From the President's Window

From the President's Window

March 19, 2014

Correcting Tweets and Misinformation

I have noticed that there is misinformation circulating in social media and elsewhere with respect to application figures to our campuses at Ridgetown, Kemptville and Alfred. I think it important to set the record straight. Fall 2014 application figures for the associate diploma program on the three campuses are as follows:

Ridgetown - 1117
Kemptville - 272
Alfred – 50

As I have said, despite all of our efforts over the past several years to introduce new revenue-generating educational programs and attract new students to the associate diploma programs, enrolment at Kemptville and Alfred campuses remains stagnant while operating costs have increased. Costs per full-time equivalent student are substantially higher at these campuses compared to the Ridgetown and Guelph campuses.
Hence our decision to consolidate the academic and research programs delivered at the Kemptville and Alfred campuses in order to improve efficiency, ensure quality and reinvest in strategic areas that best serve the agri-food sector.

March 13, 2014

Facts, Not Conjecture, Needed in Times Like These

Earlier today, I took part in a live radio discussion with North Grenville Mayor David Gordon about the closure of the University’s Kemptville and Alfred campuses. This followed yesterday’s announcement that the University is consolidating the academic and research programs delivered at these two campuses to improve efficiency and ensure quality.

I was touched by David’s commitment, passion and dedication to Eastern Ontario and its future.
But during the interview, it became clear to me that many people, including provincial and municipal leaders, do not have all of the facts.

Talking about the decision requires that we all have the same information, based on actual evidence rather than conjecture. So I am taking this opportunity to clarify some points.

First, I must emphasize how difficult this decision has been. The University has been engaged with the Kemptville and Alfred campuses in seeking solutions since the late 1990s. Recent years have seen not only a downturn in enrolment but also a reduction in research output. We simply can no longer sustain the status quo.

The University has supported agriculture and the agri-food system for more than a century. This has often meant making tough decisions, but we can see the results in the incredible agricultural industry we have today across the province.

We appreciate that this decision will affect the lives and livelihoods of the people employed at Kemptville and Alfred. That is why we have focused mostly on working through ways to support them. For some, that means an offer of redeployment. For others, it means help in finding other employment.

I must stress that the decision to make these changes was made by the University, not by the provincial government or by the Minister of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) or that ministry. Both the ministry and the minister were very clear about their concerns over the proposed course of action.

Under the most recent two premiers, the provincial government has shown unique and strong support for agriculture and the agri-food system. To meet increasing demand, the government, including the current minister, has supported major investment in agriculture through the contract between the University of Guelph and OMAF. The Liberal government is the only government to have made such significant investment, and it has done so even under competing priorities posed by the deficit and other ministries.

Other points that I need to clarify are:

  • There are now 179 students at Kemptville (128 in two-year diploma programs and 51 in the degree program).
  • Over the past several years, not only has the number of applicants fallen, but the number of local students applying to both campuses has also decreased. Over the past two years, three out of four admissions to one of the programs have come from southwestern Ontario.
  • All students currently enrolled will complete their education at Kemptville and Alfred. Admissions for fall 2014 will comprise offers to join English or French language programs either at other campuses of the University of Guelph or at College Boreal or La Cite Collegiale, and bursaries and supports will be available to help students with financial need who must travel to remote sites for their education.
  • The University will continue to support the essential research that is specific to eastern Ontario through its agronomy research at Kemptville and Alfred campuses and at the research station at Winchester. We will manage the research differently, but we remain committed to maintaining this critical research and ensuring its dissemination to farmers in eastern Ontario.
  • The number of farmers and industry members using and demanding online continuing education has increased, and many resources, including initiatives around the local food and organic farming, are now available online.

As I said earlier, stagnant enrolment and declining research outputs at both campuses underpinned this difficult decision. As a result, maintaining current teaching and operations is not sustainable.

However, the University would be a willing participant in any discussions with communities, industry, government and others about possible new directions or future offerings at both Kemptville and Alfred that might provide new opportunities in Eastern Ontario.

Again, I am truly touched by the level of commitment and care for the region that has been demonstrated in the past couple of days.

