October 29, 1999 Volume 7, Number 5


About OCN




the Bowl


Letters to
the Editor


from HRD




U of S President Peter MacKinnon installed Oct. 22

Following are major excerpts from Pres. Peter MacKinnon’s Installation Address, Oct. 22:

...I began my career at this university 24 years ago. For every day of every one of those years, I have considered myself fortunate in the nature and location of my work. To be installed today as the President of a university that I love is, for me, a great honour and responsibility ... I promise to strive every day to be worthy of both.

...Presidential installations are ceremonies of reaffirmation and renewal – reaffirmation of a noble idea and of a history that matters; and renewal in the form of a commitment to the future. The noble idea is that of the university itself. It finds support in Clark Kerr’s observation that of the 70 institutions that have been in continuous existence from the Reformation to this day, 66 are universities and colleges. Universities tend to endure, and they do so because they represent enduring values.

...It was, however, the founding President of the University of Saskatchewan, Walter Murray, who reminded us that a public university "cannot confine itself to the realization of an idea but must serve the many-sided life of the community…" It is not possible to work for long at this university without developing a profound admiration for its builders. They understood that the success of a new province – established only two years before the University itself – was closely linked to advanced education. They knew that the prospects of their children and grandchildren would be greatly influenced by an accessible, comprehensive institution of higher learning. They valued the aesthetic dimensions of the human experience as expressed in the development of a campus of great beauty. And they envisaged a university with academic standards that were second to none. Our founders’ dreams were big dreams, and they built well.

They built a university that has seen 100,000 graduates cross this stage and the stage in Convocation Hall in the historic College Building on campus. Their record of success in graduate programs around the world, in competitive examinations, and in public and private life in Canada and abroad, is an inspiring testimonial to the preparation that they received in the classrooms, laboratories and libraries of the University of Saskatchewan.

Our founders built a university in which research was seen as a dynamic force for understanding and improving the world that we inhabit.

And they built a university in which the commitment to service was more than rhetorical flourish. It was a commitment that first established deep roots in the rich soil of this land by addressing agricultural needs, and went on to find expression in almost all facets of the social and cultural life of our Province.

And so today we reaffirm the importance of our history. But we must, at the same time, acknowledge that the University of Saskatchewan is not simply an accomplished fact; it is a work in progress. Universities are built for the ages and these are still our early years. In this very important context, everyone here today joins the original founders and builders, and the men and women who shaped the first 90 years of our history.

...Our commitment must begin with the recognition of the growing importance of universities in the late years of the 20th century. Other organizations may be successful rivals in the storage and dissemination of information. But it is universities that are uniquely engaged in the systematic development of knowledge, perspective and understanding.

...Our commitment to the future must also address the sober fact that Canada’s provincial and federal investment in its universities has been declining. Twenty years ago federal and provincial government support amounted to $11,000 for every student at a Canadian university. In 1999 it is under $7,000. In the last five years, the real level of government support for Canadian universities declined by 20 per cent. In contrast, and in real terms, government support for universities in the United States has increased by almost 20 per cent in the last 20 years. The result is that public funding of American universities is now 50 percent higher than public funding of Canadian universities. This comparison with our nearest neighbour and most important trading partner speaks for itself, and the message is vital: if Canada is to meet the future with confidence, it must invest in the future with commitment. We must reverse this decline in public support for our universities across the country, and we must build and sustain universities that are among the best in the world.

There are signs that in one sphere of activity the need for this new investment is recognized. The relative absence of corporate head offices and industry-based research capacity in the Canadian economy has resulted in Canada’s unenviable record among G7 countries in research and development; it has also meant that Canada’s research capacity is largely concentrated in its universities, which are now being asked to assume prominent roles in research and development strategies of government and industry. Universities should be open to this engagement in innovation provided that we are always vigilant to protect free and independent enquiry. But no-one should conclude that research partnerships with government and industry will compensate for our recent history of inadequate operational support. Operating budgets are the fiscal foundation of our most important activities. They must be our first priority.

Our recognition that the importance of universities is growing and that increased public investment is needed, are necessary if universities are to flourish and to remain accessible.

...The University of Saskatchewan should include among its goals a determination to ensure that undergraduate programs in the humanities and sciences are – in reality and reputation – among the best in Canada. For many students the undergraduate years are their only years of university education, and for them the experience should be formative in the best sense of the word. For others, the undergraduate years are also the foundation for graduate and professional studies that follow, and that foundation should be competitive with the best that are available.

