Senior College Annual Report: 2016-2017

Senior College Annual Report: 2016-2017
By Peter H. Russell

This is the first annual report I have written, and it is ironic that it is a report on Senior College in my final year as its Principal – indeed, its founding Principal. I and my colleagues who established the College in 2009 were too busy getting the College up and running in its early years to do annual reports. But it is now clear that Senior College has a life beyond its founders and can benefit from having an annual account of its activities and development.

Changing of the Guard

2016-17 was a year in which Senior College underwent a changing of the guard. In June, the Senate (Senior College’s AGM) approved a slate proposed by the Nominating Committee that designated Vice-Principal (Admin) Harold Atwood to succeed me as Principal and Jim Gurd, Co-Chair of the Program Committee, to succeed Harold as Vice-Principal (Admin). The other College officers – Daphne Maurer (Vice-Principal Academic), Charles Chaffey (Bursar) and Edna Hajnal (Registrar) – remain in place. We have the hard work of the Nominating Committee headed by Merrijoy Kelner to thank for this good blend of change and continuity.

The Nominating Committee with the help of Vice-Principal Atwood also did excellent work in developing a slate of candidates for the College Council and finding Fellows to strengthen the College’s Standing Committees. I would like to welcome Milton Charlton and Mary Finlay as new members of Council and thank John Dirks for his many years of service to the College as a Council member. Also, with much sadness, let me acknowledge the sudden death of Orest Rudzik who as a member of Council gave so much to the College through his intellectual energy and the remarkable range of his scholarly interests.

Academic Program

Over the last few years, Senior College’s academic meetings have developed a steady rhythm of large weekly seminars on Wednesday mornings in the fall and Wednesday afternoons in the winter, monthly colloquia and the Annual Symposium in April. Thanks to the great work of the committees that organize these activities the three elements of the program had excellent years.

The weekly seminars at the Faculty Club continue to attract forty to fifty people each week, most of whom are Fellows. Members of Senior College who have not chosen to become Fellows also attend and are asked to pay a small $10 charge towards the cost of the seminars. The seminars have proved to be a good recruiting ground for Fellows. The schedule of speakers put together by the Program Committee headed by Jim Gurd and Linda Hutcheon, this year, as in the past, was systematically multidisciplinary, with a good balance of humanities, natural science and social science topics. The fall term, for example, included presentations by Alan Bewell on how the ecological impact of British colonialism on global natures is reflected in English literature, Audrey Macklem on Canadian immigration policy and Steve Scherer on the use of genetic research in the treatment of autism. A group of Fellows followed up Professor Scherer’s talk with a visit to the Hospital for Sick Children’s Centre for Applied Genetic where downtown Toronto. Professor Richard White took us on a fascinating tour of this new research facility in downtown Toronto.

Attendance at the monthly colloquia is capped at 15 – first come, first served. The smaller number permits sustained discussion of topics that are usually fairly controversial. This year ageism, the military use of drones, and the modern graphic novel were among the topics discussed and debated. No “expert” gives a talk or leads the discussion. All present have read some of the selected books and articles. The exchange of ideas and insights is free flowing, often opening up sharp differences that are always respectfully explored. I have found these colloquia some of the most stimulating discussions I have had in over 60 years at the University. Martin Klein who, during the year, succeeded Peter Hajnal as chair of the Colloquia Committee, had the good sense to recognize that Senior College need not follow the teaching term schedule and extended the colloquia into June.

Once again, and for the eleventh time, the Annual Symposium Committee, co-chaired this year by Suzanne Hidi and Daphne Maurer, produced a smash hit. The theme this year was The New Technology: Good, Bad or Just Different? Many aspects of how technology is changing us and the world we live in were covered by an outstanding roster of speakers. A full house of 125, including a table of students from the University-in-the-Community Program, filled the Faculty Club dining room. Their appreciation of the event is evident in the very positive evaluations the attendees left with us. And once again, I want to record the College’s thanks to the Bank of Montreal for its generous support of the Symposium.

