Article updated March 8, 2012
Documents from McGill’s Development and Alumni Relations (DAR), many of which are marked “confidential” or “highly confidential,” were posted online on March 3 by the anonymous group McGillLeaks.
In a statement on its website – which had no content remaining at press time – McGillLeaks announced its intention to release hundreds of documents over the next three weeks, starting with the release of DAR documents pertaining to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and defence industries.
The documents were available to download from three different hosting sites linked to on the McGillLeaks website until Tuesday, when the links stopped functioning. The statement from McGillLeaks was taken offline on Wednesday.
The first release of documents contains donor and corporation profiles, correspondence pertaining to corporate funding, histories of corporate donations and relations, and industrial partnerships – notably a Memorandum of Understanding between McGill and Canadian pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Inc.
On its website, DAR states that its “many programs and activities help the University establish and maintain strong relationships with alumni, donors, and potential donors.” DAR employees report to the Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) Marc Weinstein.
In its statement, McGillLeaks verified the authenticity of the documents on its website and stated that the contents of the documents have not been altered.
McGillLeaks outlined three goals for its public release of the documents: to provide an account of a “corporate university’s inner workings,” to supply accurate information regarding McGill’s relations with the private sector, and to create transparency.
“While not exhaustive in any sense, the documents are primary source material on the University’s role within the competitive market, and how it conceives of that role,” the statement read. “We are cognizant of the fact that the methods used by McGill are similar to those of many other ‘public research universities,’ and thus are relevant not only to those with an interest in McGill,” it continued.
The University has a policy regarding safe disclosure in recognition of the “necessary and valuable service” of the “good faith reporting of improper activities (“whistle blowing”). The policy, approved in 2007, applies to all members of the McGill community, and such reports will not be considered cause for reprisal.
Under the policy, an improper activity is “an act or omission committed by a [Member of the University Community] that constitutes ‘Academic Misconduct,’ ‘Research Misconduct,’ or ‘Financial Misconduct.’”
The policy also states that, in all McGill activities, the University “seeks to promote a culture based on honest, transparent, and accountable behaviour.”
It is unclear what the relationship is between this policy and McGillLeaks’ actions.
In its statement, McGillLeaks discussed the “leak” of documents. “We do not see the leak and the new level of transparency it produces as ends in themselves. These documents are only as important as your pursuant critical analysis and initiative,” the statement read.
McGillLeaks stated that it will publish submissions of documents related to McGill that are “classified, confidential, and/or not yet public.” The group advised any contributions to be made anonymously and advised against contacting the group from McGill’s internet network.
On Tuesday morning, Vice-Principal (External Relations) Olivier Marcil released a statement to The Daily. “This breach of confidentiality is an attempt to hurt the wellbeing of the University, and hurts individuals whose only intent is to support our students and professors. We deeply regret this invasion of their privacy,” the statement read.
According to the statement, the University has initiated a forensic analysis “to determine the source of [the] violation of our confidential files, and we will take immediate legal action against those who are responsible.”
“This information is gathered under the standard professional practices of philanthropy,” the statement continued.
The same statement was sent by DAR to alumni and parents on Monday night, but was attributed to Weinstein.
On Tuesday afternoon, in an email to all staff and students, Marcil added that McGill had called the police.
The Daily received a letter from the University’s lawyers on Monday night. The letter stated, “We demand that you take immediate necessary measures to remove any link on the mcgilldaily.com website which redirects users to the [McGillLeaks] site.”
The Daily removed the link pending consultation with its lawyer.
Similar letters were received by other publications that previously linked to the McGillLeaks site, including the Canadian University Press and the Milton Avenue Revolutionary Press.
Disclaimer: The Daily will be moderating all reader comments for this article.