For a very long time now I have been pondering the saga of McGill University’s firing of Norman Cornett. I have known Cornett for many years and have always known him to be a person of absolute integrity. Cornett backs his opinions with research. He reads extensively; he meets with modern authors; he challenges them; and he works to incorporate what he learns into a unified whole. His mind is so far-ranging that he takes this progress of learning, investigating, and challenging into multiple realms of thinking: theology, history, literature, music, and the arts.
If this were all, Cornett would be a fascinating thinker. However, Cornett brought his approach to McGill and translated this same far-ranging intelligence into an amazing pedagogical style. I have been fortunate enough to sit in on several of his classes. Cornett didn’t just present material and then require his students to learn it. He brought writers, artists, poets, politicians, and musicians to his students. He allowed them to deeply experience the material and then to dialogue with the artists. To sit in on one of his classes is a truly profound experience. One not only gets a glimpse into the creative process of the artist, but also into one’s response to that creativity. McGill students who took his courses had an exceptional experience.
So it was with disbelief that I heard that McGill had let Cornett go without saying why. What are their charges? McGill claims to support freedom of speech. Yet they have kept these things secret. Where is the open, searching, free bastion of academic integrity that McGill portrays in public?
McGill University needs to make their charges open and public. Cornett needs to be given the opportunity to respond to those charges.