From The desk of the Principal

by Bernard J. Shapiro

The dual challenge facing the University in the next several years is both academic and fiscal in nature: How do we provide for academic renewal in a time of exceedingly tight budgets? In my recent presentation to the Commission Parlementaire of the National Assembly in Quebec, with regard to the future of Quebec universities in general and of McGill in particular, I insisted on the importance of academic renewal­the capacity of each institution to build toward the next generation by bringing into the professoriate a steady flow of young people.

Given the current budget constraints, this will clearly be impossible at McGill unless we see workforce reduction levels significantly higher than those experienced in recent years.

In this context, the Board of Governors, at its February meeting, approved the Special Voluntary Workforce Reduction Plan. This plan provides, for a limited period, an enhanced retirement incentive for most faculty and staff 55 years of age or older.

Although I do not know how appealing the new plan will be, I hope it will be sufficiently attractive to provide us with greater freedom to meet our academic and fiscal challenges.

In this same context I proposed to the Commission Parlementaire that Quebec reintroduce, at least for the university sector, compulsory retirement at age 65. One of the deputies immediately asked whether older faculty and staff continue to be productive. It is my experience that in most cases they do.

At McGill, age and productivity are not very directly related, and many faculty over 65 continue to be quite productive indeed. (Virtually no staff continue to work beyond 65.)

Nevertheless, given the priority we must assign to the future of our University, I am convinced that our ability to bring new, young members into our midst outweighs the recognition of the wisdom and continuing productivity of more senior colleagues.

I will thus continue to argue for government policies that would either allow for compulsory retirement at age 65 or would grant the University greater flexibility in redefining its employment relationship with faculty and staff in this age group.