To the Editor:

I was somewhat dismayed to read about Professor Steinberg's research in the article entitled "Psychoanalyzing the presidents" in your February 22 issue.

I thought the practice of "retro-analysis" had been put to rest in 1964 when, during the Goldwater-Johnson election, the critical analysis of Mr. Goldwater by supposed analysts who had never known Mr. Goldwater was roundly criticized by most official psychiatric organizations in the U.S. A theory, to be valid, must be able to be proved by facts.

With psychoanalytic treatment various hypotheses can be posited by the therapist but cannot be accepted as fact until the corroborating data is spontaneously revealed through long-term direct contact with the patient. As in all other branches of medicine, a diagnosis cannot be made without seeing the patient; anything less is trivializing psychiatry as a medical specialty.

D.C. Funderburk, md cm'56
Associate Professor Emeritus
Department of Psychiatry
USC School of Medicine

To the Editor:

We would like to congratulate Mr. Daniel McCabe for having done an excellent write-up of our research project, PHENIX, in the March 21 issue of the Reporter. It is never a trivial matter to do a coherent and understandable presentation of a major scientific project to the public and Mr. McCabe succeeded well.

However, we would like to clarify the point regarding support of the project by the Canadian government. After an initial refusal by NSERC to provide a major installation grant and following the agreement of the Department of Energy (USA) to provide most of the capital funding for our part of the project, NSERC last year did award us a grant of $300,000 for capital funding. Moreover, we have always enjoyed adequate operating support from NSERC through our annual operating grants. We understand the budget constraints on NSERC in recent years and we are deeply appreciative and thankful for all the support the agency has given us over the years.

Jean Barrette &
Tommy Mark

Professors of Physics

To the Editor:

I would like to dispel a few misconceptions about McGill's March 5, 1996 offer to the teaching assistants. The University's global offer was presented to the AGSEM in response to their request for a comprehensive proposal on all outstanding issues.

Myth: McGill's offer constitutes a 50% pay cut.

Fact: Given the current absence of a University-wide salary structure, departments have been paying rates that varied significantly in the past, based mainly on the availability of other sources of graduate student support in the particular research area. McGill's offer constitutes a salary improvement of up to 40% in some departments, and yes, an apparent decrease in the case of departments currently paying the highest rates. However, the proposal does not prevent departments and faculties from offering their graduate students tuition assistance, fellowships, stipends or bursaries. The University has already stated that it will continue to provide graduate student support.

McGill has also agreed to protect current salary commitments so that current TAs do not suffer a salary decrease as a result of the agreement while they remain in the priority pool.

Myth: McGill's offer is low compared to other universities.

Fact: McGill's offer is comparable to the rates and salary structures of the other Montreal universities for teaching assistants.

Myth: McGill's offer does not allow teaching assistants to get tuition fee waivers.

Fact: Currently, one faculty on campus offers tuition fee waivers for graduate students as part of the offer of employment as a teaching assistant. Nothing in McGill's offer would prevent any faculty from providing tuition assistance support, fellowships, stipends or bursaries to their graduate students. In his March 18, 1996 message to the University community (see InfoMcGill under "Message"), Vice-Principal (Academic) T.H. Chan clearly states that the University has always provided financial support for graduate students in a variety of ways and will continue to do so.

This is an issue that is not part of the pay-for-work package proposed by the University. The University's proposal includes a provision to respect commitments to continue paying the tuition fee waiver as part of the offer of employment to current teaching assistants who were previously receiving it.

Myth: McGill's offer provides no job security.

Fact: It is difficult to apply the notion of job security to students who, by definition, work for a limited period. However, McGill and the union have largely agreed on a priority pool system to reappoint current teaching assistants on a priority basis.

Myth: McGill's offer provides no overwork protection.

Fact: McGill included in its proposal a letter of agreement for a fast-track mechanism to settle workload-related disputes during the first collective agreement. This proposal was discussed at the bargaining table and was agreed to by both parties.

Myth: McGill's offer increases the hours of work for teaching assistants.

