Thursday, March 22, 2012

Text, video of State of the U Address online

President Samarasekera delivered her annual State of the University address this afternoon to a full house in the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. The text of the speech and the video are posted now.


  1. Concerned Mother of 3March 23, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    I wonder when “The State of the University” will finally include open admission and discussion of some serious realities which are often overlooked. Notably, instituting some sort of positive discrimination for All student numbers (as is the case for employees) in order to make, as Dr. Samarasekera states, “the case that investment in the U of A will bring critical, long-term benefits to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the province”–for all its citizens.

    For example,, listing 49,000 scholastic prizes offered in the country, notes that gender-specific scholarships for women are five times greater than those for men, even though males are a growing minority on campuses and in most every field of study with a small handful of exceptions. Could the University not address this more openly?

    According to a recent Globe and Mail article, : “Even in fields where the lack of men is a concern, such as medicine for example, the database shows no scholarships designated for men, and nine for women… also 32 scholarships designated for women in education, teaching and administration, versus four for men in a field where their numbers are low…in nursing, where men have been traditionally underrepresented, women have 12 and men have one.

    Many of the scholarships for women, on the other hand, are designated in fields where they have traditionally been underrepresented such as the physical sciences, which offer 47 scholarships, and engineering, with 57. There are seven for women to be electricians, and in welding technology women have 10 scholarships and men have none. One of the few places where men have more scholarships is in general forestry where men have three and women two. Scholarships for women in mining number 14, versus one for men.”

    ‘Science days’ for school-aged girls are great, though marks vary little between genders in these domains. However, as school-aged boys lag well behind in reading and writing, why isn’t there more open discussion and active programs supported by the University to engage this growing discrepancy; to encourage boy’s interest in learning and therefore University attendance? Why isn’t the University equally addressing these issues? Why is the University not regularly and publicly discussing this?

  2. The answer to these questions is simple. Men have traditionally had first choice in a number of academic and professional disciplines, women have always come second. While I think that encouraging women in these pursuits is a positive thing, I agree that the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to the number of scholarships offered. The answer may simply be that this is presently fashionable and politically sexy. If it brings in votes.....

  3. Link to video missing.

  4. The video is on the President's site, so it is the same link in "posted now".

  5. I watched the video of the speech. I was informed and inspired. I am reminded why we are here and why it's so great to work at a university. We are lucky to have this president.

    As an academic staff member, I really liked Ian McClaren's comments. We've got some hard decisions ahead of us and we need to put what's best for the university ahead of what's best for one particular class of employee.

  6. To Concerned Mother of 3,
    Thank you for your thoughtful post. There are a number of folks in different areas contributing to a full response to your post, so it may be another day or so before it is posted. Thank you for your patience.

  7. I was pleased to hear in President Samarasekera's Town Hall speech that she would be engaging the whole UAlberta community to brainstorm and discuss suggestions for handling our fiscal crisis. I had somehow imagined some kind of crowdsourcing website -- people would make suggestions, others would see, discuss, and rank them.

    The website at requires an UAlberta CCID and password to enter. Then one gets a form that can send one's suggestion to the Umbrella Committee.

    In other words, this seems to be a more complex version of "please email any suggestions to us."

    Am I missing something?

  8. To Anonymous 10:24,

    The submitted suggestions will go to the respective working groups for each of the three areas, which will make recommendations to the overarching umbrella committee. The form requires login and the submitter’s name so that the working groups have the opportunity to follow-up on good suggestions with the people who submitted them. The composition of the committee and working groups is intended to provide broad community input into the process, but as we proceed through the process and focus on a short list of ideas, the umbrella committee may recommend to the Provost that he solicit feedback from the broader U of A community on specific proposals. In that case, your suggested approach could be a good one. It gets complicated, though, when suggestions are ones that fall within the terrain of negotiated staff agreements and whether public vetting or ranking would constitute or imply voting outside the agreements. So, you’ve provided food for thought for the chairs of the working groups and umbrella committee. Our goal remains to build broad support for the suggestions that come out of this process. Thank you for your feedback.

  9. Colloquy writes "The composition of the committee and working groups is intended to provide broad community input into the process, ..." Can we know what is the composition of the committee and of the working groups? Whom to contact if someone would like to volunteer to join the committee? a working group?

