Commentary  Where is the real debate?


Dear Daily,

I write in response to the article on the Senate, “Senate criticized as ‘rubber-stamping body’” (News, October 21, Page 4).

As a 43-year employee who has spent some time ‘watching’ (and to an extent, participating in) the administrative complexities of McGill, it seems clear that the role of the Senate as the highest decision-making body in academic matters has been eroding over many years.

And as was astutely noted in the article, the ‘presentation’ is being used as an effective time-wasting tactic. Used on Senate (and the Board of Governors), debate in this University is a tightly controlled affair.

Take for example the recent radical changes in the libraries that will surely affect the future of research in medicine.

During the past summer months, when the Senate, the student newspapers, and most of the professors and students were not around, the University announced the closing of two libraries: Life Sciences and Education.

The administration declared a ‘financial crisis’ and closed the two libraries.

No debate.

When this was reported in the local media, along with some protests, the administration quickly put this discussion in ‘cruise control’ and just weeks later, the final reports matched each of the administration’s decisions.

Debate over.

Quite frankly, it seems that to our administrators, in these ‘corporate’ times with ‘big’ decisions to make, Senate debate just slows things down.

One question that has been overlooked is, with the Senate, the Board, and most University committees not meeting during the summer, where did the conversation to close these libraries take place and who participated in that conversation?

If you find the answer to that, you may find out where the power lies.

—Allan Youster
Coordinator, Birks Reading Room