Commentary  Norman Cornett: The Undead

Re: “Will we ever see Norman Cornett at McGill again?” | Commentary | September 27

We will see Norman Cornett at McGill again when we reclaim our academic freedoms. Slawomir Poplawski’s article raises a couple of valid questions. First, we learn of the “undue haste” in the “decision to fire Cornett” – “he was given only a half day’s notice to clear his office.” As correctly noted by Poplawski, the haste reminds of “wartime executions…carried out for treasonous behaviour.” One might ask, Who was the enemy Cornett had teamed up with?
It is true that Cornett’s “growing popularity among students” might have made some administrators nervous. It is also true that the calibre of Cornett’s guests might have triggered undue resentment to the spotlight he shared with no one. But, as valid as they seem, these reasons could not have provoked the tacit claim that made McGill an “exclusion zone” for Cornett. The “exclusion order” – to use the term commonly associated with the internment of Japanese-Canadians or Japanese-Americans following imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor – is an indication of a much larger obstruction that aims at restraining independent thought in academia. While Cornett’s hasty dismissal is the symptom of this obstruction, it also became the best proof of the current practice of curtailing open-minded dialogue in educational institutions.

McGill might take pride in the latest results of QS World University Rankings – it occupies the 19th spot, down from the 18th last year. But curbing academic freedoms, witnessed by Cornett’s hasty dismissal, will have adverse effects in the long run. Institutions of higher learning should be at the forefront of all new ideas, experiments, investigations, discoveries. True creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of total freedom; and open discussion, currently under attack in academia, should provide the foundation for all inspired learning.

Anait Keuchguerian
U3 Theology
B. Mus. Theory (Honours)
M. A. Music Theory