The University and the City
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Apr 1958, p. 317-326
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Bissell, Claude Thomas, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description
The speaker's recent appointment at the University of Toronto. Some remarks about Ottawa and its development, as well as the development of all cities. City and University about to enter upon a new period of co-operation and association that began when the idea of founding a University at York first entered the mind of Governor Simcoe. The partnership between City and University: its ancient and honourable lineage. Some history to such partnership, and remarks on the nature of the partnership. The real importance of the university to the city, with example. Reaching the international community through the university. The obligation placed on the University of Toronto to maintain and to enhance the qualities that make for excellence. The dilemma that confronts all Canadian universities, and most especially the University of Toronto: how do we preserve the University as a place of learning, scholarship, and research when it must adapt itself, during the course of the next few years, to doubled enrolment? Some steps already taken. Distributing more widely the burden of higher education in the Toronto metropolitan area. Welcoming the exploratory measures already taken by a group of citizens that have as their goal the establishment of a second university in this area. Sponsorship for this new university. The university as a symbol that enables the city, in a sense, to transcend itself.
Date of Original
24 Apr 1958
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
"THE UNIVERSITY AND THE CITY"
An Address by CLAUDE THOMAS BISSELL, M.A., Ph.D., President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, Ottawa
Thursday, April 24th, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.

LT.-COL. MONTAGUE: Dr. Claude T. Bissell, our guest speaker today, becomes President of the University of Toronto on 1st July next. We extend to him the warmest of welcomes and we would like him to know that we will be pulling for him when he assumes his new and larger responsibilities.

Claude Thomas Bissell, M.A., Ph.D., is a native of Meaford, Ontario. After attending primary and secondary schools in Toronto, he entered University College in 1932 with the Edward Blake Scholarship in English and History. He attained his B.A. by 1936 and, in 1937, his M.A. in English along with the award of the Cornell Fellowship in English at Cornell University, U.S.A., where, in 1940, he received his Ph.D. and the Messenger prize for graduate research. He remained at Cornell for an additional year as an instructor in English.

Coming back to Toronto in 1941, Dr. Bissell was appointed lecturer in English at University College and, m 1942, was granted leave of absence to go on active service with the Canadian Army. Proceeding overseas in July 1943 as a lieutenant, he was posted to The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and served with them throughout the campaign in North-West Europe as a platoon commander, intelligence officer and, then, as captain and adjutant.

On demobilization in 1946, he returned to Toronto and was appointed Assistant Professor of English and Dean in Residence at University College. The following year came his appointment as Assistant to the President and, in 1951, as the result of Carnegie Foundation grant, he began a two-year study of universities in Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. In 1953 he became Vice-President of the University of Toronto. Then, on 1st July, 1956, he accepted the post of President of Carleton College, Ottawa. Two years later, to the day, Dr. Bissell is to return to the University of Toronto as its President.

Time Magazine, issue of 30th December last, said this: "When Vice President Claude Bissell left the University of Toronto to become president of Ottawa's young Carleton University, the undergraduate newspaper Varsity declared a day of mourning. Last week it was Carleton's turn to mourn. After 18 thriving months at Carleton, Claude Bissell accepted an offer to return (effective 1st July) as the new president of the University of Toronto. Said his predecessor president, External Affairs Secretary Sidney Smith: 'I can think of no one better qualified.'

"The qualifications Toronto's governors sought in a new president were shaped by the university's bold twelve-year plan, which will nearly double its size from the current enrolment of 13,000. Among 40 men originally on the governor's list, Carleton's Bissell is young enough at 41 to carry the expansion through, yet commands the experience and authority to be head of Canada's largest university."

Dr. Bissell will now speak to us on the subject: "The University and The City".

Gentlemen: Dr. Claude T. Bissell, President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, Ottawa.

