To the Editor:

I write concerning the "Senate Highlights," in the February 8 issue of the Reporter. Under the heading "Statutory dilemma," it is stated that the membership of MUNACA is 1,938.

This number is not correct. I hope that accurate information, when it is available, will be presented to Senate. A little more research is required by the presenter if Senate is to be informed correctly.

It was also stated to Senate that unionization should be a determining factor for Senate representation. I wonder how convincing this argument will be if (when) academic staff unionize.

Indeed, one has to wonder about the logic fuelling concerns that the academic mission of Senate would be jeopardized by the influx of unionized staff. "If the clerical and technical staff could hold seats, they reasoned, why not the janitorial staff as well?"

In fact, as some members of Senate may recall, clerical, library, and technical staff do have representation as non-academic staff on Senate. The term "influx" is therefore somewhat misleading; these employees already have representation and the academic mission of Senate has certainly not been jeopardized by their representation­on the contrary.

To suggest that unionization (be it of non-academic or academic staff) is somehow at odds with the University's academic mission reflects, at best, a narrow vision of the McGill community.

Contrary to what Dean John Dealy maintains, our decision to unionize does not mean that we do not seek what's best for the long-term academic mission of the University.

We have fulfilled the academic mission of the University in the past and we continue and will continue to do so as unionized employees. The academic mission of the University, which is intimately linked to the students, is our raison d'être as employees, just as it is for the academic staff and the janitorial staff.

Both academic and non-academic staff have representation on Senate. We believe this is beneficial to the University and its academic mission.

The reasons for having non-academic staff representation on Senate are no less valid, and the benefits that such representation provides to the University are no less real simply because a majority of the non-academic staff has unionized.

I believe that the expression of people's rights under the law should not and cannot be used as a tool to discriminate against them, nor to disqualify them from proper participation in their community.

Allan Youster
President, MUNACA

To the Editor:

What a difference between two major Canadian universities in their approaches to teaching big classes as reported in The Gazette ("Oxford/Cambridge tutorial idea urged for McGill: It would cut costs while improving quality, promoters say") and The Globe and Mail ("Lecture rolls to reggae rhythm: Superclass a hit despite its size").

How appropriate that this topic be front page news when universities face massive budget cuts by governments and criticisms of impersonal teaching and learning methods by some students. McGill proposes to adopt the centuries-old and proven Oxford/Cambridge tutorial system not only for its effectiveness, but also because it is claimed to be less costly than traditional teaching methods.

At Cambridge, while a PhD candidate (1954-56), I tutored weekly two undergraduates and was paid handsomely for this work-which in fact was a pleasure because my tutees were bright and enthusiastic.

Together with about 125 other students-big classes in 1954-they would listen to three "university" lectures per week from the dynamic Professor H. J. Emeleus, a brilliant inorganic chemist who was an imaginative researcher and superb speaker. His lectures were peppered with spectacular live demonstrations done with style by an assistant.

Students were grouped into pairs and tutored by college-appointed tutors, many of whom were postgraduate students. It is the most effective but certainly the most costly system, perfected over centuries with gratifying results.

Is McGill's Atlantis Project to be the real Oxford/Cambridge tutorial system, or some variation of it? In what ways will Atlantis be less costly than traditional or modernized lecture methods?

Let's not give it another thought, noble as the project is, unless Atlantis can be made to work by decreasing the number of courses in the humanities and social sciences, without lowering the quality of the remaining courses.

On the other hand, we read in The Globe and Mail that University of Western Ontario students experience serendipity in a lecture hall filled to capacity with 1,200 students, who are instructed and entertained by psychology Professor Mike Atkinson making use of state-of-the-art multimedia techniques, apparently achieving quality teaching in a quantity setting.

Many McGill professors enjoy equal success with similar methods. In the Chemistry Department, we have David Harpp, Ariel Fenster and Joe Schwarcz lap-dissolving 35mm slides in their course "The World of Chemistry" (350 students), while Bryan Sanctuary gives innovative and novel computer-activated and computer-interactive lectures in "General Chemistry" (350 students).

If you would like to experience a packed auditorium for a traditional lecture jazzed up a bit, just sit in­come early to be sure of a seat-on "General Chemistry" (300 students) by folksy Jim Hogan, winner in 1992 of the Leo Yaffe Award for Excellence in Teaching.

As Western's Professor Atkinson aptly puts it in a letter ("Big Lies and Big Classes") to University Affairs (January 1996): "The claim that many of us have made about big classes is that they can be worthwhile educational experiences. But make no mistake about it, big classes require an enormous amount of work by instructors, and administrators need to be aware of this before scheduling large sections."

Why does McGill reveal the not yet approved Atlantis Project to the press when we have so many examples throughout McGill of successful teaching and learning by excellent professors using traditional and novel lecture methods in big classes? Of course, if it could be afforded, one-on-one learning would be the best. Let's not increase McGill's already huge accumulated debt, now shouldered by academic and support staff.

Mario Onyszchuk
Emeritus Professor of Chemistry