September 10, 2018
To all members of the University of Windsor community:
A warm and indeed positively humid welcome back to everyone after the summer. I hope that you were able to put your off-duty light on for a bit.
This is a lengthy communiqué, but there has been a lot happening recently. Here are just some of the highlights.
Ontario Provincial Election
Premier Ford and his cabinet were sworn in on June 29, 2018. Of particular interest to our postsecondary education sector is the new Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Dr Merrilee Fullerton. Minister Fullerton, until her election as the MPP for Kanata-Carleton, was a family physician practising in Ottawa. As a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s medical school, she has an understanding of the Ontario university system and the professional school experience. The fact that the government has decided to return to the earlier name of the ministry responsible for our sector – Training, Colleges and Universities – may be a positive sign. It is at the least encouraging to see the word “universities” back in the title.
I have written the Premier and the Minister, and indeed all the newly elected or re-elected MPPs in our region, to congratulate them on their success and to invite them to visit the University to see first-hand the impact we are having in our province, across the river, and around the world.
It remains to be seen what the new majority government and the revamped ministry will mean for the future of the 2017-2020 Strategic Mandate Agreement and, more specifically, the metrics-based funding under SMA2.
Policy on Free Speech on Campus
One issue that the Ford government has acted on quickly is to require every publicly assisted university and college to develop its own policy on free speech on campus by January 1, 2019. The University of Windsor upholds the principle of free speech, and we currently have various university documents that refer to free speech or to freedom of expression, but we do not have a single policy addressing it. In accordance with the government directive, I have asked Prof. Richard Moon of the Faculty of Law to chair a task force charged with developing a policy on free speech. Prof. Moon is known nationally and internationally for his work in Constitutional Law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He is widely recognized for his scholarship on freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and his work is frequently quoted by the Supreme Court of Canada. The task force will have broad representation by stakeholders and will undertake campus-wide consultation as it develops our new policy within the short timeline that we have been given. More details will be forthcoming.
Our enrolment numbers are looking very strong. For this fall, we are shaping up to have one of the largest incoming classes ever – nearly 3,000 first-year students. Counting graduate and undergraduate, domestic and international, and full-time and part-time registrations, we expect to have in total approximately 16,000 students this year – one of the highest enrolments in our university’s history. Many thanks to our colleagues in all aspects of recruitment and admissions for their hard work in bringing these students to our door.
As for students living in one of our four residences (Alumni, Cartier, Laurier, and Macdonald), we are at 100% capacity, with a waiting list. Bravo to our Student Experience and Residence people for this achievement. More than 900 students have moved in, with 73% from Canada and 27% from 47 different countries. Sixty-nine percent are first-year students. And, perhaps not surprisingly, 97% come from outside Windsor-Essex. As I have said before, residence is a great part of university, especially for first-year students. It means independence. Meeting new people. Immersing yourself in the full university experience. Research shows that students who live in residence in first year have a greater sense of “belonging, engagement, and openness to diversity” (NSSE 2015). They also have a higher first-year GPA, a higher retention rate from first year to second, and a higher graduation rate (Academica Group 2017). We know that interacting with peers is a factor in succeeding academically, and one of the best ways to do that is by living in residence. I’m delighted that so many students this year chose to live on campus.
We continue with construction and renovation on main campus and downtown. The Science Research Innovation Facility, now dubbed the Essex Centre of Research (CORE) by the Faculty of Science, will be ready for occupancy this fall, and will feature 46,000 square feet of research space for collaborative work in such fields as advanced materials chemistry, cancer research, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Downtown, our School of Creative Arts is up and running and making a noise in the world of the fine & performing arts. The former Windsor Star building, housing our School of Social Work and the current Centre for Professional and Executive Education, has been renamed Windsor Hall. And the Lancer Sport and Recreation Centre is moving ahead, with an official ground-breaking expected early next summer.
Strategic Priority Fund 50 (SPF50) and the President’s Indigenous Peoples Scholars (PIPS)
We have completed our three-year initiative to hire 50 new tenure-track Assistant Professors and our more recent program to hire five new Indigenous colleagues. I want to thank everyone involved with these successes – the appointments committees and the equity assessors, the resource and support staff, the department heads and faculty deans, and colleagues in the Provost’s Office – for all the hard work it took to recruit our new colleagues. The gender breakdown for these 55 new colleagues is 29 men and 26 women. A list of all our faculty appointments since July 2016, including our SPF 50 and PIPS cohorts, may be found here.
Student Mental Health Strategy
I am pleased to say that our first University of Windsor Student Mental Health Strategy is now available here. Many thanks to Associate Vice-President, Student Experience Ryan Flannagan for providing great leadership on this initiative. I also want to recognize our undergraduate student researchers Katie Chauvin, Stephanie Nardone, and Miranda Sheftel, our Clinical Director of Student Counselling Dr Mohsan Beg, and the many other students, staff, and faculty who contributed to the lengthy process. The federal Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, was pleased to receive a copy of the Strategy when she visited us in August.
In August it was announced that our current Chancellor, The Hon. Edward C. Lumley, would be stepping down after twelve years of outstanding service. During his tenure from 2006 to 2018, Ed tapped his baton on the shoulders of some 55,000 graduands as he conferred their degrees. A remarkable record. We are all indebted to Ed for his many contributions to the University. Please read the Daily News story on Chancellor Lumley here.
The calls for nominations of potential Honorary Degree recipients, Distinguished University Professors, and the next Chancellor have gone out. See the Chancellor Position Profile & Criteria here. Information on Honorary Degrees and Distinguished University Professor Special Appointments may be found here.
New Student Information System
Our University’s new student information platform, UWinsite Student, will be launched on November 26. Preparations for this major transition are well underway. Alice Miller, University Registrar and Lead of the UWinsite Student implementation team, has been visiting Faculty Councils and Department meetings to explain changes related to the introduction of this new platform. In addition, specialized training sessions have been designed for various campus groups. Because campus-wide participation will contribute significantly to a smoother transition for everyone, I strongly encourage all UWinsite Student users, both faculty and staff, to take advantage of the training sessions and learning resources that will be available later this term.
Promise and Pride
There is so much happening at the University of Windsor that should make us proud. We have for the past couple of years been speaking a lot about Promise here at Windsor – and already we see the fulfilment of that potential in so many positive outcomes: the academic success of our students; the launching of their careers; the hiring of scores of new colleagues; the personal and professional attainments of staff and faculty; our digging in on community engagement; the building of our reputation; and a new and growing confidence in who we are and what we do.
It’s time to move from promise to pride, and to feel the pleasure not just in finding our identity but in finding our stride. In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more about what makes us proud – what makes us Windsor Proud.
Finally, on a personal note, my wife Barb joins me in wishing the entire campus a productive and rewarding term. I look forward to seeing you in all the old familiar places, just in a different role. Speaking of the familiar, later this fall I’m offering a course on “Sonnets: A Brief History” in the ElderCollege Distinguished Speaker Series. It will take me back to my academic roots.
In being true to those roots, I give the last word to the humble Wordsworth, whose lines below seem apt for the beginning of term:
Now we start afresh
With courage, and new hope risen on our toil.