30 Something

Posted in University-of-Alberta on September 19th 2013 by Randy Reichardt

Today is the “official” 30th Anniversary of the first day of my employment at the University of Alberta Libraries. I remember the sequence well: I was interviewed on Friday, 09 September 1983, for a contract position in the Science & Technology Library. The job was basic reference, and I would be working from 13:00-21:30 M-Th, and during the day on Friday.

On Monday, 12 Sept 1983, Margo Young, the head of the SciTech Library, called me to offer me the job. I remember the date because it is also my Dad’s birthday, which is why it remains a vivid memory for me. I was literally sitting at home on my chesterfield, the phone right next to me, waiting patiently until it rang. I was thrilled when she told me I had the job.

Margo asked if I could start the following Monday, the 19th, but I told her I’d be away that day in Idaho, so she suggested I come to work on the 14th for a couple days to make up for not starting on my actual first day. So in reality, I started my career at the U of A on 14 Sept 1983, but officially, for the purposes of my employment record, pension plan, etc., it was 19 Sept 1983.

Needless to say, it’s been a good run. Thanks to everyone who’s been a part of my 30-year career at the U of Alberta. And for those interested, I did not opt to take the Voluntary Severance Package for Continuing Academic Staff, so I’ll be around for a little while longer.

Dark Days At The University of Alberta

Posted in University-of-Alberta on August 23rd 2013 by Randy Reichardt

Hard to know where to begin. With the announcement below from President Samarasekara, a new era begins for the University of Alberta, one in which what was once a university with a goal of becoming one of the top 20 in the world instead will become one in which it will slowly descend into an overpriced community college with what the Right will still consider to be overpaid, privileged, and “entitled” staff. How proud Premier Alison Kleinford -er- Redford, and Minister Tommy Lukaszuk must be today.

Let us begin with the #pcaa’s original promise of a 2% increase, which changed to a 7.2% decrease after the election. So much for election promises, but when, really have any election promises ever been kept? Now add onto that a further “overall 7% reduction in expenses relating to the core academic enterprise and an 8% reduction in the cost of services supporting those core functions. To sustain this balanced position over the long-term, we also agreed to plan for additional overall reductions of 2% in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.”

Let’s average the 7% and 8% in tandem reductions to, say, 7.5%, and do the math: 7.2+7.5+2.0+2.0 equals an 18.7% reduction in the UA budget through to 2017.

Make no mistake, my friends – this means the reduction of some and the end of many programs, the eventual further layoffs of dozens if not hundreds of staff, and a continuing reduction of services. Forget any more salary increases. (Hell, I can hear many of you laughing uncontrollably right now. More power to you all.) I mean, we’re all just a bunch of overpaid, lazy motherfuckers anyway, right?

To those of you constantly whining and bitching about our out-of-control administrative costs, this goes WAY beyond any of that. This is the Alberta Government picking the U of A up and body slamming it to the floor, hard as hell. It might as well be described as the government telling the University to start amputating parts of itself. It is gutless, spineless, without merit, unwarranted, and cowardly. But hey, who am I to question the wisdom and foresight of our beloved, well-educated premier, and what’s his name, the minister responsible for #abpse? And don’t talk to me about how the U of A is making these decisions itself. The Alberta Government blindsided all post-secondary institutions, and is now sitting back and watching the resulting chaotic re-organizational clusterfuck that is expanding like a plague on a daily basis.

I could go on, but I’m just blowing hot air now. I surrender to the whims of Little Tommy Lu and his minions. I wave the white flag. I celebrate 30 years on campus next month. Not sure I’ll be in any mood to commemorate the moment.

Remember in the 90s, when we referred to Klein’s minister, Steve West, as “The Terminator”? I’d like to call Little Tommy the Terminator of 2013, but that would probably be insulting to former Minister West.

In the end, the only ones who lose, and will lose hard, are the students. As for attracting the best and brightest to this campus, and retaining those who are here, now I’M the one who can’t stop laughing.

And to think Mr Lukaszuk still apparently believes that the students will not see any difference in the quality of education they’ll start to receive in a couple weeks: “They will continue to attend some of the best institutions in Canada and will not notice any appreciable change on campus,” he said.  “Students have many more bona fide problems to worry about. I can assure them they will receive a second-to-none education. There won’t be any hardship.”

Looking into his eyes must be like staring into the eyes of a chicken. But he gets the last laugh, as he watches #abpse implode upon itself. The only think I really don’t know is how wide his shit-eating grin must be at this moment.
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23 August 2013
Budget Update from President Samarasekera

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Following many months of analysis and discussion, the deans, other members of the senior leadership team, and I met Thursday to undertake a critical task—to review and discuss strategies that have been under development and to come to agreement on what our community must do to reach a balanced, sustainable position by April 1, 2015.

We recognize the urgency of the situation and agree that it is in the best interest of our university and the morale of our community to accelerate our original plan. Given the direction the Board has now received from the ministry, we must take decisive action in the immediate term, so that we can turn our attention to long-term academic and administrative transformation. The next few months will not be easy, especially because several units and faculties already have experienced lay-offs, program suspensions, position closures, and other impacts from the cuts contained in the 2013-2014 budget.

