Bruce Kidd, Hart House Warden and Olympian. BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

The Varsity

You’ve been here in one capacity or another for many decades. When did you first decide to come here as a student?

BRUCE KIDD

In my last few years of high school, every evening after school I would jump on the Bloor streetcar and come down either to train at Varsity, or at Hart House. And although we didn’t always run upstairs in Hart House it was really the base for fall and spring running too. And that did change my life.

In my Grade 13 year I could have spent every weekend going to recruitment weekends at different colleges in the United States. They were all trying to recruit me but I wanted to have time to run and I couldn’t do that if I was away every weekend. I narrowed it down to Harvard and U of T, but in the end chose U of T.

The Varsity

There’s an ongoing debate in the athletic community at U of T about potential restructuring. Two options seem to have emerged: either continuing to fund all teams roughly equally, or slashing funding for those teams that are less successful and focusing on the ones that are most successful. What should be done?

BRUCE KIDD 

You know I’m reluctant … I know my colleagues in the Faculty of Kinesiology are wrestling with very difficult financial challenges. In finding worthwhile opportunities for U of T students, I would say that I had much to do with the creation of the broadly-based program and I’m a great believer that, given the educational benefits of sport in a university environment, you should provide as many opportunities as you can.

The Varsity

Can you tell students a bit about what’s coming up at Hart House that they might want to get involved in, anything new or anything old that’s worthy of note?

BRUCE KIDD

You know there’s so much going on in Hart House…

The Varsity

Where’s a good place to start?

BRUCE KIDD 

Every day, every room in this house is buzzing with student energy, and you know the learning that goes on is extraordinary. We provide opportunities in the visual, literary, and performing arts through the committees and facilities in those areas. Sport and physical activity through the fitness wing, public policy and social justice through the debates and social justice committees, and culture and food through the farm committee. Students sit on all those committees and participate in programs that are as intellectually challenging and as invigorating as the learning that goes on in any classroom in this University. Yet we have students who say they’ve never heard of Hart House, or they’ve only been to Sammy’s and they’re unaware that there’s an art gallery or a fitness centre.

The Varsity: 

Why do you think that might be?

BRUCE KIDD

I would share that question with you and your readers. We invest significantly, although we don’t have pots of money, in communication — in print, in digital, we’ve just upgraded our website, we have big Facebook and Twitter feeds. We have student ambassadors who go to every faculty and college on all three campuses, but we can never communicate enough. My advice to students is just spend an hour walking around the building and if you see something that you like, just screw up your courage and go to the first meeting. If you need an introduction, come and see me and I’ll take you to the first meeting!

The Varsity

You mentioned that Hart House doesn’t have pots of money. Hart House has been operating at a structural deficit for years now.  

BRUCE KIDD 

Hart House is funded by a combination of student fees from the compulsory ancillary fee that all students pay into, and the user fees that we charge others for using the space. Beyond that, we’re entirely self sufficient. We receive absolutely nothing, despite the contribution Hart House makes to the educational mission of the university, we get nothing from the operating budget of the university. Nothing. Repeat nothing.

The Varsity

There’s been some talk about unnecessary overlap between the Office of Student Life and Hart House. If money is tight, why not cut back on either osl or Hart House? 

BRUCE KIDD 

That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I guess I’m totally shocked. Hart House provides special opportunities: it provides space for student activities on the three U of T campuses, and it provides this extraordinary ceremonial and social heritage. We overlap with Student Life in that we are also engaged in leadership training. Student Life encompasses the health service, international exchanges, a whole slew of things — there’s very little overlap.

The Varsity

I was wondering if we could talk a bit about your own plans. You’d mentioned that you were considering retiring in the next few years. 

BRUCE KIDD

You know I’m here, I’ve signed a four-year contract so I’ll be here until 2016…

The Varsity

Are you planning to stay on after that in some capacity?

BRUCE KIDD

[laughs] I’m scheduled to retire, I will be well past my expected retirement date at that point so let’s leave that as an open question.

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