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'Why leave when the good part's coming?'

Jackson talks about a thriving Faculty

Dean of Fine Arts Christopher Jackson, the only candidate in sight for the next term of his office, presented his views on the state of the Faculty to a small but receptive audience last week.

The speech, intended mainly for members of Fine Arts Faculty Council but open to all, was scheduled despite the fact that Jackson is the only applicant on the search committee's shortlist.

Jackson said that Fine Arts has emerged strong and well organized after four years of "pretty vicious budget-cutting" on the part of government, "and I think it's about to end." Much work has gone into cultivating friends outside the Faculty who can offer both moral and financial support, and the latest crop of new faculty members are of very high quality.

The Faculty's diversity is its great strength in the arts community, Jackson said, and while other art schools may be able to offer much more financial support, students continue to flock to Concordia.

Discussions are already under way to plan the new shape of Fine Arts in the light of a promise to build new facilities for the performing arts
at Loyola and for the visual arts downtown.

Important elements in this planning will be technology, synergies among various units and disciplines, and program development to respond to potential students. Fine Arts' planning for FTEs (full-time equivalent students) "is unmatched across the University," Jackson said.

He noted, however, that there are two clouds on the horizon. One is the scrutiny of the Quebec government (critical reports have been issued on the schools and CEGEPs) and the budget, which does not yet permit an ideal teacher-student ratio.

Questions from the audience related to the high number of labour grievances won by part-time faculty members, the absence of guidelines for dealing with private sponsorship, and the role of technicians in planning new facilities.

Jackson said that the part-timers' difficulties were related to the newness of the CUPFA contract and the different conditions under which artists work, particularly musicians and theatre people. He felt that these wrinkles would eventually be smoothed out.

Similarly, he welcomed discussion of the issues raised by increased outside sponsorship, and promised that technicians' views would be integral to the planning process.

In general, Jackson expressed deep appreciation for the experience of being Dean, both personal and professional. It has enriched his understanding of the other arts and his own role as a musician and conductor. In return, as he has toured with his early-music group, he has taken the name of Concordia with him to many places, including Europe.

"It is an extraordinary job," Jackson said. "If I am seeking a second term, it is because I haven't finished yet -- and why would I want to stop just as the good part's coming?" - BB

Copyright 1998 Concordia's Thursday Report.