Moving past controversy, new U of S president, Peter Stoicheff, outlines his vision

It has been just over a year since the TransformUS controversy engulfed the University of Saskatchewan.
New U of S President, Peter Stoicheff, was presented with traditional eagle feathers from the Aboriginal community. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

The new president of the U of S, Peter Stoicheff, says he's looking toward the future and moving past the controversy that engulfed the University of Saskatchewan just over a year ago.

In May 2014, then president, Ilene Busch-Vishniac, sparked a major storm on campus after the Dean of the School of Public Health, Robert Buckingham, was fired for publicly criticizing the leadership of the university over the cost-cutting plan TransformUS. His tenure was also taken away, a move that sparked a debate about academic freedom and made national headlines.

Senior official Provost Brett Fairbairn resigned over the incident and Busch-Vishniac was fired by the university board. Buckngham's tenure was reinstated. 

"The tremendous mistake was identified, it was acknowledged, it's really clear that that kind of mistake is not going to be made again." said Stoicheff in an interview with Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning.  "Since then I've just been looking toward the future."

Stoicheff credited interim president Gordon Barnhart with moving the focus away from the events of last May. He added that when he hears people talk on campus, he doesn't hear very much about that turbulent time.  

University still facing financial pressures

But the university is still facing financial pressures. 

"There are always going to be pressures, particularly for universities" said Stoicheff. "All sorts of universities are trying different kinds of models, to me a lot of it has to do with diversifying our revenues." 

He said the university will look to land leases like the one at Preston Crossing that resulted in income for student scholarships. Stoicheff said the institution will also work closely with potential donors and work on a strong relationship with government. 

"That period in our history, was a period in which funding changed drastically and quickly," said Stoicheff. "And if we maintain a really realistic sort of anticipation of what our budget is always going to look like in the future we can handle those kinds of changes by modulating them over time." 

Stoicheff has a history with the university that dates back three decades. He was an English professor for 17 years, and most recently was Dean of Arts and Science. His five year term as president begins in the fall. 

"As time goes on there are different ways in which you can influence change at this institution for the better,' he said, "because institutions always need to change to keep up with things."


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