DR. BISSELL: It is an honour to speak to this association before which so many of the great questions of the day have been authoritatively raised and discussed. It is, I think, fortunate that your invitation reached me before I officially assumed office at the University of Toronto. At this time, my convictions are not blunted by responsibility, and my remarks may make up in zest what they lack in soundness. Then I enjoy the fortuitous advantage of coming--in a technical sense at least--from another city, and if distance does not always lend enchantment, it may be a help to objectivity. Residence in another city is an educational experience: it breaks up old habits, extends the range of your interests, and generates new loyalties. All this is to the good, particularly, as some of my Ottawa friends have observed, for Torontonians. I have thoroughly enjoyed my two years in Ottawa, and will leave that city with regret, but with a pleasant feeling that I shall always feel at home there. Like a great many Canadians from larger centres, particularly from Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa had for me a shadowy existence; it existed either as a convenient concentration point for national assemblies and committees, or as a group of picturesque buildings pleasantly redolent of the past. Living in Ottawa changes your perspective. The city becomes a community located in the Ottawa Valley, with a tradition of genial informality and neighbourliness that the pomp and the circumstance of the national capital can never obscure. I should think that there is no capital city in the world where protocol presents a less forbidding appearance. Perhaps, indeed, Ottawa still exists more as a pleasant urban community than a capital city. It does not as yet provide an adequate mirror in which we see ourselves as a nation, and I am sure that visitors from Europe and the United States must draw unflattering comparisons between our capital city and the more splendid capitals of their native countries. The future of Ottawa is of concern to all Canadians, and I should hope that the plans for its development that were so spaciously conceived would soon be implemented.

The development of Ottawa has a special significance. It could become a national symbol--a projection of our hopes and aspirations. But to a lesser extent the same could be said of all our cities. It is curious that, although we have long since become an urbanized nation, our national dreams should have a spatial and bucolic quality, that we should turn our eyes always toward the unexplored and the unknown. This instinct is deep in our history, and it would be rash to ignore it; but it is well to remember that adventure and opportunity also await us in the areas of concentrated settlement. Our cities, some of them relatively ancient in terms of the development of this country, already have their peculiar characteristics, and they generate intense loyalties. Yet as a people we have been suspicious of urban display, and reluctant to symbolize our aspirations in conspicuous monuments.

I apologize for speaking in this didactic fashion before Torontonians, who have been steadily engaged since the end of the Second World War in the transformation of their city. One of the pleasures of frequent visits here during the last two years has been to notice changes, to see a new city emerging from the old. In this general expansion, the University takes its place, a not inconsiderable place, one that has been carefully articulated to the community that surrounds it. City and University are about to enter upon a new period of co-operation and association that began when the idea of founding a University at York first entered the mind of Governor Simcoe.

This partnership between City and University has an ancient and honourable lineage. The great medieval universities of France and Italy, from which all other universities have descended, were city foundations. On this continent, there have been notable breaks in the tradition. The idea of the small-town or rural university took root in the United States during the 19th century, possibly from a romantic and sentimental conviction that knowledge could best be pursued in the peace and beauty of a natural setting. Certainly many great universities grew and flourished away from large cities. In Canada this kind of university developed most readily in the Maritimes, although I have only to mention Queen's to remind you that the idea was not foreign to Ontario. But, in general, Canada has followed European precedents, and its universities have been founded in those centres where there was a concentration of trade, commerce, and population. They were not, however, wards of the cities. The municipal university, as it exists, for instance, in New York, did not develop in Canada. But the universities became, as it were, excellent citizens of the modern metropolis: with an informed interest in national and international affairs, but with a deep pride in the community in which they had been set down.

This partnership between city and university has been marked by minor irritations and some restiveness, but, on the whole it has been a happy one. If for no other reason, it would have been sustained simply as a key principle in town planning. This was particularly true in North America, where the idea of the campus--a green area separating the buildings and yet binding them into a unity--was incorporated into city universities. (Imagine, for instance, downtown Toronto without the oasis of the University campus and Queen's Park) And, on its side, the university gained from the proximity of the city, from the pleasant contrast between academic serenity and urban bustle, from the natural tendency for related cultural organizations--museums, art galleries, concert halls--to gather around the university.

