November 7, 1996


To the Editor:

McGill must clarify its academic, social and financial identity. Because of the current lack of policies, decision-making bodies are left to make crucial decisions without clear boundaries to guide them. Privatization, sharing of resources, and definitions of excellence are three issues on which the McGill community must establish a position.

First, the trend is to accept that government funding will dwindle. Accordingly, the McGill of the future is envisioned as an institution more dependent on funds from students, donors and alumni, and less dependent on governmental funds.

However, the community has yet to make up its mind on privatization. Do we agree with increased tuition? How would tuition hikes affect accessibility? Do we agree with funding from industry? Would there be strings attached? Would curiosity-driven research be affected? Currently, private programs are being ratified in Senate in an ad hoc manner. Consequently, McGill is slowly, quietly and unconsciously becoming a private institution.

Second, McGill must decide whether it wants to share resources with other Montreal universities. Proposals coming to Senate for approval often contain goals such as "consolidation of courses between campuses." However, McGill has no formal position on the values implicit in such proposals. What are the implications of shared resources? What will we share? Under what conditions will we pick up our toys and go home?

Finally, we must define excellence. We are told that priority for funding will be given to "excellent" programs. Is excellence defined in terms of teaching? Research productivity? Fame? Financial feasibility?

Resistance to the development of a policy takes many forms, from "sounds great, but we don't have the time," to "why bother, it's a waste of time." We are pleased to inform those who don't have time for policy-making that research on these issues is already being done and logical arguments are being drawn up. The Post-Graduate Students' Society is organizing the "Future Visions Conference: Graduate Students' Perspectives on the New McGill," to be held on November 29.

The goal is to bring together graduate students, academics and administrators to discuss the changing face of our University. The morning will be devoted to the presentation of papers. In the afternoon, a panel consisting of Principal Shapiro, Dean (Graduate Studies) Bélanger, two professors and four presenters will discuss the issues under the direction of a moderator. Questions from the floor will also be addressed.

The conference will be open to graduate students, professors and their guests. Members of the Principal's Council, the SSMU Executive and Senate will be invited personally.

Anyone who wishes to submit a paper is asked to note that it must: (1) be written by a graduate student; (2) relate to the future of McGill; (3) be well researched and referenced; (4) contain constructive suggestions/criticisms.

Preference will be given to papers of general interest, and deadline for submissions is November 15. Send an abstract and the paper to Future Visions Conference, Thomson House, 3650 McTavish, to the attention of the Vice-President University Affairs.

Anna K. Kruzynski
Vice-President University Affairs
Post-Graduate Students' Society

To the Editor:

In an article on the demonstration organized by McGill's largest trade unions ("Unions united," October 10), Director of Human Resources Robert Savoie attempted to justify why his administration is seeking permanent wage reductions from McGill TAs in many departments, while at the same time seeking permanent wage increases for professors.

Savoie argues that McGill TAs should get the wages paid at the Université de Montréal (where TAs are not unionized), which amounts to a clawback of over $1,000 per TA per year (plus elimination of the tuition waiver) for hundreds of TAs. He also argues that professors at McGill deserve higher salaries because the wages are lower than the "national average" (an average based on the wages of unionized professors). We take issue with the double standard that governs Savoie's bargaining position.

Savoie's argument as reported in your newspaper is that "the University is competing with the three other Montreal universities, and to a lesser extent with other Quebec universities, for TAs, whereas for faculty McGill is competing with universities across Canada and the United States."

We're afraid that Mr. Savoie is misinformed. According to a recent comparative study of Quebec universities, McGill actually has the second highest level of non-Quebec residents of any university in Quebec (Bishop's is higher). The findings of this study are supported by McGill's Winter Term 1996 registration statistics: 17.2% of the graduate student population comes from outside Quebec and 20.6% comes from outside Canada.

McGill's own statistics support what the TA union has been arguing all along: McGill is not competing with the three other Montreal universities and even less with other Quebec universities, but to a great extent is competing with universities all over the world for TAs--universities like York and McMaster which pay their TAs over $27/hour plus compensation for overtime worked. In light of this corrected information, we call upon the administration to reconsider its position on TA salaries and benefits.

As we have said before, McGill's TAs support the administration's efforts to increase professors' wages to the national average. But what about the rest of McGill's employees? It is unfair and mean-spirited to suggest that McGill's worst-paid employees should get permanent wage reductions to bring wages down to the Quebec average, but that professors should get permanent wage increases to bring them up to the national average.

We propose that the McGill community reject the administration's double standard and compare all employees to the highest standards in Canada and the world. We should expect nothing less from a University that has just collected, according to The 21st Century Fund Final Campaign Report, "the largest sum ever sought from the private sector by a Canadian university."

Regina Harrison
Michael Temelini

Joint Coordinators,
Assocation of Graduate Students Employed at McGill