[Index of messages from the Principal]

From the desk of the Principal

As we embark on what will surely prove to be an exciting and challenging year, I welcome the opportunity to speak directly to members of the McGill community through a regular monthly column in the pages of the Reporter. No doubt 1996 will bring us all much to talk about.

The start of a new year is always a tempting and appropriate occasion for reflection. Given the difficult economic times and the malaise which has gripped so many Quebecers in the wake of the referendum, this also seems an appropriate time to remind ourselves of the achievements, large and small, in which we can take pride here at McGill.

There are, of course, the specific achievements. Focusing only on examples from the most recent weeks and months, two of our students, Lisa Grushcow and Shariq Lodhi, have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships; two of our professors, John Jonas and Charles Scriver, have been awarded the Prix du Québec; Professor Yvan Lamonde received a Governor General's Literary Award, and David Harpp was named the recipient of the first Edward Leete Award recognizing excellence in both teaching and research.

The real power of McGill cannot, however, be fully encapsulated in the achievements of those of our colleagues who have been recently -and appropriately-recognized. More important in my view are the general strengths of the University, and during the recent holidays, I have tried to reflect on my 18 months as Principal in terms of what I see as our especially valuable characteristics as a community.

What are these special McGill "things" that I have come to value? Without even pretending to be a comprehensive listing, important among them are:

  1. The quality of the students and their commitment to the academic programs in which they are enrolled.
  2. The range and quality of the McGill programs, not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of the approach to students and the perspectives of faculty.
  3. The care that goes into teaching-if the weekly sessions which I attend are any indication.
  4. The dedication of the faculty and administrative staff to the institution as well as to their own work, and the relative lack of complaint, the basic cheerfulness of so many, despite the absurdly inadequate infrastructure to support McGill's most precious resource, the talents of the faculty.
  5. The willingness not only to participate in our complex governance structures but also to live with the psychological discomfort and the incoherence that naturally arise in a relatively decentralized institutional model.

It is true that I am sometimes struck by the lack of recognition of the fiscal (and, more importantly, the academic) obstacles facing McGill, by the assumption that the "administration" is by definition both wasteful and dispensable and-in a few cases-a certain quite unwarranted smugness. These matters pale, however, in comparison with the strengths that we can, and in many cases do, bring to bear.

As we begin the celebration of McGill's 175th anniversary, we should be able not only to celebrate our history and our strengths but also to draw upon them, both to create a future for McGill and one for which future generations will be thankful.

Bernard J. Shapiro