Other Academic Activities

Senior College’s creation of a digital history/encyclopaedia of the University of Toronto is now focusing on life-writing by university scholars who had much to do with building the scholarly disciplines and institutions that have made the U of T one of the world’s leading research universities. Ken Rea and Sandy Gregor who have led this project from the start intend to work with a committee of Fellows with the aim of increasing participation in the project.

Support for the Workers Educational Association’s University-in-the-Community is Senior College’s major outreach activity. UitC organizes courses for Torontonians who for various reasons have been unable to attend or finish university. The courses are humanities-based and aim at enabling students to learn more about the world they live in so that they are better able to address the challenges they face day to day. Senior College find speakers for the program and assists with its administration and fund-raising. Innis College provides classroom space.

This year the program, with a student enrollment of 34, focussed on how Toronto from its earliest days coped with issues such as public transport, policing, public health and immigration as it became a big city. The Program’s Administrator, Joanne Bennett-McKay, supported by a Senior College committee chaired by Donald Gillies, was able to recruit an outstanding roster of speakers, that included City of Toronto archivist Carol-Radford Grant, transportation guru, Steve Munro, and former city political leaders John Sewell and George Smitherman.

UitC, for the third year, also offered a course at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health called Thought for Food (CAMH), a course on all aspects of what we eat. This course has been so successful that CAMH plans to take it over as one of its internal programs.

During the year, Donald Gilles led efforts to make UitC a joint Ryerson University/University of Toronto program with a view to putting the program on a firmer, financial footing. In the end, Ryerson declined to become a partner with U of T. However, University of Toronto Provost Cheryl Regher has committed to providing $25,000 to support the program for the next three years. That funding guarantees the program can operate until 2020 on a one term basis. Whether it can continue to be mounted in both terms, as UitC has done up to now, will depend on the fund-raising efforts of the Workers Education Association and Senior College. This year UitC received two substantial grants from private donors that helped to keep the program going.

As a result of fund-raising over the last three years, this year the College was able to invite its Fellows to apply for small research grants.

Applications were assessed by a peer-review process designed by former Vice-Principal Cornelia Baines and now administered by Vice-Principal (academic) Daphne Maurer with the support of a small committee. This year, with a limited total budget of $5000, the Research Committee was able to award partial funding to four Fellows: Judith Friedland for research on research assistants’ understanding of the ethical guidelines governing research with humans, Peter Hajnal for his work on how change from the G8 to the G7 impacted the G20, David Kenny for a book on the dental school at the University of Western Ontario, and Kenneth Norwich for research applying quantum physics to perception.

Senior College Fellows’ interest in obtaining grants to support their research demonstrates that for a significant number of retired faculty and librarians their professional and scholarly activities do not terminate with retirement. In retirement, senior scholars have more freedom to explore new fields within their discipline and sometimes pursue inquiries entirely outside their discipline. The Senior Scholars Annual listing of retirees’ honours and awards, publications, guest lectures, conference presentations and community service shows how misleading the word “retirement” can be for those who collect a pension cheque rather than a salary cheque. The Annual for many years was assembled by Cornelia Baines. This year Daphne Maurer took charge of it, following Dr. Baines’s format. While the Annual can only report the work of academic retirees who volunteer to provide information to the College, it is still an account of a scholarly community that is highly productive in so-called retirement.

The suite of rooms on the fourth floor at 256 McCaul that began as the Academic Retirement Centre (ARC) in 2009 was merged into Senior College two years ago on the recommendation of a Provostial review of the Centre. The Centre functions as the services branch of Senior College. It is under the direction of a Board of Management chaired by the Vice-Provost (Academic Programs). During this, its second year as part of Senior College, the Centre continued, with the help of volunteers, to be available five days a week to academic retirees as a phone-in and drop-in centre.

The Centre also continues to operate a Speakers Bureau which makes senior U of T scholars available for speaking to community groups. The Centre’s lounge continues to serve as a show-case for retiree art. This year the University remodelled the very underused carrels room so that it can be a meeting place for the Board of Management, the College Council and its committees. The monthly colloquia now take place in this room rather than at the Faculty Club. RALUT’s former office has been turned into an Executive room for the College’s officers. Suite 412 at 256 McCaul has become very much Senior College headquarters.