Strong academic units are necessary for the pursuit of this goal, but they are not sufficient in these years of transition to a new century and millennium. The complexity of the world around us requires breadth as well as special knowledge. A liberal curriculum is part of this breadth. Opportunities for interdisciplinary and international study are other parts.

...Students must have more opportunities to cross the boundaries of different disciplines. They must also have more opportunities to cross the boundaries of other nations, cultures and languages. The global village has now been joined by the global economy. Our students must live and work in both, and their university years must help to prepare them. This too has implications for our curricula, including greater opportunities for study abroad programs and student exchanges.

Undergraduate programs that are second to none in Canada and that offer opportunities for interdisciplinary and international study – these should be among our commitments to the future. But we know that the University of Saskatchewan is not an undergraduate university only. Our mission statement recognizes a wide array of graduate and professional programs as historical fact and future promise. How wide the array is should depend on critical reference to three considerations: priorities, quality and resources.

We must identify, as priorities, areas in which the University of Saskatchewan should be among the best universities in the world. We live, for example, in one of the most important agricultural regions on Earth; our agricultural programs should be among the best on Earth. In other areas we have – or may hope to have – competitive advantage as a result of anticipated resources such as the Canadian Light Source (synchrotron), or recognized existing strengths. These, too, should be among our priorities. But quality, as determined by systematic program review, must be a sine qua non of all that we do. Features of this university's life that enhance quality must be embraced. Practices and policies that threaten quality must be discarded.

Universities with the range of programs and activities that we find on our campus must have national and international respect for their research activities. Research is not an option or an indulgence; it is a central feature of the University’s duty to advance the frontiers of knowledge. To better understand ourselves and the world around us – this is the purpose of research; it enriches student learning, improves our lives and contributes to social and economic development.

This university has a proud research record in many spheres of activity. While others provide much needed support, it is our faculty – in the quiet of their studies and laboratories – who carry the special burdens of research effectiveness. To cite but one example, the synchrotron and all it means came to the University of Saskatchewan for many reasons, but the single most important one was the quality of our faculty who had the vision to imagine the possibilities, and the persistence to turn potential into reality. Inspired by this example, and by many others on our campus, we must broaden and strengthen our research capacity.

...This university is linked in unique and vital ways to its environment. These linkages must be nourished and enhanced in the years to come. Saskatoon is a university city, and the history of our university parallels that of the province. The idea of this University as an important resource in this city and province, and beyond, finds expression in our historical emphasis on outreach and service, the successful research park on our campus, and in many other ways. But we can do more.

Ours is an impatient world. More than ever, society needs institutions devoted to patient discovery and debate. The University of Saskatchewan should take the lead in facilitating, promoting and advancing debate on issues of public importance. It should be recognized as a place to come – not to be told answers, but to hear discussion and arguments about the possibilities. We have the obligation to assist society in a public way to understand the problems that confront all of us, and to identify possible solutions to them.

In the most general terms, this should be the University of Saskatchewan in the decades to come. It is a university with undergraduate programs that are second to none in Canada. It is a university in which all undergraduate students have opportunities to expand their horizons in interdisciplinary and international study. It is one in which the array of graduate and professional programs is shaped by collegial decisions on priorities, and rigorous assessments of quality. It is a university that attracts wide recognition and support for its research activities. It is a university in which there is recommitment to service as a vital component of our future.

Eminent Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, ours will an exciting future. Proud of our origins, and respectful of our history, we turn our faces to the future and to new opportunities to serve our province, our country and the spaceship Earth that is home to all of us. And so I conclude this address as I began it – with an expression of my gratitude and a promise to work tirelessly for this wonderful university.

Thank you very much.

Newly installed Pres. Peter MacKinnon speaks to the audience at Centennial Auditorium, watched by dignitaries, from left, Chancellor Peggy McKercher, Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies rep. Gary Davis, Council Chair Ron Cuming, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, Post-Secondary Education and Skills Training Minister Glenn Hagel, and University of Regina Board of Governors Chair Brian Johnson.

Jennifer Lawrence, of the U of S Nutrition and Dietetics Students’ Society (centre), greets Pres. Peter MacKinnon at the post-Installation reception Oct. 22, as Dr. Karen Shaw, a doctor with the Student Health Centre and past-president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, waits to greet him.

News Index

Next Article

On Campus News is published by the Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan.
For further information, visit the web site or contact communications@usask.ca

Next issue of 
On Campus
 November 12

and copy
 November 5