By Robyn Doolittle
Editor in Chief
Five years ago, major Toronto media outlets only had one reason to visit Ryerson — to watch ambulance crews take the body away.
But yesterday, top reporters from the Toronto Star, Sun, CTV, Global and 24 Hours (among half a dozen others) packed into the Atrium in the George Vari Centre for Computing and Engineering to hear Sheldon Levy announce his Master Plan team.
It probably wasn’t the assignment they were hoping for when they came into work — it’s not nuclear weapon sanctions after all — but the fact that their assignment desk’s found Ryerson’s Master Plan newsworthy should be extremely encouraging to the administration.
While many journalists took the opportunity to grill Mayor David Miller (who also showed up to give a brief speech) on waterfront and suburb issues in these final days of the election — almost all showed genuine interest in Ryerson’s plan to become a major stakeholder in the downtown. It’s a sign that as we grow and flourish over the next few decades, Toronto and the province — dare I say the country — will be watching. In between promises of closing Gould, redesigning Kerr, moving onto Yonge and creating a Ram presence in Dundas Square, another blueprint for change began to unfurl.
As Levy circulated through the mob of journalists, he continuously made a point of stating the university will welcome media criticism of the Plan as it begins to unfold. Nothing will be secret, he said. Levy wants transparency for project ideas, and noted architects will be available to speak with inquisitive community members throughout the process.
Since Levy arrived, the tone of Ryerson has been shifting in this direction, and while there’s clearly much more to our president than charm and a dopey smile (you don’t become the president of a university by being a nice guy) his efforts to open up the school to students seem sincere.
About a year ago I e-mailed Levy with a personal complaint — Arne Kislenko was a finalist in TVOntario’s lecturer series and Ryerson’s website didn’t even mention it, even though the school was pumping significant coin into promotion initiatives. Two days later Levy personally e-mailed me back. At the time I was business editor at The Eye, and we eventually ran a story on the issue, but I never mentioned my position in the original letter. To the right, you’ll notice a letter from a Toronto grandmother who e-mailed Levy about some Ryerson students who made a happy day for her grandson. Rumour has it that he not only replied, he sent merchandise.
Political move — of course. But it’s a political move from a damn good guy. This is how a university should be and I’m jealous of all the future Rye Highers who will be able to reap the benefits’ of Levy’s Master Plan.
Ryerson is known for its hands-on approach to teaching, and even though the university is quickly moving towards boosting its academic side, it sounds like the school will be trying hard to stay true to its roots. We’re not U of T after all — thank goodness. (The principal architect mentioned the phrase “Bohemian indicator,” which perked our ears and hopes.)
It should also be noted both Levy and Miller gave student journalists precedence in the ensuing scrum question periods, which most often call for “every gal for herself” survival tactics. It’s comforting to know the big wigs haven’t forgot the folks who always showed up to the less glittery press conference’s of yesteryear.
(Read Josh Visser’s in-depth look at the Master Plan announcement on page 3… although since you’re on page 4 right now you probably already have.)