With all academic retirees automatically becoming Members of Senior College, the Centre has the potential of being a much more active and used facility than it is at present. With that in mind, the Centre’s Board of Management has asked me to chair a Strategic Plan Committee. The other members of the Committee are Derek Allen, Harold Atwood, Patricia Bellamy and Kent Weaver. Among the additional activities suggested for the Centre are instruction in the various kinds of social media, sharing hobbies or non-professional interests, and assisting Faculties, Centres and Departments in organizing retiree social events. The Committee aims to have a draft ready for consideration by the College by the end of 2017.

Members and Fellows

2016-17 was the first full year after the merger of ARC and Senior College, and Senior College’s new Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Toronto. Under the new MOA, all retired faculty and librarians, past, present and future, are Members of Senior College with the option of paying a fee to become a Fellow. We had no idea how many of these “automatic” Members would choose to become Fellows of the College. As it turns out, not many did so in the first year. Our Registrar, Edna Hajnal, reported to the AGM in June that eight new Fellows had been added to the 99 continuing Fellows.

Under the leadership of Edna and the Registrar’s Committee the College has tried its best to contact faculty and librarians who are considering retirement to tell them about the benefits if becoming a Fellow of Senior College. In April, Harold Atwood, Daphne Maurer and I made a presentation about Senior College to a retirement seminar at Simcoe Hall. Later in the month I spoke to a retirement seminar on the Mississauga campuses, and Harold Atwood and I addressed a combined Scarborough and main campus retiree meeting at Simcoe Hall. We have also arranged with Steve Dyce at Human Resources for the inclusion of information about the College in general mailings to pensioners. Nonetheless, many of us who are active in the College are constantly bumping into retired colleagues who say they have never heard of Senior College.

A change in the fee structure may help to recruit more Members to the Fellowship of the College. Thanks to Daphne Maurer’s suggestion and Charles Chaffey’s careful budgeting, the College has been able to abandon a differentiated schedule of Fellow’s fees and have a uniform fee of $190 that covers both Faculty Club membership and expenses incurred in mounting the College’s academic program. This represents a significant reduction of the fee for new Fellows and a modest addition to the fee paid by the College’s earliest Fellows.

With full houses at virtually all of our academic events, the College is not sweaty about expanding the number of Fellows. But we are concerned, and should be concerned, about the age distribution among the Fellows. A considerable majority of Fellows are over 75 years of age. It is important for the College to attract younger retirees to lead the College in the future.

Administration and Communication

The College has benefitted again this year from the skilful and friendly work of the College Administrator, Vennese Croasdaile. Her expertise in computer technology and the internet has, among other things, enabled the College to mount a new web-site and improve its handling of registrations for events. Vennese has worked effectively with the College’s many committee chairs in helping them manage their programs and projects.

Harold Atwood, with a much better eye for efficient administration than I ever had, has helped Vennese with identifying priorities and managing her time. And there is just never enough time to discharge all of the responsibilities – short-term and longer-term – of the College Administrator, even though it has become a full-time position, and has the help of a number of trained volunteers. One of the Administrator’s new responsibilities, and one for which Vennese is especially well-qualified, is organizing the College’s archives. I have been working with her and Tye Klumpenhouwer, an archivist at the Robarts Library, to establish a Senior College archive that fits into the University’s archival system.

During the year, Ken Rea who has served as the College’s Co-ordinator of Communications since the College’s founding, let us know that he was stepping down from that responsibility. Ken’s work as our Communications Co-ordinator has been an extraordinary benefit to the College. It is a measure of the breadth of his contributions that he will be replaced by a “Communications Consortium”. Ed Barbeau has taken on the role of Editor of the online News Bulletin. Jonathan Dostrovsky is now the College’s advisor on internet communications, and will serve as a technical editor for the Encyclopaedia/History project’s website.

