By Jamie McLeod
It’s Monday night on the second floor of Jorgenson Hall, and the a-list of Ryerson is meeting for a party.
Servers dressed in black vests and bow ties glide between tables draped in gold cloth and topped with delicate floral arrangements.
At the door, students, faculty and staff — treated as equals! — were handed two drink tickets, and invited to help themselves to cheese, and fruit, and chicken satays and vegetarian springrolls, and little bite-sized sugary dessert things.
And then, after everyone has had a chance to get some beer or wine, and a bite to eat, Sheldon Levy steps up to the podium to say a few words about Alan Shepard, the man of the hour, your new provost and VP-academic.
What’s a provost? Who is Alan Shepard?
If you don’t know, it’s your own goddamn fault.
Ryerson wants you to know that he’s the new provost and VP Academic.
They want you to know what a provost is, and they threw a party to encourage you to learn.
If you were at the party, you already know all of this. If you weren’t there, you should probably just stop reading now, because the two things everyone seemed to agree on were that Shepard will make an fine provost, and the free booze was delicious.
“A provost is the chief academic officer of the university and the chief budget officer and the chief planning officer,” Shepard said.
Basically, that means he’s one of the head honchos of the university. If it has to do with anything academic, or anything budgetary, or anything planning-related, Shepard’s the top guy.
If Levy goes away on a trip, Shepard’s the guy in charge while he’s gone.
Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.
Shepard comes from Guelph, where he was the Associate Vice President Academic, and before that he was the chair of the English department at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
He’s originally an English professor, who’s published three books, and once he’s up to speed on the provost thing, he wants to start lecturing English classes.
Back at the party, things are starting to wind down. Nora Loreto, President of the RSU, wants everyone to know that she’s still committed to freezing tuition, and Eyeopener editor John Mather is tipsy.
After several flattering speeches, Shepard keeps his remarks brief and promises to talk to everyone and introduce himself, and that’s the thought that seems to be hanging in the back of everyone’s mind. Everyone has glowing things to say about him, but there’s a sense that there are more people here for the free grub than there are for the new provost.
Shepard is glad-handing and small-talking, but he only seems to be talking to faculty and staff. Has he talked to anyone under 30?
There he goes! Oh wait, that’s just Loreto; she doesn’t count.
On the other side of the room, a small group of students is drinking and talking among themselves.
As far as Shepard is concerned, that’s okay.
“When I was an undergrad I hadn’t the faintest idea what a provost was or who that was, I think what’s important is that Ryerson be offering students a quality education,” Shepard said. “I doubt if it matters very much if most undergraduates know what a provost is or who it is honestly.”
But who cares? The free booze was delicious.