Fact: Our offer defines a maximum number of hours per term: 180 hours for a full teaching assistantship. Our proposal also states that we will honour the number of hours currently considered a full teaching assistantship in the various faculties and departments.

We hope these clarifications are helpful in understanding the offer that McGill made to the AGSEM.

Robert Savoie
Executive Director
of Human Resources

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), I would like to address some concerns regarding the ongoing negotiations with the TA union.

The union was originally formed in response to concerns over increasing TA workloads at the same time as salaries were being reduced in real terms due to the absence of any cost of living adjustments. However, contrary to the views of some faculty members, the union is not solely interested in getting "more money for less work."

Teaching assistants live a double life at McGill--as graduate students striving to complete our degrees, but also as part-time academic staff funding our studies by contributing to the education of undergraduates.

These two roles have become increasingly conflictual as the TA workload has increased at the same time as we are being told to complete our degrees in a shorter time.

For example, the number of students per Arts TA has increased over the past five years from approximately 50 to over 100. This has very serious repercussions for the amount of time TAs can spend with each student. AGSEM is confused that TA:student ratios that were used to ensure pedagogically sound education five years ago are now being eliminated on the grounds of "having no place in negotiations" (to quote official McGill spokespeople). We strongly believe that the quality of education that undergraduates expect from McGill is being threatened due to the excessive workloads inflicted upon TAs.

McGill often emphasizes that the proportion of courses taught by full professors is greater than at other Montreal universities (where more sessionals are employed). But the flip side of this admirable fact is that professors do not have the time to meet with students since they are also busy researchers--hence the important role of McGill's TAs.

Vice-Principal Chan stresses that McGill intends to continue to provide support such as fee waivers to graduate students. If this is genuinely the case, why is the administration so worried about including it in the collective agreement? He further states that AGSEM is "confused" over salaries--yet for immigration and tax purposes, tuition waivers have always been identified as a benefit in return for TA work. Why should it suddenly change when a union exists?

Finally I would like to clear up some confusion: AGSEM has never intended to suggest that support staff are overpaid. Given their fundamental role in running the university, I believe that they are distinctly under-appreciated (materially and personally) by many staff and students.

AGSEM's point is simply that TAs have received no salary increases since the mid-eighties, and are faced with further cuts at the same time as several million dollars have been set aside to raise FACULTY salaries.

We encourage everyone who cares about the quality and accessibility of education at McGill to contact Principal Shapiro to express their concern over the increasing burdens being placed upon TAs and the proposed further reductions in salaries.

Hugh Potter
AGSEM - McGill's TA union

To the Editor:

I was happy to see the interest that Professor Mario Onyszchuk is taking in the Atlantis Project (letter, March 7). But some response to his concerns about costs seems called for.

Briefly, Atlantis may be called a North American adaptation of the tutorial system, which has constituted the principal means of instruction in Oxbridge since the 15th Century. In its Atlantean form, reshaped for greater efficiency and lower costs, it has been evolving since early experiments in Berkeley in the '60s. To understand it more fully, one needs to look at the published articles and samizdat papers which explore its history, methods, and implications.

Professor Onyszchuk is quite correct in assuming that tutorial instruction is only practical financially if one takes the leap of faith of basing all serious instruction on the weekly tutorial. In Atlantis, as Oxford, lectures in which the lecturer is responsible for signing grade sheets for several hundred students are ruthlessly eliminated. All other lecturing we consider a valuable adjunct, so long as students don't substitute them for their own reading, thinking, and discussions. We'd welcome a world-wide virtual university broadcasting to millions, so long as students could respond as individuals in tutorial groups.

Professor Onyszchuk is kind enough to term the Atlantis project "noble" but has understandable concern that its costs would further overburden overstrained budgets. We nonetheless argue that Atlantis can eventually achieve quite a dramatic level of savings. But since there seems to be no agreed methodology for analyzing costs, I shall also suggest some criteria by which teaching efficiency may be judged:

The above is only a synopsis of a synopsis, and must inevitably raise more questions than it answers. For more information please contact me at 398-5418, or