As the university grew larger, and as it acquired a set of professional schools, it became something more than a pleasant and decorative citizen of the city. It became an unusually active one, participating with vigour in all branches of the community life. The range of the university contributions to the city life is truly formidable; I suspect that in Toronto even the Argonauts would recognize some indebtedness. One could dwell at length on the university simply as an economic unit, distributing money to its employees, enlarging the channels by which money is poured into industry and commerce. (I have no intention, however, of boasting about the size of the Toronto budget, since very shortly I shall find it necessary to point out that that budget is not adequate for the many complex and important tasks that have been assigned to the University.)

But these matters, important as they are, touch only on the outside of the relationship between university and city. The real importance of the university is that, through it, the city reaches out and becomes a member of an international community. The university is not the only factor here, but it is the chief one: it is the means by which the city transcends itself, throws off limitations of place and wealth, and arouses a response in the minds of men throughout the world. This takes place, of course, only for the great universities, the university where scholarship is given first place, and from which come books and discoveries that are known and honoured in halls of learning anywhere. The peculiar glory of Toronto is that, from its very beginnings, at a time when York was a crude frontier outpost, it conceived of itself as a university with unflinchingly high standards, that belonged, albeit humbly, in the company of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Trinity College, Dublin. The University still belongs to this imperial community, to which one would now add a number of great American universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago, California--to name a few. To all of us who work in the University this consciousness of citizenship in the first commonwealth of learning is a constant source of strength; students and graduates derive great satisfaction from it; but, in addition, I would submit that to every Torontonian, irrespective of the nature and extent of his education, the University should be a source of pride. Nowhere does a city find a more glowing symbol of itself than in the university that it has helped to nourish. I remember fondly a toast to the University of Toronto proposed by a Professor at the University of Melbourne when I was visiting that distinguished Australian foundation. "I propose a toast," he said, "to the first University in the Commonwealth." By "Commonwealth" he meant, of course, "the dominions beyond the seas", but the terms of reference still remain broad and impressive.

By reason alone of its high estate, there is placed upon the University of Toronto an obligation to maintain and to enhance the qualities that make for excellence. In his last Report as President of the University of Toronto, a report that is typically pointed and wisely reflective, Dr. Sidney Smith makes this observation: "If physical expansion involves academic deterioration, we ought not to enrol one extra student." Here in a capsule is the dilemma that confronts all Canadian universities, but that looms up most insistently, I almost said, most menacingly, at the University of Toronto: how do we preserve the University as a place of learning, scholarship, and research when it must adapt itself, during the course of the next few years, to doubled enrolment. It is true that the University of Toronto has certain built-in characteristics that will enable her to cushion the shock. The University of Toronto is not a great monolithic institution, an idea that one finds repeated with uninformed perversity. It is a federation, built not by logic and not for administrative convenience, but out of a respect for distinctive traditions and a devotion to humane learning. As we move into the crisis, we shall have more reason than ever to be grateful to the architects of federation. But even in their most extravagant imaginings, those architects never envisaged a University of 23,000 students--the number that we shall have by 1965, given the unimpeded operation of present factors. Is there not a possibility that we shall passively abandon ourselves to the wave of the future? Is there not a probability that, despite our sincere protestations, we shall lose the excellence that has made the University great? I think that there is, but I think also we can do something about it.

The minor step has already been taken--a long range plan for expansion. But this should be accompanied by immediate and vigorous steps to distribute more widely the burden of higher education in this metropolitan area. I personally welcome the exploratory measures already taken by a group of citizens that have as their goal the establishment of a second university in this area. The University of Toronto will gladly give advice, and will freely offer assistance; but I think it is important that the second university become, as rapidly as possible, a separate and distinctive foundation. There is nothing extravagant or bold in this. Montreal has three separate universities: the senior foundation of McGill, and two institutions that serve somewhat different constituencies: the University of Montreal, and Sir George William College. Even Ottawa, a city with less than one-fifth the population of Metropolitan Toronto, has two universities,

Ottawa and Carleton. I can assure you that in Ottawa there is no sense of duplication in higher education, and that the presence of two universities, with distinctive traditions and complementary emphasis, is good for each university and good for the intellectual life of Ottawa. It is well to remember that universities also respond to the heady inducements of competition.

