The Watch: What are some accomplishments you are proud of?
William Barker: This is going to sound hopeless, but this morning, Gabe Hoogers told me they were going to give me a Gold K from the student association. That probably means more to me than anything else, because they recognize that it has been about the students. The main thing that has been happening here has been a really strong attempt to focus all of our activities towards the students. The school has gotten much more national in its outlook. It used to be a very provincialschool focusing on the Atlantic provinces before I came here.
Now when I go to interview parents and new families, the thing that really struck me last year was that there were as many people in the Vancouver meeting as there were in my first Toronto meeting. That meant that there’s interest right across the country now. I’ve tried to support that, in giving talks at different places and with alumni and faculty, trying to get alumni more involved with the institution. With our board now, we had no one from out of province when I started. Now we have at least three or four members from out of province.
TW: What were some obstacles you faced?
WB: I’ve kind of discovered that there is no year without somekind of impending, looming crisis of some sort. There are real challenges financially. Those things have to balance out with the life of the school. No matter who I talk to, with other universities it’s the same thing. I realize it’s the nature of a university to have this struggle. You’re living on the edge a little bit. My predecessor, Colin Starnes, told me about this, how it happens here. I said ‘sure’, and then when I started the job, it really was like that. Everyone here knows pretty well how the place works. Faculty are interested and know how it works and fit together. They ask the difficult questions, and these difficult questions help us keep an eye on the priorities. So, there’s this sense that you’re kind of always rolling the ball uphill, but, unlike Sisyphus, it never rolls down again. You don’t even get to break.
TW: Looking back, how do you feel about the house that was purchased on Coburg Road?
WB: I felt the problem with that was I couldn’t explain it properly at the time. I know it’s difficult for people to understand, but the house didn’t cost us anything. We just moved money from one asset class to another. We had cash, we could buy it. It’s still a fungible entity as they say; you can still do something with it. You can still sell it or whatever. It hasn’t really changed things. What it did do was provide more space in Alex Hall. It raised awareness very quickly to the problem of space on campus. We have no place to go. We can’t keep it the same size because the government funds us on growth. If we want more students to come here, which we probably will be forced to do by government funding (because we can’t raise the tuitions), so where do we get the money we need to cover for fallbacks from government funding? We have to enroll more students. Where do we put them? We’ve run out of space in residence, and also the campus is pretty well stretched. We don’t need a huge amount of space, but we need some.
TW: What’s your relationship with Dr. Wayne Hankey like today?
WB: It’s good. There’s not one president he has any terribly kind words for. In the nature of my position, I’ve had lots of really interesting talks with him. We’ve had some good relations over the years. The only thing I find frustrating is, he takes it as his duty to be highly critical of the administration, and he doesn’t spare you anything when he does that. That’s a role he’s taken on and it has an important use
around the college. That’s where I am with that.
TW: Are you satisfied with your time as president?
WB: I would have liked to have seen us move past some of the challenges we’re facing right now. I would like to see us move a bit further along with academic planning. The space issues are something I’m frustrated by. I’m hoping my successor can push through, but we’ve identified the issues that we can push through and move to another stage. In terms of the life of the campus,
I really feel there’s so much that has worked out over the years, in all of the student organizations, athletics, chapel. All of these things have gone really well, so that’s been a good part.