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By: Grace Kuang
McMaster president Patrick Deane is approaching the end of his second five year-term in his role as president at the university. Over the past nine years, Deane oversaw significant changes at McMaster, such as the addition of new infrastructural developments and interdisciplinary programs at the university.
“It will be extremely difficult to leave McMaster,” said Deane. “I was welcomed here nine years ago and from that first day to this, I have been amazed at the ground-breaking work of our researchers, the commitment of our students to making a difference, and the dedication of the staff, alumni and friends of the university to expanding McMaster’s impact on our community and our world.”
In 2011, Deane penned a letter addressing the McMaster community titled “Forward with Integrity: A Letter to the McMaster Community.” In the letter, Deane emphasized that all of McMaster’s continued success will depend on the cultivation of integrity.
The letter advocated for integrity in four key and interconnected areas: student experience, specifically experiential learning, self-directed learning and interdisciplinary education, research, McMaster’s relationship with the surrounding community and the university’s dedication to internationalization.
“At McMaster, the evidence is that in the category of ‘Enriching Educational Experiences,’ which includes experiential activities, we fare a little better than our sister institutions in Ontario, but not as well as comparable U.S. Peers,” reads part of the letter.
Over the last few years, McMaster has focused heavily on experiential learning, most recently developing an innovation minor for students and partnering with Riipen Networks to create a continuing education project-based learning course.
Another one of Deane’s priorities concerned interdisciplinary education. During Deane’s term, interdisciplinary programs such as the justice, political philosophy and law program and the integrated business and humanities program were created.
In his letter, Deane also stressed his goals for internationalization.
“Internationalization of the university by the presence of foreign students, by faculty involvement in a network of research alliances abroad, by faculty and student travel for research and development purposes, and above all by the adoption of an internationalized perspective in curriculum and program design on our campus: this is not only desirable and appropriate to present circumstances, it is urgently needed,” reads part of the letter.
As such, it appears that some of Deane’s largest and most controversial initiatives were implemented within the last year.
One of these was the smoke and tobacco-free campus policy, which entailed the university becoming the first one in the province to claim to be 100 per cent spoke-free.
While the policy was praised by some, other students and groups, particularly the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly, cautioned against the policy in an effort to prioritize “considerations of student safety, accessibility and comprehensive access to McMaster University when considering implementation.”
This past year, Deane also helped create and implement McMaster’s free expression guidelines, which evoked mixed reactions from the campus community. The guidelines sought to strike a balance between protecting free speech and the right to protest.
However, a number of students, specifically student activists, expressed concern that the guidelines would stifle dissension and silence marginalized voices.
Deane will be departing for Queen’s University in July 2019. Currently, it is uncertain who will replace Deane as McMaster’s next president.