Commentary  Fight fairly

Why our principal can’t excuse herself from conflicts of interest

Dear Principal Munroe-Blum,

At the end of last year, I had the pleasure of taking part in a public dispute with you – I was an editor at The Daily, you wrote an outraged response to an editorial, and I replied in a commentary piece in the same issue of the paper. I couldn’t have disagreed more with what you said, but the whole exchange was a positive experience.

Your latest email update on the MUNACA strike was anything but. (And Michael Di Grappa’s most recent “Strike Update” was hardly better.) In it, you wrote about mutual respect and open discourse, which is striking given that both of these were in alarmingly short supply. No one reading accusations of “vandalism” and “violence” without any further elaboration would think a handful of stickers and a few flowers thrown at passersby, which by all reports is what these amounted to. Your use of language is clever, but totally disingenuous.

What’s more, your email is decidedly one-way, anything but the beginning a clash of viewpoints or the sharp but civil discourse that you write about.  Since only you and a handful of staff have access to the list of every McGill student and employee’s email address, anyone finding themselves agape at your message has the option of writing you personally, but certainly has no chance of reaching the same audience. There’s an inequality implicit in this exchange that is not conducive to meaningful debate, which requires  – for a discussion to be meaningful – the participants need to treat each other as equals. It’s hardly a real debate if the format so obviously favours one of the participants.

As much as I would love for you to simply retract your message and apologize for your rhetoric, I know that’s not going to happen. Having spent the better part of your eight year tenure as Principal pushing for education “reform” that would make McGill operate less like a university and more like a major corporation, I can understand why you’re pulling out all the stops to reach the settlement that’s best suits your vision of the University.

However, there’s a conflict of interest, and not one that you can’t simply excuse yourself from. You can’t both run McGill as if it were a for-profit company and also act as the leading representative of the McGill community. With your last email, you took a sharp turn toward the efficient manager you want to be and an even sharper turn away from being the representative of students, staff, and faculty you claim to be. You talk a lot about community, but it’s starting to ring increasingly hollow. Your email opens with the line, “We are all McGill.” Just apparently not those people unfairly targeted and excluded in your email and not the MUNACA members who are being denied a fair contract.

Emilio Comay del Junco is a U1 German Studies and Philosophy student and a former Design&Production and Coordinating Editor of The Daily.