One cloud hangs over the operation of Senior College – funding for a full time Administrator is not secure. In recent years funding for a full time position has been provided by the University of Toronto paying 60% and the University of Toronto Faculty Association 40%. UTFA is committed to funding 40% of the Administrator’s salary until September 2018. But UTFA has put the College on notice that 2017-18 will be the last year it will contribute to the Administrator’s salary. We know for sure that the Administrator’s responsibilities add up to much more than a full-time job, and it is a University staff position. The College has excellent relations with UTFA and the University Administration. We do not want to jeopardize those good relations by intervening in a disagreement between them. It is my fervent hope that good sense will prevail and full funding will be secured for our Administrator so that we do not have to roll back College activities. What a shame it would be for the College after achieving so much to be forced to retreat.

Relations with the Faculty Club, UTFA and the University Administration

Again this year, Senior College has enjoyed the Faculty Club as the venue for many of its events. Manager Leone Pepper and Assistant Manager Pierre Le Bouedec are most helpful in ensuring that we have excellent and congenial facilities for our meetings. The availability of good food and drink as part of our events enhances the social side of the College which is so essential to making our members truly a community of scholars. There was full support for a College donation to installing a new entrance door to the main lounge that will dampen noises from the hall during our seminars. I would like to thank John Youson, a Fellow of the College, who continues to serve on the Faculty Club Board and helps us maintain good, mutually beneficial, relations with the Club.

This year we strengthened the College’s relations with the Faculty Association. Cynthia Messenger, UTFA’s new President, organized several events to which Senior College members were invited, including a stimulating discussion of ending mandatory retirement in 2004. Senior College has also begun to communicate information about its events to the full membership of UTFA. Kent Weaver, who chairs UTFA’s Retired Members Committee, and Vice-Principal Atwood have had much to do with enhancing these connections with UTFA.

It has been a pleasure to work with Professor Sioban Nelson, the senior University of Toronto officer whose jurisdiction as Vice-Provost Academic Programs includes Senior College. Busy as she is, Sioban is always available when needed to sort out issues in a friendly and helpful manner. Her participation at meetings of the College’s Executive Committee and Council, and chairing of the Senior College Centre, enables the College to function effectively in the complex U of T environment. The other senior University officer who has been most attentive to the College’s needs on a day-today basis is Andrea Russell, Director, and Academic Affairs, in the Provost’s office. As Vennese’s official supervisor she has met regularly with Vennese and, among other things, has guided her through the intricacies of financial reporting.

Over a number of years, through the wise and sensitive help it received from Jasvir Nijjar in the Division of Advancement, the College was able to carry out a successful fund-raising program. Jasvir has recently moved up to a more senior position in Advancement. Her replacement, Brady Tupper, has already met with us several times and we are looking forward to working with her in launching the College’s next fund-raising effort. This will require rethinking the purposes and priorities of Senior College fund-raising.

They Will Be Missed

I have already mentioned the loss of Orest Rudzik who contributed so much to the College’s academic program. Last summer we lost another Senior College giant, Joe Whitney. Joe was a dynamic force in the College from its very beginning. Ever the geographer, Joe took the lead in organizing “outings” of all kinds for the Fellows – some local, such as a visit to the University’s ecology lab at Joker’s Hill, and other expeditions to such far off places as Iceland and Haida Gwai. Last summer Joe was organizing a group of Fellows to register for the 75the Anniversary of the crafting of the Atlantic Charter by Churchill and Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland – an event in which I was deeply involved. Joe’s untimely death meant that he and Diana were not there last August. But his organizing energy meant that a number of Fellows did attend. The College will also very much miss Michael Bliss whose capacity for lively, but always friendly, debate animated many College meetings in our early days.

For me the biggest downside of being Principal of Senior College is losing so many of the new and good friends one gets to know in the College. But I guess that goes with the territory.

Saying Good-Bye

Let me close by thanking all who came to say good-bye to me as Principal at the Faculty Club luncheon and the Solstice Party in June. Special thanks to Vennese for her wonderful photographic momento of my years as Principal and to Suzanne Hidi for her generous hospitality in once again hosting the Solstice Party.

Good-bye to you all- as Principal. Its been a ball. God and the healthcare system willing, you will still see me around enjoying the life of Senior College.