OpEd_EyesHighAgain_SamanthaLucy
Illustration by Samantha Lucy

New iteration of Eyes High more of the same for students

May 16, 2017 —

The University of Calgary recently launched a five-year strategic plan called Eyes High. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The U of C introduced the original Eyes High strategy in 2011. It was lauded by administration as a way to make the university a “global intellectual hub” and set goals like becoming a top-five research university in Canada by 2016. They currently rank sixth.

The revised — or, as the university puts it, “energized” — Eyes High retains the top-five research university goal, now vowing to reach that coveted position by 2022. Beyond that, the goals are a lot less quantifiable. They focus on “inspiring our friends and supporters to invest in our efforts to spark meaningful change and energize the next generation” or “creating a prosperous and sustainable future.” Admirable goals, of course, but how do you measure that?

And that’s the main problem with Eyes High — a lot of its rhetoric doesn’t actually mean anything to students. Reading through the strategy, it’s difficult to imagine how these buzzword-filled objectives are going to amount to a tangible improvement in day-to-day student life. While I certainly hope that Eyes High 2.0 is successful in enriching the student experience and enhancing campus culture, after six years of this, the U of C should set their eyes higher than the same tired campaign.

“People resonate with Eyes High,” U of C president Elizabeth Cannon said when the Eyes High reboot was first announced. And she’s right. The Eyes High name is inextricably linked to the current administration. It underlined the school’s recent publicity missteps, including controversies around Cannon’s involvement on the board of Enbridge and going to court over the ownership of MacHall with their own Students’ Union. That’s what I think of when I hear Eyes High. Though many students who were around for those tumultuous times will soon graduate, maintaining the Eyes High name allows the ghosts of those controversies to live on.

Though Eyes High isn’t the smartest title, the strategy will serve its purpose for the U of C. And there’s nothing explicitly wrong with long-term strategic plans. It’s important for large institutions to prepare for their future and appease donors with these public relations campaigns.

But it’s also important to recognize Eyes High for what it is — a tool for the U of C. It can be used to create some positive spin for the institution, secure corporate funding or climb a few spots in the yearly Maclean’s rankings. Despite the university’s efforts to include student groups in their consultation process or their name-dropping of the vague notion of “student experience” in the strategy, plans like Eyes High aren’t designed to benefit students.

What matters to current and future students is that post-secondary education is as accessible and rewarding as possible. Under this or any other name, it’s doubtful that Eyes High is going accomplish that. At least the U of C stuck with a name that’s easy to make fun of.

Jason Herring, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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