Janice McGraw: Handling campus claims

Are people at work tiring of your ice storm stories? Well, there's one person on campus who still really wants to hear from you. Janice McGraw, manager of McGill's Insurance and Risk Management Office, is responsible for collecting information on losses and damage resulting from the storm so the University can begin to figure out how much the whole thing cost.

"We want to know how people across campus were affected. Maybe they had to pay to move equipment or buy special supplies, for example. They don't need to limit their reports to losses that were insured  we're not making distinctions like that right now. We're just trying to get a sense of all the direct and indirect damages."

One department that saved the University a lot of money  even though it incurred a lot of expense  is Facilities Management. "Those costs are quite clear, at least for the time put in by people in the trades. They came in throughout the blackout and did a fantastic job in terms of preventing and mitigating loss."

Prevention is an important aspect of McGraw's job. While she does spend a considerable amount of time dealing with loss, theft and damage after it has occurred, she contributed to the process when the University revised its Disaster Plan a few years ago. She also chairs McGill's Fire Protection Committee. "I meet with representatives from the Environmental Safety Office, Facilities Management and Development, Legal Advisor's Office and Macdonald Campus. Our departments share the same goals in terms of monitoring safety and fire conditions and looking at ways to improve them."

The other side of McGraw's job requires considerable sensitivity. "Claims are the most difficult to deal with because people are under a lot of stress. Perhaps they are displaced, or some equipment they need for their job has been stolen or damaged. Our job is to restore them as much as possible to the position they were in before the claim. But sometimes things aren't insured or there are delays."

Whatever the difficulties, she is happy in her work.

"I think it's one of the most interesting jobs on campus. It's very dynamic, there are new requests and initiatives every day, it's challenging and people oriented. I really enjoy it."

McGraw started work at the University in the 1970s at McGill-Queen's Press, moved on to do a short stint at the Graduates' Society, and then was hired to work in the Treasury Office. After 10 years there, she moved around in financial circles, working for the executive financial officer, the comptroller, the pension department and finally, returning to work for John Limeburner, the current treasurer, in the Insurance and Risk Management Office.

"I've come full circle. It's like returning home," says McGraw. One thing hasn't changed during her career. She began taking courses in insurance when she first worked in the Treasury Office and kept them up to stay current. Gradually, she took other related courses, collecting a few certificates along the way, and now, after 25 years at McGill, she is enrolled in a BA program in industrial relations.

"I'm really still in the early stages, the equivalent of first year. I'm afraid my children will get their degrees before I do!" she says, laughing. "It's a long process. Most of my classes are at night, but I've taken some during the day. I enjoyed them so much because you get to meet our undergraduates. McGill has this means of keeping us young  by exposing us to students."

McGraw was inducted into the University's Quarter-Century Club last year, and calls the moment "memorable." She adds, "I sometimes feel as if I've been here forever, so I was actually surprised at the depth of pride and emotion I felt. I realized how many opportunities I've had here and it all seemed to come together just then."

Diana Grier Ayton

She is tough, as tough as they come. She has too much invested in this to watch her husband be destroyed. She can't be the silent, suffering wife.

History professor Gil Troy, talking to The Globe and Mail about how Hilary Clinton has rallied to the defence of her husband, embattled U.S. president Bill Clinton. Troy is the author of Affairs of State, a recent book about White House marriages.

Over-the-counter chemistry

Packaging laws don't oblige manufacturers of cosmetics to reveal exactly what it is they're putting into those expensive little vials and jars. But if you've ever wondered whether any cream can really claim to lift, renew or rejuvenate, McGill has a course for you.

Chemistry professor David Harpp, with colleagues Ariel Fenster and Joe Schwarcz, has been lecturing on the chemistry of everyday life for many years and, thanks to the ice storm, registration has been extended for their latest offering, "Drugs and Cosmetics." The course is being given in the evenings through the Centre for Continuing Education.

"It's pretty simple chemistry," says Harpp, although it is a three-credit course. "We cover everything from asthma to ulcers. We talk about prescription drugs and how diseases get cured. We also look at hair products, creams and the science of smell and perfumes."

Harpp says evening classes are usually lively because of the mix of McGill undergraduates and "civilians," who are often older. "Seniors make a nice mix," says Harpp. "They usually ask more questions. And when you talk about an event or a discovery in the '30s and '40s, you might have someone who can stand up and give you a personal story."

If you're interested in registering for "Drugs and Cosmetics," call the Centre for Continuing Education at 398-6200.

In Canada, none of our politicians give a damn. Are we a Third World country? Why are we spending less money on HIV and AIDS than any other G7 country?

Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill AIDS Centre, quoted by Canadian Press.

Flurry in Surrey

Although it hasn't yet opened its doors, Canada's newest university is already the target of a boycott  which threatens to become international. Tech BC officially came into being last month when the Technical University of British Columbia Act was passed in the province's legislature. Tech BC, to be located in the fast-growing Surrey area southeast of Vancouver, has a mandate to turn out job-ready grads and will be working closely with industry.

The reason for the boycott, begun by Canadian faculty associations, is that the university will operate without offering tenure to its "teaching staff members" as they will be known, and without the traditional university senate. Decisions will be made instead by a university council, many of whose members will be government appointees drawn from business and organized labour.

Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations (BC), charges that "educational decisions will no longer be made for strictly educational reasons, free from any economic pressure."

In a letter to Clift, BC education minister Paul Ramsey says the traditional senate was abandoned to allow the university to be "highly responsive to the needs of the labour market and to encourage partnerships with public and private sector employees." He adds, "I will ensure that Tech BC has a rigorous conflict policy."

The 25,000-member Canadian Association of University Teachers has placed ads warning academics that Tech BC "does not offer protections for academic freedom and institutional autonomy." Meanwhile the university has just announced the hiring of Alice Mansell, president of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, as Tech BC's academic vice-president.

Kids used to take speed 20 years ago, or caffeine pills; now they're taking Ritalin. Our concern is the possible health risk -- depression, psychosis -- associated with taking Ritalin.

Dr. Norman Hoffstein, director of McGill's mental health services for students, speaking to The Gazette. He estimates that 1,000-2,000 McGill students are using Ritalin -- normally prescribed for attention deficit disorder -- to help them study.