McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) has approved Michael Meighen as McGill’s 19th Chancellor. Meighen will succeed the current Chancellor, Arnold Steinberg, whose term ends in June 2014.
This will mark the first time that a non-Montreal resident has occupied the position. Meighen acquired a bachelor’s degree from McGill and later pursued a career as a lawyer before becoming a senator for the Conservative Party.
According to McGill’s Statutes, the Chancellor is an ex-officio member of the BoG, and is the titular head of McGill University.
The position, which according to BoG Chair Stuart ‘Kip’ Cobbett “is appointed by the Board of Directors on the recommendation and nomination of the governors of ethics committee,” has been almost exclusively held by white, male successors, with the exception of Gretta Chambers, who was Chancellor from 1991 to 1999.
Meighen, the grandson of former Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen, served as a senator on the National Security and Defence committee for six years, until he was asked to resign in 2007. According to CTV News, some viewed this as a forcing out of independent-minded senators by the Conservative government.
“I don’t think [my political affiliation] has any effect on my work at all, in the sense that my active involvement in public political life is over,” Meighen told The Daily. “I stepped down from the Senate after 25 years voluntarily, and I certainly have no intention of running in an election. […] My having been involved in politics, I hope, will help me understand issues, have an appreciation for other people’s points of view [and do] a little more listening than talking.
Meighen’s previous engagement at McGill was as a co-chair at Campaign McGill, an eight-year fundraising campaign that raised over $1 billion. Meighen told The Daily that he wanted to continue such work.
“As far as change is concerned, anything can always be improved. […] McGill does attract people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s pretty daunting […] when you perhaps came from an environment where there was on many occasions counselling, and guidance, and hands-on support, there you are, for the first time on your own. So I think it is very important that students have access to counsellors and guidance. After all, they are the customers of the university. And the customer is always right, so I think that [we’ve] got to bend over backwards to be nice to customers.”
Katie Larson, President of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), told The Daily that the Chancellor does not actually affect the lives of the student body, “unless you have a Chancellor who does something really crazy. The Chancellor usually works with upper-level administration and represents the University. The student interaction with the Chancellor isn’t very high. You see them when you graduate and that’s about it.”
Meighen agreed with Larson that his role would be fairly removed from the students.
“University affairs are the primary responsibility of the chair of the BoG, the other governors, and the principal, and the administration of the University, so I’m not running the place. I’m there to be a cheerleader for McGill and to, I hope, bring some productive or positive judgement to bear on the passing scene and make suggestions. I expect to be at most of the BoG meetings, where I will listen, learn and perhaps intervene from time to time, if I think that I can be helpful.”