Halfway up Parnassus

Halfway up Parnassus: A Personal Account of the U of T, 1932-1971

CLAUDE BISSELL
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 198
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jjfdf
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  • Book Info
    Halfway up Parnassus
    Book Description:

    Halfway up Parnassusis a personal account of the University of Toronto with particular emphasis on the period when Dr. Bissell was its president, from 1958 to 1971.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3205-9
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    CLAUDE BISSELL
  4. 1 The Great Good Place
    (pp. 3-16)

    When I came to the University of Toronto as a freshman in 1932, it was like all Canadian universities, an elitist institution in the sense that admission was restricted to a few narrowly designated groups. The proportion of college-age young people going to university had not changed greatly since the turn of the century, and in 1932 did not exceed four per cent. One could distinguish three principal groups of undergraduates: the first was made up of the children of families that had an established tradition of university attendance, although never for more than two previous generations; the second was...

  5. 2 Halfway up Parnassus
    (pp. 17-43)

    The academic tradition in which I was reared, and which I treasured, was not an obvious preparation for administration. Indeed it was in most respects a deterrent rather than a preparation. It stood for the contemplative life as opposed to the world of ‘telegram and anger,’ that, according to E.M. Forster, dominates the world of affairs. Administration, it seemed to me, meant dehumanization, a separation out of people into groups, using money as a leash to bring enthusiasm and speculation to heel. I had brushed the world of administration and undergraduate clubs in my editorship of the literary magazine at...

  6. 3 The Expansive Mood
    (pp. 44-57)

    During my apprenticeship days in administration, from 1948 to 1958, the universities had lived in an atmosphere of genteel poverty – at first resigned in the self-sacrificing spirit of the depression and the war, then cautiously hopeful as the veterans began to swarm into the halls and it became more and more evident that the campus occupied a place in the plan of post-war rehabilitation. This atmosphere of genteel poverty pervaded all parts of the university. By any criterion, professors were abominably paid. (Toronto, under the prodding of Walter Gordon, a member of the Board of Governors, had launched a program...

  7. 4 College Ties
    (pp. 58-70)

    The general plan of expansion, already formulated by a committee of the Board of Governors, called for a concentration of effort in the two faculties that anticipated a doubling of enrolment – Arts and Science, and Applied Science and Engineering; and the campaign brochure, which presented a simplified picture of the proposed expansion, reflected these priorities. I insisted also on a clear recognition of library needs, for I was convinced that Toronto would always remain a good, solid second-class university until library resources were tripled and placed on a footing comparable with those of a few major universities in the United...

  8. 5 The Higher Learning
    (pp. 71-91)

    The defence and development of the college system emerged as an important policy concern after I had returned to Toronto. Having grown up in the system, I took it for granted; and my concern was more a response to an unexpected attack than the working out of a carefully planned program. The second major concern of these years, the development of ‘the higher learning,’ had on the other hand been long nurtured and carefully planned. Under ‘higher learning’ I include the activities in a university that go beyond instruction, and lead to the discovery of new knowledge and insights. These...

  9. 6 The Professional Schools
    (pp. 92-108)

    Within the university, the colleges were the dominating influence. Their students generally ran the undergraduate paper, provided most of the participants for dramatic and debating events, and had a firm hold on the Rhodes scholarships. But to the general public, largely unaware of this special society that surrounded the formal program of instruction, the university was, first of all, an institution that trained professionals, particularly engineers and doctors.

    Within the faculties of Engineering and Medicine, the tradition was strongly practical – brisk, no nonsense, efficient. The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering had developed from the School of Practical Science, which...

  10. 7 The Winds of Change
    (pp. 109-121)

    The years from 1958 to 1967 were the final period of the old feudalistic university that was based upon certain rigid assumptions that went unquestioned. The first of these assumptions was that the universities were separate, self-contained entities that existed outside of the political process. They were wards of the prime minister’s office, and not subject to any direct interference by government. The second assumption was that the university existed as both financial corporation and academic process, and that the two must be kept rigidly separate. The former was the responsibility of laymen who knew at first hand about the...

  11. 8 Student Power
    (pp. 122-159)

    Although the student question was, from about 1967 on, to take a sudden sharp twist and present the university with a whole new set of problems, the years immediately before had not been uninstructive blanks. In 1963 and 1964 we had been very much concerned about the degree of autonomy given to the official student organization, the Students’ Administrative Council. With the rapid growth in student numbers, it had attained a great financial power, since each student paid a compulsory fee. Under the rules and procedures of the Board of Governors, the SAC was a financial subsidiary, a nonacademic unit...

  12. 9 The Real Revolution
    (pp. 160-178)

    The first meeting of the Commission on University Government took place on December 10, 1968. The committee met in the Senate chamber, sitting around four tables arranged to form a hollow square, at the north end of the large chamber just below the dais with its three formal university crestembossed chairs. There was a nervous embarrassed sense of the historical importance of the moment. We were in direct succession to the commission of 1906 that had enunciated the structure of the modern University of Toronto and greatly influenced the structure of all Canadian universities subsequently founded. But the intervening years...

  13. 10 Final Reckonings
    (pp. 179-192)

    When I left office on June 30,1971,1 had no feeling of triumph. In a solemn obituary notice that my old student antagonist, Steven Langdon, wrote for a national magazine, he observed, with the icy brutality of youth, that on my retirement ‘no one mourned very much, and no one celebrated very much/I took some satisfaction in mere survival at a time when university presidents fled for cover or were shot down in the open. If I had become a radical, it had been in the light of a Butlerian observation:’ Reforms and discoveries are like offences; they must needs come,...

  14. Index
    (pp. 193-197)