During yesterday’s meeting, we reached many important decisions, with the university’s core mission of providing excellence in teaching, research, and service for the public good in the forefront of our discussions. Primary among the decisions made is that to balance the operating budget for 2014-2015, we must make a further overall 7% reduction in expenses relating to the core academic enterprise and an 8% reduction in the cost of services supporting those core functions. To sustain this balanced position over the long-term, we also agreed to plan for additional overall reductions of 2% in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

I want to be clear: these are major cuts and every member of our community will feel the impact. We will continue to streamline administrative functions, reduce redundancies, and seek new or untapped sources of revenue. We will maintain our commitment to excellence and do all that we can to minimize the impact on student access and experience.

However, we will not achieve the goal of a balanced, sustainable position by April 1, 2015 without further suspension and closure of programs, courses, and course sections, some in degree programs that are unique in Campus Alberta. Although Alberta’s young population continues to grow, and with it, student demand for university education, we will be unable to admit the full number of applicants who are well-qualified and well-prepared for success here. We will lose valued employees through voluntary and involuntary severance. We will permanently close many vacant positions and will all feel the resulting reductions in service.

The outcome of the Voluntary Severance Program may influence the approach individual faculties and units take to achieving their share of the necessary reduction. After the September 16 VSP deadline, we will assess the result on units and faculties and determine the precise percentage of the cut allocated to each faculty and unit. Until then, the deans and VPs will be finalizing plans so that they can be ready to move quickly once we know exactly where we stand.

Let me tell you the timeline we prepared:
• Aug. 30: Provost’s Office will send a letter to the deans, confirming the percentage cut above and affirming other details of the action plan.
• Sept. 6: Martin Ferguson-Pell and Phyllis Clark will hold a Campus Forum (12-1 pm, ECHA L1-490) to provide details on the 2013-2014 budget to date and to provide a basic budget primer for the 2014-2015 budget.
• Sept. 16: Deadline for application to the Voluntary Severance Program.
• Sept. 16: Annual budget presentation to General Faculties Council.
• Sept. 19: I will deliver the State of the University Address (11:30 am – 12:30 pm, Convocation Hall) at which I will present a new 3-year action plan for academic and administrative transformation. To register, please go to: http://www.president.ualberta.ca/2013stateoftheu
• Early October: First draft of 2014-2015 budget prepared.

Throughout this process and beyond, we are committed to providing as much transparency and clarity as possible. Going forward, we will share the deans’ letters, action plans, and budget primers with our internal community. I will post a regular update on our progress every Friday.

Let me close with a simple observation. The University of Alberta has a proud, 105-year history of educating the leaders, highly-skilled professionals, and highly-engaged volunteers who are active in every sector of this province. UAlberta research has fueled the province’s economic growth and prosperity for more than a century and research done today will continue to be the source of innovation and discovery. We are facing grave challenges right now, but this university can withstand them. With a shared commitment to excellence and leadership in teaching and research, we will—as a community with a proud history—find the right way to preserve and advance the UAlberta far into the future.

Indira

The Chester D Cuthbert Collection: Reeling In The Years

Posted in Books, Chester D Cuthbert, Miscellaneous, Science Fiction, University-of-Alberta on October 5th 2007 by Randy Reichardt

.: I’ve been in Winnipeg since last Sunday (30 Sept 2007), assisting my University of Alberta Libraries colleague Dr Merrill Distad in the coordination and shipping to Edmonton of the library and personal archives of Winnipeg book collector and good friend, Mr Chester D Cuthbert. In the mid-1970s, when I was active in sf fandom and lived in Winnipeg, I made regular visits to Chester’s home on Saturdays, where the local group of sf fans would congregate on an almost-weekly basis to swap stories, discuss the latest novels and writing, report on conventions, and make plans for our various fanzines and upcoming trips to sf conventions. Chester, who turns 95 on 15 October 2007, welcomed us into his home, and would often share stories of the glory days of past decades in the world of sf fandom. In the 1950s and 1960s, other local fans had descended upon Chester’s house, and spent many a Friday evening until the wee hours doing the same as our local group, nicknamed Decadent Winnipeg Fandom (DWF), did in the mid-1970s.

As time went on, Chester continued to build and maintain a large collection of books covering sf, fantasy, general fiction, psychic phenomena, with special interest focused on writers such as Max Brand and A Merritt. Reams of correspondence covering decades accumulated in his files, as well as hundreds of fanzines.

I moved to Edmonton in December 1978, and have worked at the University of Alberta Libraries (UAL) since September 1983. In the late 1990s, the UAL began to solicit donations in science fiction and fantasy, and in 1998, I brought Chester’s collection to the attention of the aforemention Dr Distad, who subsequently paid Chester a visit in Winnipeg, and made him an offer to consider donating the collection to us. He passed on our offer, but always insisted that when the time came, he wanted his collection kept intact if possible, and made accessible to others who might be interested in its extensive subject coverage.