Under what sponsorship should this new university rise? I think it is well that it springs out of the energy and foresight of private citizens, as Carleton did some fifteen years ago. As to its eventual financial sponsorship, that should be, like all universities, diverse. I would hazard one suggestion: has the time now arrived in Canada for the establishment of a municipal university, and is not Toronto the appropriate place for its beginnings?

Since the point of great pressure and need will be in the area of general education in the Faculty of Arts, a new university would address itself primarily to this field, eventually entering the professional field at various points. This is sound educationally, and it will, in addition, enable the University of Toronto to continue to discharge its historic function as a leader in advanced undergraduate education and in graduate work. It would be a pity to see general education disappear from the Toronto curriculum; it would be an even greater pity to see it turn into mass education given by harassed and overworked teachers. We must at Toronto set aside more and more of our resources for our graduate school, already our third largest faculty, and with the widest responsibilities of any graduate school in Canada. Here is the key to intellectual power, increasingly the source of those who direct and guide our society, whether in the university class-room, in the scientific laboratory, in the civil service, or in business.

I am not suggesting any radical re-orientation of the University of Toronto. I am simply suggesting that it remain true to its historic mission and to the demands of the age. This will not mean withdrawal from the City; on the contrary, it will bring the University closer to the City by giving more justification than ever for community pride. We must not, under any conditions, lose our place in what I have called the "imperial community" of universities and drift, in a general haze of supine benevolence, into a large, impersonal institution whose chief boast is that it is the biggest in the Commonwealth.

I hope that the City, through its newspapers, its clubs, its associations, will take a vigorous interest in the University. Torontonians have a tendency to adopt an attitude of complacent acceptance towards their major assets, an attitude that arouses more irritation outside than frankly uninhibited boasting would. A university, no matter how well established, should never be taken for granted. In these days of the mobilization of brain power, the university and its fate should be a central concern of all of us. The University is not looking for garish publicity (although, unfortunately, it sometimes gets it.) What it wants is critical interest. We, on our side, will do all in our power to make the University known to you, to tell our story with the fullness and verve that it merits.

I have spoken of the university as a symbol that enables the city, in a sense, to transcend itself. It stimulates what is the finest kind of local pride, for it is a pride that has nothing about it of the parochial, or even of the provincial. Our universities are, indeed, microcosms of our national life. We have avoided in this country the class division that is so characteristic of universities in the United States, with, on the one hand, private universities, sustained by large endowments, and on the other state universities, sustained by governments, the former making up a self-conscious and condescending aristocracy. Our universities represent, in various degrees, the merging of the private and the public, of individual initiative and official government action. They are not institutions that have been created by official enactment, and then handed over to the public for their use. They are rooted in our instincts, our traditions, our aspirations, and they will wither and die if those roots are severed. Few universities draw upon more diverse resources than Toronto: on the traditions of the major religious bodies, on the intellectual heritage of Europe, on the enlightened concern of men in public life, on the disinterested devotion of business leaders in this community. But, at the same time, the University is set down in a particular place, in a City whose life she both reflects and transforms, and, as she enters a new era, she realizes that her life and the life of the City will, more than ever, be deeply intertwined.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Bruce J. Legge, First Vice-President of the Club.

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The University and the City


The speaker's recent appointment at the University of Toronto. Some remarks about Ottawa and its development, as well as the development of all cities. City and University about to enter upon a new period of co-operation and association that began when the idea of founding a University at York first entered the mind of Governor Simcoe. The partnership between City and University: its ancient and honourable lineage. Some history to such partnership, and remarks on the nature of the partnership. The real importance of the university to the city, with example. Reaching the international community through the university. The obligation placed on the University of Toronto to maintain and to enhance the qualities that make for excellence. The dilemma that confronts all Canadian universities, and most especially the University of Toronto: how do we preserve the University as a place of learning, scholarship, and research when it must adapt itself, during the course of the next few years, to doubled enrolment? Some steps already taken. Distributing more widely the burden of higher education in the Toronto metropolitan area. Welcoming the exploratory measures already taken by a group of citizens that have as their goal the establishment of a second university in this area. Sponsorship for this new university. The university as a symbol that enables the city, in a sense, to transcend itself.