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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.

McMaster’s model for global engagement was solidified in 2017. In addition, last year, tuition was reduced for international PhD students.

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.

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On Nov. 5, it was announced that Patrick Deane, our seventh and current president of McMaster University, would be leaving his position to assume the role of the 21st principal at Queen’s University, effective July 2019.

Commencing July 1, 2019, Patrick Deane will serve as 21st Principal and Vice-Chancellor of #queensu

— Queen's University (@queensu) November 5, 2018

Deane has been serving as McMaster’s president and vice-chancellor for nearly nine years. Prior to his two terms spent at McMaster, he was Queen’s vice principal of academics from 2005 to 2010 and also served as acting president of the University of Winnipeg in 2003.

The news of Deane’s departure has been met with mixed responses: some students are happy to see a change in leadership while others are opposed to him leaving for Queen’s. Most, however, are indifferent to the news. When nearby students were asked for their thoughts, they responded with “what does the president even do?”

McMaster University's President Deane to lead Queen's University. Sad to see Patrick Deane go. He seemed like an all-round good guy. I took to heart his "engage the community" message, although doing so had more impact on my personal life than my work life. Good leaders do that.

— David Kemper 🎧😌🤙 (@dkemper) November 6, 2018

This is a fair question. Students often only see the president during a speech made at Welcome Week and then again, four years later, at convocation. Patrick Deane, at the least, has managed to maintain a neutral profile. There have been no publicized scandals or rumours that have made him well-known by the student body. But for someone earning an annual salary of nearly $400,000, there ought to be more accountability.

It is not enough for students to be indifferent towards their president. Surely, Deane must have accomplished something in those nine years which afforded him the offer at Queen’s. He has been credited toward improving student learning experience, improving the university’s relations with the local Hamilton community and strengthening McMaster’s national and international research reputation.

Perhaps that is the foil of good leaders; that their good work remains unnoticed. I would argue though that it is the responsibility of such leaders to make themselves known. The office of the president does publish the president’s goals but this document should be better advertised to students. Students should be able to remember more about their president than his affinity towards Pizza Pizza and his South African accent.

In fact, it may even be worse that students remember their president by his omissions as opposed to his actions. Whenever controversial discussions occurred on campus, for example with the current talks of free speech, where was our president? While taking a centrist stance on these issues may have maintained Deane’s reputation among the majority of students, it ultimately doesn’t help anyone.

Starting June 30, the current provost David Farrar will serve as acting president of McMaster for one year. Following Farrar, it is unknown who will be McMaster’s next president. As Patrick Deane would say, here’s hoping for a #brighterfuture.

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