Blog30

I had to skip out on blog writing again lately—just too much on the go, too much of a swirl of events to focus on one theme, and too little time. Increasingly, I feel the challenge of writing in this space as a provost. I don’t want to be censoring myself from saying too much on the one hand, but I need to respect the privacy of others and the importance of discretion on the other. For instance, throughout the weeks leading up to the university budget-focused meeting of the Board of Regents, I had to refrain in tongue-clenching fashion from commenting publicly on a number of misleading truthiness-style observations made by some student leaders, the media, and some faculty members. I fully appreciate the need to get the belief-system messages out in circulation, the reliance on provocative rhetoric, and the politicizing of points of view, but that doesn’t mean I have to like some or all of it, especially the ad hominem and weak generalizing bits.

But, again, it’s important to get a grip and let all points of view, however contradictory or ill informed, have an airing. That’s the nature of the world we live in and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Self-censorship is one thing; limiting protest or oppositional points of view is another. Not in my country, thank you very much.

In any case, we are moving on because we have to. Government delivered its budget, we consulted and proposed a reasonable response with which we think we can live, for now, and university life carries on. Enrolment in many of our 100+ graduate programs will go up in the fall, new programs will be proposed, considered, and probably passed, parking will remain a vexed bone of contention, asbestos will be abated, pedways will come down, and summer will not ever have arrived.

These truths notwithstanding, we will definitely take some time, time we really did not have this year, to plan for the uncertain future ahead, not the least of which will involve facing both new provincial and federal governments. Therein lies the promise of newness. I always find the lead-up to elections exciting, a residual effect of having grown up in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, perhaps. Anything seems possible when citizens get to exercise their rights to choose their leaders, or so one hopes.

I am writing this blog from the verdant, blissfully muggy climes of the Laurentians, north of Montreal. See the perfect Canadian vista above. It doesn’t get much more iconic summer than here. Hallelujah and pass the maple syrup. I have been in these parts for a few sweet days for some national board meetings, plotting for now and after the November federal election, in particular, trying to save Canadian public broadcasting from the clutches—or axes–of those who shall remain nameless. Anyone who thinks s/he can predict the fall outcomes is a fool, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think and behave as if a newer day is on the horizon. Public education and public broadcasting share much in common. They are, in my view, the pillars of our democracy, foundational to the kind of society and nation we want to inhabit. Both have endured cuts and diminishment to services over the last two decades. Both are steadily evolving into hybrid versions of the public system—that is, publicly (government, taxation) and privately (individual tuition, corporate donation, beer commercials) funded. I want to live in a Canada that believes in a strong, arm’s length national broadcaster and strong, arm’s length post-secondary education. Sure, broadcasting is a federal matter, education provincial, but with both elections coming our way, the citizens here and there will be chattering like crazy. As sure as summer will fade, the conversation about the future of these democratic pillars will resume with force.

Right now, in the alleged dog days of summer, I’ll settle for a jump in the lake with the loons—of the aquatic diving variety.

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