Let us try to search earlier for the next principal – Part 1

This letter below was emailed to over 100 McGill senators on April 27, 2011:

April 27, 2011

Dear Senators,

Not only is money devaluing but also respect for the democratic process and the moral decency of societies.  Similarly eroding is the value placed on the process of acquiring knowledge through intrinsic human curiosity: it is being replaced by age old one-upmanship. Such depreciations are worsening financial, political and social polarizations of societies where at the top end small elite groups emerge with more power over the majority.

A good example reflecting these overpowering processes is politics run by politicians. Politicians feel forced to protect the interests of the ruling elite at the expense of the pauperized majority, which so far has worked, but as a logical response less people participate each year in elections. This is of great concern.

Something similar happens on a micro-scale at our universities where many of their supposedly autonomous organizations are now often run by only self-acclaimed leaders. As the community becomes fully aware about thinning roles of their representations at the higher levels this manifests itself in a growing apathy among students, staff members and academics. Recently there has been voter apathy at McGill local administrative elections for different
committee, senate and BOG positions, as people recognize that the real power is imposed and acts from above.

I draw your attention to the following points of order.

Is it justifiable that the top universities’ administrators:
Receive higher salaries than our PM?
Act autocratically and essentially as corporate CEO types in educational institutions?
Obsess over university rankings what substitutes driving for profits in a corporate modeled way?
Secretly hire and fire people at key managerial positions, at extreme cost, and terrify the community with regards to their job security?
Make declarations about teaching improvements only after non-consulted tuition increases (See the recently fine of $2 million by the Ministry of Education over McGill’s MBA program)?

So, should universities be run by politicians or more straightforward academics?

In spite of these we need to work towards mobilizing McGill’s community and we would find that they can give much more from themselves if they felt respected and recognized for their contributions. We need extremely devoted and passionate leaders – working at a more appropriate wage – who are able to inspire the whole community by their own example of outstanding competence. Such exceptional organizers are around us, for example candidates who currently teach or actively research, and in other communities.  We need to invite these potential candidates so they can directly present their plans and programs for the university – in an on campus or internet forum, the latter being easily arranged.  A process like this can profoundly boost the enthusiasm and participation of our community, awaking a lot of dormant potentials candidates who will feel freer to participate in real elections, and I sincerely hope that the administration will be supportive and allow for the future development of this initiative.

The most recent summarization of this proposal was presented two week ago in Concordia at: http://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/1466 and one month ago at: http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2011/03/let-us-democratically-elect-mcgill%E2%80%99s-next-principal/.  I bring to your attention one reader’s comment in McGill Daily piece:
“Principals are elected at plenty of other universities. The idea is not unworkable, but unlikely if the professoriate doesn’t come out strongly in favor of it”.
Slawomir Poplawski

P.S. Today is too early to discuss this proposal with the Senate, but it can be done at the next May’s meeting.  In the meantime we can discuss on-line and for this reason I’ve attached a full list of Senator’s emails.  Temporary are only
excluded from this list a few top administrators (including deans) as it is better if they join our discussion at later stages.  We must also understand that many senators with senior administrative positions will not feel fully comfortable to reveal presently their opinions and we should accept their voices behind pseudonyms as when sent from alternative emails (can also be emailed only to me for future general posting what makes impossible to trace authors by the administration).  So far, the leaders are oversensitive when it comes to posting our opinions (Reporter stopped publishing letters about 6 years ago).  Also the last Town Hall meeting was censored in March, by removing 3 minutes from the available on-line audio and video recordings.  Let’s hope that our eventual discussion will be perceived as mature and fully acceptable.