Monday, 12 August 2013

Vic Toews as U of W President?

Vic Toews receives on honorary
degree from University of Winnipeg
president Lloyd Axworthy in 2010.

Will Toews succeed Axworthy come July 2014?

Image Source
/Winnipeg Free Press 
Vic Toews left parliament this summer to focus on "family" and the "private sector". Meanwhile, some conservatives in Provencher are urging that Pallister CON Kelvin Goertzen run as a Harper CON in the federal byelection. Others think he's better as a provincial MLA because he can take down the provincial NDP - a notion highly dubious as he frequently falls into PR disasters.

But, really, what's most intriguing now is what's next for Vic Toews.

One particular suggestion has really caught my attention: that Vic Toews will become the next President of the University of Winnipeg.

John Dobbin, in a post on Harper dropping Fletcher from cabinet, noted that while there's "no proof whatsoever" he suspects Toews will replace Axworthy. Axworthy, of course, isn't seeking a third term as U of W president.

Now, Dobbin might just be speculating. But, as he's a fairly vocal Winnipeg Liberal I assume that he's not that many degrees of separation from Axworhy. If there's some insider knowledge from Lloyd Axworthy's clique on the shortlist of candidates I don't find it hard to believe that some of those whispers would make it to Dobbin.

But he's just one person and could just be guessing.

There's another person I know, though, who's actually at the University of Winnipeg and hinted that it's not a coincidence that Axworthy isn't seeking a third term as Toews leaves federal politics. They implied that Toews would succeed the esteemed president.

But, to the contrary, Colin Fast thinks there's "no chance [...] sadly" of Toews becoming President of the University of Winnipeg. He basis this on the parliamentarian's lack of academic credentials.

Now, I personally think that it'd be splendid if there was a zero percent chance of Judge Dredd becoming president of the U of W. After all, with Toews you're guaranteed a (figurative) reign of terror.

I mean, Toew's has a past involving reckless and hypocritical behaviour unbecoming of a university president. Worst, those antics involved people who worked for him!!! Can you imagine the Rob Ford-esque nonsense that might come out've the president's office if Vic tries any office romances?  The U of W doesn't need any pricey lawsuits - it's cash strapped as is!!

Reviewing the mandate of the President of the University of Winnipeg, while they have to work with academics it doesn't seem they have to be one. A non-academician university president is precedented. As a January 19, 2009 article from Maclean's notes:

Acadia today announced that it has named Ray Ivany as its new president.

[..] But one thing he doesn’t have is a Ph.D. Ivany is not an academic. 
This makes Ivany part of an growing trend in academia. The position of university president—which used to be given to a distinguished professor—is now often going to someone who has made a career as a manager, not a researcher. Most other sectors of the economy long ago moved to this model: to become CEO of an airline, you don’t have to spend 20 years piloting 747s; to run a telecom company, you don’t have to spend a lifetime becoming your company’s most experienced telephone line installer; to run a TV network, you don’t have be a professional camera operator or have hosted your own TV show. What’s more, a university president is not only the manager of a large organization, he or she is managing an organization more decentralized than almost any other. Employees (professors) have an extremely high degree of autonomy (not to mention tenure), as do the various departments and schools within the university. The job requires managerial talents that are often more akin to politics than traditional, private-sector management. And a large and growing part of the president’s job is fund-raising: another unusual skill that combines elements of politics, salesmanship, vision and innate charm. None of these attributes is likely to be developed by spending most of one’s life conducting experiments and writing papers.

Hence the growing trend to look outside the academy. Ottawa last year chose as president former lawyer and politician Allan Rock. Also last year, Bishop’s installed as principal Michael Goldbloom, a lawyer who has had careers leading a lobby group (Alliance Quebec), running the Montreal YMCA, as a newspaper executive (with the Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star), and, from 2007 to 2008, as a vice-president at McGill. The University of Winnipeg is headed by a politician, Lloyd Axworthy. He has a Ph.D. but is not a career academic. The same goes for the chief at St. Francis Xavier, Sean Riley. He has a Ph.D., but his career prior to becoming president was spent in government and the private sector, not as a professor.

("Another university president without a Ph.D.". Tony Keller. Maclean's On Campus (January 19, 2009).)

From the high budget graphics department
of The Winnipeg RAG Review comes our
rendition of the new Vic Toews!

Image Sources
Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency
(Toews face)

IDK, my BFF, blog (body)
So, will Toews be the next in a long line of politically savvy, competent public managers to preside over a university? Given Toews has thus far been neither of those things, I'm not too hopeful for the fate of my alma mater.

Remember the reception Toews received when Axworthy gave him an honorary degree? You know, the whole protests and valedictorian ashamed of being on the same stage as Vic? That bodes well for administration-student relations, does it not?

Given what people tell me, admin-student relations at the UofW aren't great as is - a Toews presidency would test their limits.

But maybe Toews, out've an unhappy marriage, is a new man. Less controlling and angry, more free and let live.

If Kaj Hasselriis is right, the "Minister of Family Values" is able to laugh at avant-garde Fringe Festival performances.

Maybe this lively fellow will come to preside over the UofW in Hawaiian t-shirts?

Of course, this is just based on rumours - Toews might be on no shortlists or lists for the position at all. Still, the fact that there's a nonzero chance of a Toews presidency at the UofW still makes me fear for my alma mater.


  1. Wow. Is it too early to write a letter to the board of regents strongly objecting to any consideration of this, even though it's still only a rumour? I don't see his lack of PhD as a dealbreaker. Rather, it's because his values are at odds with the university community's:

    1. UofW is an LGBT*-positive institution. Toews is a social conservative has opposed all efforts to extend rights to LGBT people including same-sex marriage. He's also anti-abortion.

    2. His punitive approach to "law and order" stands in stark contrast to empirically-driven policies that actually reduce crime; i.e., the stuff they teach in the criminal justice department. For example, while justice minister he increased penalties for young offenders.

    3. He belongs to a government that has systematically silenced scientists and slowly dismantled Canada's basic research infrastructure, turning government research labs into a "one stop shop" for corporations.

  2. Vic Toews was possibly the biggest embarrassment to come out of Manitoba in quite some time. I doubt the University of Winnipeg would give him the time of day.