  10. Hello Piotr Rudnicki,

    The full composition of the umbrella committee is listed on the website for the initiative; the direct link to the list is:

    The link to the initiative website is also on the homepage in the large rotating feature space and under Living Our Promise on the Faculty & Staff and Current Students pages.

    The chairs of the three working groups are also listed on the site with the umbrella committee membership. Someone interested in being part of a working group should contact the chair.

  11. Fellow concerned parentApril 6, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    I am also interested in the long-awaited response to this post - a very serious issue indeed. I would say that a public (media) University statement regarding proposed solutions and a Colloquy article and blog discussion are very much in order. This reality needs to be addressed. The oil/labour industry in this region will not provide futures for our sons indefinitely. Our sons should be receiving the same attention and support as our daughters... period.
    The citizens of our province deserve to see that the University is taking this problem seriously and actively pursuing positive resolutions.

    Colloquy said...

    To Concerned Mother of 3,
    Thank you for your thoughtful post. There are a number of folks in different areas contributing to a full response to your post, so it may be another day or so before it is posted. Thank you for your patience.
    March 27, 2012 1:18 PM

  12. Hello Colloquy!

    I have been returning here to see your response to 'Concerned mother of 3'. I would like to know if the University is taking such matters seriously. It is quite an important point that she made. I hope it is something that the University will be discussing openly and addressing, as she said needs to be done.

  13. To Concerned Mother of 3 (and others who posted on the same topic):

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. This response is on behalf of the university and represents input from a number of different areas since you touch on both employment and admission issues. You refer to 'positive discrimination'-- which is more commonly referred to as affirmative action -- at play with employees. While the university does encourage applications from persons from underrepresented groups, there are not affirmative action quotas in place at the university for employment. With respect to admissions, aside from Aboriginal students, the university does not have affirmative action admissions processes. Recruitment programs, particularly those in the Faculties, often target underrepresented groups--including males in some cases, females in others--but recruitment does not equal admission.

    We can only speak about scholarships and bursaries that are offered directly by the University of Alberta (as opposed to the those offered by the federal government and/or listed on University-funded scholarships (as opposed to donor-funded) are not gender-based. U of A has very few financial awards that are gender-based and the majority of those are aimed at maintaining required gender-balances in varsity sports in order to remain eligible for interuniversity competition.

    President Samarasekera shares your concern about the low rate of post-secondary participation among young men. She has spoken publicly about this issue (and has been loudly criticized for her position).

    At the U of A, fall of the 1986-87 academic year is when enrolment flipped from slightly more males to slightly more females. Currently women comprise about 55% of the university’s enrolment.

    As you rightly note, most of the scholarships offered for women in North America are aimed at boosting numbers of women in science, math, engineering and computing science (the STEM disciplines), all fields where women are still woefully underrepresented despite many years of affirmative action awards and programs. The simple fact remains that there are fields that are traditionally heavily dominated by one gender or another, men in the STEM fields and women in education and nursing. No one institution can change the national distribution of scholarships; we focus on our own practices.

    You raise a good question with respect to science programs for girls vs. the lack of reading and writing programs for boys. Few of such programs exist at this point at the university level and it is an area we could explore. The Faculty of Arts offers its Philosophy for Kids programming through the schools and as a summer camp, but it is not gender-targeted. There is a research project in Faculty of Education on boys and reading. Neither dean is aware of the type of enrichment programs you are seeking. Our Augustana Campus offers Reading University, a summer enrichment program for grade school students reading below grade level, but it also is not gender-specific.

    In the case of STEM enrichment programs for girls, funding for those programs generally comes from corporate and federal government. As you know from watching or reading the State of the University address, the U of A is not in a position to create such programs on its own at this time, but could work with external funders that sought to establish something like that. The president has asked that your message be passed along to our chief development officer to explore the possibility of corporate partners who may have concerns about the reading and writing skills among their employees. So this was a long way of saying that the university is aware of the issue, cannot tackle it without funding partners at this time, but will explore some possibilities. You’ve given us some food for thought. Thank you again for your post.


A moderator will review your comment before it is posted to ensure it does not violate the community guidelines. Be aware that at this time you are posting to an externally-hosted website. You have no more privacy protection than you would posting to any other site on the Internet.