To the editor:

Your recent article (February 11) regarding the demise of the ISIS Human Resources system contains a fatal flaw that must be corrected. Your technology specialist missed the heart of the problem when he blamed the bad reputation of McGill software developers on a lack of resources. The level of resources, per se, has never been a problem.

Rather the problem has been a mindset that established expectations far beyond the capacity of any available resources. That mindset must be changed quickly if the Banner project is to succeed.

For the past 30 years, the McGill community has indulged in information systems which embodied and supported every arcane administrative and academic policy deemed necessary, with few questions asked. This drive has resulted in enormous systems of almost unmanageable complexity. The ISIS system is a classic example of the problem.

ISIS is not a McGill-developed system. About nine years ago, McGill entered into a joint-development project led by a major software firm. Once the detailed requirements analysis was completed and every department had had their proverbial kick at the can, that firm discovered that it was incapable of delivering a system which could support all the complexities of our HR practices.

After they bailed out, it was only through the rescue efforts of HR and ISR staff that the present ISIS system was salvaged from the wreckage of the project. The days of trying to build systems that are everything to everyone are over. We can no longer afford that approach.

While the Banner project presents an exciting opportunity for change, every future user must recognize one vital point: these systems are generic. They have been developed, and are marketed, to serve the needs of The University of Anywhere. They will not, and cannot, be expected to support the McGill way of doing everything.

Unless the user community understands that we must change the way we run our business and be willing to compromise and to rethink the need for customized support, this project will be doomed and we will end up back in our present situation. Banner will introduce a whole new world of functionality to the users, but they must realize now that it may also require them to give up their current way of managing data and processes and to open their minds to alternative methods of administration.

Doug Jackson
Information Systems Resources

To the editor:

The McGill Reporter article "Circumstantial evidence" (January 28) reports on the low ranking of McGill's Faculty of Law in Canadian Lawyer magazine. The most significant aspects of a university can never be measured. Many years ago, I had the most difficult problem of my life concerning my mother's will and the lawyer handling it. Three professors in the Faculty of Law, Blaine Baker, John Brierley and John Humphrey, gave unselfishly a great amount of their time and expertise to try and help me. I am deeply grateful to have met, not only three of the finest legal minds in the world, but more importantly, three of the finest human beings that ever walked the face of this earth.

David S. Rovins

To the editor:

In the February 11 issue of the McGill Reporter there was a full-page colour ad from Player's. I understand that we're short of money, but do we have to stoop that low? Surely, we should not associate McGill's name with a company whose objective it is to create addicts to a deadly habit. I don't think we should encourage young people to start smoking, and we certainly should not use the University's name to legitimize drug addiction and disease. I know that smoking is not illegal, but that doesn't mean we should encourage it. By accepting this kind of advertiser you damage the entire University. Please do not do this again -- you have offended me greatly and it has made me question why we need the McGill Reporter at all. If we need to stoop to this kind of behaviour to publish it, why bother?

Robert Kok
Professor of Biosystems Engineering
Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Editor's note: Classics professor Wade Richardson phoned to issue similar complaints. I have sympathy for the arguments of Professors Kok and Richardson, but, as you'll notice, that didn't stop me from accepting another ad from the tobacco industry.

We're certainly not alone in printing ads from cigarette manufacturers -- The Montreal Mirror and The McGill Daily, papers that generally portray themselves as alternative publications with high-minded ideals -- have been publishing the same series of ads. Of course I realize that doesn't get us off the hook -- every mother's argument of "If Johnny jumped off a roof, would you do the same thing?" quickly springs to mind.

Cigarettes are addictive. Cigarettes cause several deadly diseases -- one of which recently killed a relative of mine, a chain smoker for decades. Unless someone has been living in a cave for the last 30 years or so, these aren't exactly state secrets. The people who work in and study at universities are smart enough to know these facts -- and to calculate the risks for themselves.

I would actually be more reluctant to accept an ad from someone who was offering to pay female students to undergo a surgical procedure to remove an egg. These ads have appeared in papers at other universities. The ethics of new reproductive procedures tend to be underreported terrain -- I'm not certain that the students targeted by these ads have had the opportunity to mull over all the possible repercussions of such a deal.

Cigarettes, by contrast, have received plenty of attention. Anybody at McGill who lights up knows he is courting cancer.

So the cigarette ads stay for now. I'm interested in hearing what other readers think, though. I've been wrong before…