorships, the visiting professorships, and so on. It is very important that we do things like that, and the regular operating grant cannot possibly cover that kind of expenditure.

It's just unfortunate — bad luck — that my first four years have coincided with dramatic changes in the economy. No one would have wanted that — I certainly didn't. I'm disappointed that the conditions have prevented us from moving along as far as I wanted to with the financial campaign — but at least we have made a committment and we are on the way. And that is something.

What are some of the other things that will demand attention in the coming years?

Probably the most pressing matters in the next several years will relate to our enrolment and our inability to admit all of the people who are qualified, because we simply do not have the resources - and that's going to necessitate some very difficult decisions within the University. There is a possibility we shall have to introduce quotas — maybe not in the same way that we have quotas in faculties like Law and Medicine — but by some means limit the enrolment in our faculties that have always been open — that is, open to anyone who can satisfy the minimum requirements. I don't think we have any alternative but to think along those lines. But that is going to be difficult, because you don't make decisions of that type very easily or very quickly. And so, that problem area is going to loom large.

Related to that: problems with regard to space. There'll be no new buildings going up this year and we are terribly pressed for space — in Engineering, for example. There are very real limits as to how many more students we can accommodate given the space we have. So, that will loom particularly large.

Then, I think we will see some very important changes in some of our programs with regard to curriculum. The Faculties of Arts and Science have been looking very critically at their three-year programs, for example. I fully expect that before too long they will have proposals for the University to consider that may very well result in their basic program being extended to four-years. This is another matter for the next while.

There is a whole lot more we need to do with regard to education for Native students, and that will be a major matter of discussion, I am convinced, next year.

Is there, to your mind, any one major challenge facing our society today, and, if so, what are the implications for the University?

It seems to me the major problem we all have to face has to do with unemployment. I think that it is still important for most people that they be employed, and the number of people who want to be employed but are not employed has increased dramatically, and that's a problem for all of us. Inevitably the University is affected. What kind of programs do we provide for individuals, only some of whom — at least in the short run — will have the jobs they really want to have? People will read that differently depending upon their orientation and their biases, I suppose. I don't pretend for a moment that I am necessarily reading it correctly, but I think that it underlines the importance of general education in it own right for some people — and, even more important, the general education component for all students, regardless of the programs which they are pursuing. That is why I feel that one of the major challenges of the next while will be for all of us to look critically at the curriculum of the various degree programs.

But maybe I feel that way because one of my major areas of interest in my own field of teacher education has to do with curriculum development, and you tend to ask the questions which are most familiar to you. But I hope not. I heard the dean of Arts last evening at the Friends of the University say the same things, and he is coming at it from his frame of reference which is somewhat different from mine. So, I think we are going to look very critically and ask ourselves whether we are doing the best we can do to prepare people who will have the basic skills and understandings and attitudes which will enable them to change their orientation several times in the course of a working life.

I really think that is the major challenge for society and, consequently, a major challenge for the University — to achieve a new sense of balance between the University as an institution which prepares people for work, on the one hand, and the University as an institution which prepares people for life. And that's an awkward way of phrasing it, for work is part of life. For anyone to pretend that the University can focus on only one of these domains is to be a bit unrealistic. You go back a long way and universities, of course, have had as one of their mandates the preparation of people for certain occupations — the ministry, medicine, law. I don't think that we need to apologize that the University has as one of its interests the preparation of people for particular occupations, but my own view is that perhaps we have moved too much in that direction. We don't need to beat ourselves if that was the case because, if we did, we did so because we were trying to respond honestly to expectations that were held for the institution by governments and by society generally.

What role do you see alumni playing in the life of the University?

To be among the strongest supporters of the institution. And that is absolutely crucial for a state institution — which ours is — at times when we are not receiving the kind of support that we feel we should from our major benefactor, the state. So it becomes particularly important that our graduates have the kind of positive attitude toward the institution which makes them very strong supporters of the institution. I don't mean only in a financial sense — although I won't exclude financial support.

We have to ask ourselves why it is that so many of the decisions we regret are made by individuals who are University graduates themselves. I am not alone as a university president in wondering; some of us who are university presidents were talking about this not so long ago. Should that be saying something to us about the impact that the university has had on some of these people? I am disappointed that some of our grads who at this moment in time fill positions of responsibility in various places, including federal and provincial governments, don't seem to be more supportive of the institution.

So, I would say the major contribution of members of an alumni fall into that category of being strong advocates for the University — good salesmen with regard to getting support, with regard to identifying the best potential students. We are very weak on that end of it. Some alumni groups are much better in that regard.

Published Summer 1983.

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