This has been a very tough decision, but I believe that in the longer term will benefit agriculture and agricultural programming across the province, including eastern Ontario.

December 02, 2013

Saddened by Recent Events

Along with all members of our University community, I am saddened and shaken by a traumatic event on campus Saturday night; a fire in Dundas Hall, East Residence was deliberately set by a student in his room.

I want to assure you that the student is in stable condition in hospital, where he is receiving needed treatment and help.

Disturbing social media activity is circulating about this incident. The University of Guelph is a community committed to civility and mutual respect. Please join me in refraining from watching or distributing this hurtful material.

At the University, we are taking steps to support students and staff affected by this incident.

We met with students and residence life staff several times this weekend to answer questions, provide updates and inform people about support services.

If you or anyone you know is having difficulty with this situation, counselling services and academic advisers are available. See a list of counselling services below.

Thank you to all staff and supporting departments (Campus Community Police, Fire, Counselling Services) as well as community emergency services who have responded and supported our students and staff during this difficult incident.

I consider the University of Guelph community as a family. We pull together in times of crisis and to help those in need. Let us continue to support and strengthen one another.

The following counselling services are available on campus:
Student Counselling Services, Ext. 53244
Student Health Services, Ext. 52131
Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff, Ext. 52133
Multi-Faith Resource Team, Ext. 52390
For an update, see the University’s homepage,

September 25, 2012

It's True: Without You, There Is No Way

A new school year brings many things, including my favourite fall-semester marker: the University’s annual United Way campaign.

I have been thinking about our U of G community campaign a lot this week. What to do differently this year to motivate everyone to get involved?

It’s always a challenge. Every year, we set the bar higher -- pledging to raise more money, asking our community to give, and then asking them to give a little more.

What new and interesting things to say? What novel ideas or tag lines might inspire and engage everyone?

Perhaps there’s no catchy phrase or new tag line that can trump the basic message of the United Way: Without You, There is No Way.

That’s what I keep coming back to: the simple fact that the United Way is essential to life for so many here in the greater Guelph community.

And without you, there is indeed no way.

Year after year, the University of Guelph raises more money for the United Way than any other organization in Guelph.

Year after year, we surpass our fundraising goal. In recent years, we’ve consistently passed the half-million-dollar mark. Last year you contributed $570,000!

Those efforts allow the United Way to work with more than 40 local agencies helping people in need.

Every year, more than 60,000 people in Guelph and Wellington County use a variety of social, health and economic services provided by the United Way.

For various reasons, these people find themselves in difficult circumstances. Many of them are children -- about seven per cent of children in Guelph-Wellington live below the poverty line.

So I’ve decided to focus not on creative words but on actions to make a difference this year. And I encourage all of you to do the same.

Remember that besides strengthening our community, your actions will help you. Giving connects you to your community and your neighbours, and helps you find meaning in your own life.

That’s an impact that goes beyond any tag line.

September 10, 2012

A Record of Caring

I want to thank the University of Guelph community for helping with our campaign to fight global hunger.

This past Saturday, some 2,000 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the new Field House and packed more than 315,000 emergency relief meals in one hour.

By working together, we set a new world record and surpassed our goal by more than 100,000.

More importantly, we improved the lives of tens of thousands of people in the West African country of Mauritania, where the food will be shipped. One of the poorest countries in the world, Mauritania has been affected by severe drought and the plight of its people is devastating.

It is at once moving and inspiring to see what people can accomplish when they join forces, and I continue to be humbled by the giving nature of our community. It is heartening that the University and city have a history of recognizing our collective responsibility to help others who are in need, be they near or far.

Nearly a billion people in the world don’t get enough to eat. Hunger kills more human beings every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Those of us fortunate enough to live in a healthy and prosperous community, where food is easy for most people to afford and come by, run the risk of losing sight of this global tragedy.

Defeating hunger, whether here in Guelph, elsewhere in Canada, or abroad in distant lands, is a struggle that resonates in the hearts of people on our campus and in this city. To see so many conscientious volunteers turn out in full force to strike a blow against this global scourge is as touching as it is unforgettable.

Now that is a record we can be proud of.