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Resign as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University

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A series of actions taken by the McGill administration this year led to an increasingly divisive and hostile attitude on campus, devaluing respect for members of our community and denying academic freedom to faculty and students.  As a culmination of these actions, on November 10, at least one of our colleagues, Prof. Greg Mikkelson, and several of our students who were innocent bystanders were assaulted and injured by riot police on our campus.  To date, there has been no suggestion from the administration that whoever brought the police to campus lacked the authority to do so.  Similarly, there has been no indication that the administration, once aware of the situation, made any serious efforts to have the police leave.  

Our administration has insisted on a model of university governance which largely parallels that of modern private sector corporations.   This model, in stark contrast to the academic tradition of collegial governance, sees the administration claiming authority over the day-to-day management of the university, and in turn, bearing full responsibility for their decisions.  In the corporate world, responsibility ultimately lies with the chief executive, a stance echoed in Munroe-Blum's email of November 21, in which she wrote, "As Principal of McGill, I am responsible for what happens on our campuses".  As such, responsibility for the police presence on the McGill campus, and the resulting outcomes, lie with our chief executive, the Principal.

When faculty and students have been injured, as they were on November 10, and when confidence in the University has been undermined, our Principal must accept her responsibility.  She has not.  Instead, she has merely expressed dismay and concern.  She has appointed Dean of Law Daniel Jutras, who is effectively her employee, to conduct an "independent investigation" and report the findings directly to her.  She has made it clear that Dean Jutras' mandate does not allow him to "make findings about or assign blame to specific individuals".  Moreover, she has not asked for or suggested that she would welcome a truly independent investigation, conducted by someone who is arms length from the university.   

Whether in the private or public sector, best practice has it that when a corporation or institution allows innocent persons to be injured or otherwise breaches the public trust, CEOs accept responsibility by tendering their resignation. The refusal of Exxon CEO Lawrence Rawl to do so in the Valdez case has become a management course case study on how not to behave in a crisis.   Universities are supposed to act as a voice of ethics for society, and it is thus all the more important for their leaders to accept responsibility under such circumstances. 

McGill University should be no different.  It is time to call for the resignation of Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.

Sincerely yours.
Calvin G. Normore
William Macdonald Professor of Moral Philosophy


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