Chester’s insistence that this happen was reinforced in 2002 by another related but unfortunate series of events in Winnipeg, which began six years earlier. In 1996, we lost a member of the old DWF gang – Bob Stimpson – who passed on at the way too early age of 47 from an illness. Unbeknownst to us all, his very large sf-focused collection had been bequeathed to the University of Winnipeg (UW), also caught unaware when it learned of its acquisition. Many of us thought that Bob had willed his collection to UW because in earlier years, Chester had sold bits of his library to it to help build its small but solid collection science fiction and fantasy. In any event, Bob had done the right thing – he wanted his collection made accessible to those who might benefit from it, learn from it, enjoy it, as he did.

However, after six years of housing the books in storage, UW decided it couldn’t process Bob’s collection, and despite an offer from my institution (UAL) to catalogue and house the collection on UW’s behalf, in 2002 sold the collection to one dealer, who obtained it by all accounts for a literal steal. When Chester learned of this transaction he was, as his son Ray has described it, “incensed”, to put it mildly. In a letter in the fanzine Gegenschein, #80, October 1997, Chester noted, “Bob Stimpson would be dismayed if he knew that his collection is considered little more than a problem.” Earlier, UW had asked Chester to assess Bob’s collection, the value of which he described as “possibly approaching a million” dollars.

Considering that the collection had been bequeathed in good faith, it indeed was a sad day that instead, a profit, and not a fair one at that, was made from a donation made with all good intentions by its donor. As Lorna Toolis of the Merril Collection in Toronto described it,

“It is very sad for everyone. For the University library, which was unable to avail itself of the opportunity. For the students, who will not have access to the materials. For Bob Stimpson, who tried very hard to do the right thing.”

In fairness to the UW Library, it was unprepared for such a large donation, and could not afford to keep it. Nonetheless, an amazing resource was lost to students and researchers forever.

Despite having moved away from Winnipeg in Dec 1978, I remained in touch with Chester, and began visiting him again some years ago, whenever I was in Winnipeg. Then in August of this year, we at UAL were contacted by his son Ray, to ask if we were still interested in his Father’s collection. In January of this year, Chester lost his loving wife of 62 years, Muriel, who left us at the age of 90, and combined with his advancing age, he was no longer able to maintain his large library. Dr Distad worked out the details with Ray, made arrangements for the packing and shipping of the collection, and we arrived to oversee its removal this week.

I arrived on Sunday night (30 September 2007), and on Monday returned to the airport to pick up a reporter from Folio, who, accompanied by a camera operator, was there to record the removal of the library from Chester’s home, and to interview a number of us, including Chester. On Tuesday, the movers arrived, and filled 2.5 half-tonne trucks with boxes. Wednesday the media frenzy began. Various local television and radio stations arrived for interviews, including City TV, Global, CTV, CBC Radio and CBC Television. I was interviewed by CBC Radio (live), and on tape with CTV and Global. I caught the CTV piece, which ran that evening, noticing that my last name was spelled incorrectly – not an unexpected thing. On Thursday I learned that the local CTV piece had aired across Canada on the CTV National News. On Thursday, the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun arrived and interviewed Chester, along with Ray and myself. The Free Press story ran on Friday, and appeared in a number of other papers across the country as well. The Winnipeg Sun story is here. Additionally, Ray Cuthbert was interviewed on the national CBC radio program, As It Happens. You can listen to the interview, which is part of this file, from the Wednesday 03 October 2007 show. Note that you will have to listen to about 16 minutes of other interviews (and dead air in between those interviews) before you get to the interview with Ray.

On Thursday evening, Merrill and I feted Chester, together with many of his family members, at a dinner in Winnipeg. At the dinner, I was fortunate to present to Chester with some gifts on behalf of Merril and I, and our colleagues at the University of Alberta, in gratitude for his kind donation to us, and in honour of his forthcoming 95th birthday on 16 October 2007. I’m loading pictures from the week, and you can see the first batch here. Now comes the next phase, as the Cuthbert Collection makes its way to Edmonton, where it will eventually be unpacked and sorted, awaiting appraisal and processing. Each item will receive a book plate with an appropriate inscription and photograph of Chester, and once catalogued, will include a provenance note in the online catalogue, something to the effect of, “Chester D Cuthbert Collection”, which will allow researchers to search by that designation.

I consider myself blessed to have known Chester for over 30 years, and to have experienced his hospitality and warmth, together with that of his wife Muriel, over this period of time. While I know it is difficult for him to part with his life’s work, I also know from speaking with him privately that he is very grateful to know that his collection will be treated with respect and dignity, and made available for decades to come for those students and researchers who are interested in the fields he collected for so many decades. Thank you, Chester, for all you have done for us.

If You Got It…

Posted in University-of-Alberta on February 9th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: This 30-second commercial about the University of Alberta, where I have worked for 22+ years, will air on CBC television during the upcoming Winter Olympics. Further details here, including who’s in the commercial, and about the host, UA grad and playwright Vern Thiessen. I’m not sure why the commercial was created or of its purpose, other than, as Thiessen says, “if you got it, flaunt it.” Maybe it’s a recruitment ad, but it’s not like we’re wanting for students, with the current number hovering somewhere around 35,000. Blink and you’ll miss three quick shots of researchers working at NINT, where I hope to begin operations early next week,

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