"Pipedream Or Usefully Provocative Idea"
It is almost that time again. The Macleans rankings are coming out. Will the University of Windsor remain 11th in the list of 11 or will there be huge celebrations if by chance it moves up a spot or two?
The University will always remain close to the bottom of the list of top Universities in Canada. At least according to the criteria of Macleans Magazine. Macleans is like the Bi-national Partnership and the border…their criteria define whether you pass or fail or how highly one ranks.
High incoming student grades, national academic awards, calibre of faculty, finances, reputation----how can we realistically expect Windsor to rank highly.
Never mind that the University has proven excellence in the areas of automotive research, the environment, and social justice. (and perhaps they could develop another one in medicine for underserviced areas, like Windsor!) Never mind that the University has offered an education to those who might have otherwise not gone to university since they could not get into the "better" schools either because of grades or finances.
There is no point beating ourselves up if the University ranks low again. As long as students get a good education, both academically and otherwise, (and sometimes the "otherwise" is more important as I learned when I was a graduate student overseas) isn’t that enough?
I must admit that I was amused when I read about a critical report by two board members, Dennis DesRosiers and Gord Boggs, about the University's poor showing in Macleans. React to a magazine ranking …..puhleeeeeeeze. At least "Several board members said they would not want to "manage to Macleans" by changing certain criteria that might not be in the best interests of the school or its students."
If the University does want to make a contribution, then it can do no better than listen to what Dr. Ross Paul said in his 2005 State of the University Address:
- "For these reasons, I believe that Windsor’s future is inextricably linked to the development of its University and its College and vice versa... It is important to note that more and more municipalities are investing in their universities and colleges because they understand their critical importance, not only to the economic development of their regions but to the quality of life that they critically help to develop and support….From this perspective, I have been very encouraged by Mayor Eddie Francis’s strong interest… I am encouraged by his thinking and pledge the University to work closely with him and other community leaders to develop a new economy and a new quality of life that make Windsor one of Canada’s most thriving communities."
That is why the recent story in the Star was so disappointing. "Eighteen months after University of Windsor president Ross Paul proposed moving parts of the campus downtown, the idea appears dead."
It would be interesting to know the real story since I heard that a recent meeting between the Mayor and the University did not go well at all. If the building of a university campus downtown could revitalize the area, shouldn’t the City be taking the lead to see how this can be done? "Dead" is not an acceptable choice in an area that is dying as the auto industry declines here.
Discussions with St. Clair College as an alternative? Hardly. They pulled out of the Income Security Building at the last minute since they could not afford the cost!
Dr. Paul wrote a Guest Column for the Star in February, 2004 in which he stated, "More and more cities are investing in what Harvard economist Michael Porter calls "clusters" -- private companies, universities, colleges and governments collaborating to establish key regional economic engines. The regional emphasis is important, for two- thirds of employment in modern countries comes from local rather than national clusters."
That sounds similar to what was done in Sault Ste. Marie in their "Innovation Centre" that I discussed before in this Blog. That city had major slowdowns in their steel and lumber industries.
Now isn’t that what we should be considering after hearing about the Windsor/Essex County Economic Development Statement? Isn’t this something we should be striving for as we lose thousands of jobs in the auto industry and as we WILL lose thousands more as the GEMA plant experience should teach us?
Dr. Paul also wrote:
- A city with a beautiful waterfront, strong ethnic mix, bustling downtown, broad range of industries and services, Canada's newest art gallery, one of its best symphonies, a science museum, brand new arena and balance of younger and older people living in affordable condominiums.
A city across the river from a major American metropolis. A city with one of Canada's leading universities, known internationally for its leading-edge research in such areas as automotive, environmental and social justice, but also for its learner-centred campus life and community participation.
Can this be Windsor?! Why not?
Why not indeed. I have an idea…instead of Beztak or some other developer investing $40-50 million in an arena downtown and paying the ongoing costs annually as a "loss leader" to build a profitable urban village, why aren’t we talking to the developers and asking them to sink that kind of money into something productive----like an expanded University of Windsor so that we can fulfill the "pipedream" of Dr. Paul. The City has set aside $15 million (or, as Councillor Lewenza would say, only $75 per household per year) for an arena that we no longer seem to need. Why not take that money and do something truly productive with it?
I would rather believe in the University President’s pipedream than the billion-dollar Schwartz dream and try to achieve that! That is what the Mayor and Council should be rallying about.
Now that would be a legacy for the University and for Windsor, not ranking #8 on the Macleans List!