Questions for the Principal

Le français suit l’anglais.

What this site is for:

From 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum will answer questions from the McGill community on a wide range of topics in a live webcast.

We’ve set up this site as a way for you to post those questions, to make sure that all students, staff and faculty can take part.  If you choose, you can include your name in your question — but you don’t have to.

To keep this site a safe space for everyone, we’ll be deleting any questions that are abusive, obscene or otherwise offensive — but all other questions will remain published here until the webcast is complete. The Principal will answer as many of them as she can on April 19.

Questions and answers from the Principal’s Nov. 2011 webcast are also available on this website.

How to post a question:

To submit a question, post it in the “Leave a reply“ section on this page.

Raison d’être de ce site :

La principale, Mme Heather Munroe-Blum, répondra aux questions de la collectivité de McGill à propos d’un vaste éventail de sujets durant une webdiffusion en direct, le jeudi 19 avril à 16h00.

Nous avons créé ce site Web pour vous permettre de soumettre vos questions. Nous voulons que tous les étudiants, professeurs et employés de l’Université participent. Notez que vous pouvez vous identifier si vous posez une question, mais que ce n’est pas obligatoire.

Par respect pour chacun, nous supprimerons toutes les questions injurieuses, obscènes ou blessantes éventuellement soumises. Toutes les autres questions resteront affichées ici jusqu’à la fin de la webdiffusion. La principale répondra au plus grand nombre possible de ces questions le 19 avril.

Les questions et les réponses du webdiffusion du 29 novembre 2011 sont aussi disponible sur ce site.

Pour soumettre une question :

Pour soumettre une question, insérez-la à la section « Leave a reply » sur cette page.


44 Responses to “Questions for the Principal”

  1. innovator says:

    The Federal and Quebec government fund millions of $ in R&D at McGill. What is McGill’s strategy to move more innovations into the marketplace?

    Vote up or down: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  2. Anonymous says:

    Considering the obvious conflict surounding the increase in tuition fees involving the students, university administration and the goverment of quebec, how do you justify your salary and those of your co-workers? Can you inform us of how the tuition increase can directly benefit the students ?(i.e not the general guidelines but concrete examples)

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mental Health services is overwhelmingly populated, counseling take-in services’ sign up sheet is filled by the first ten minutes of its take-in hours. After finally persuaded to seek counseling, students, upon calling the McGill counseling services, cannot schedule an appointment for another three months in time.

    If you are not to make improving student life your priority, can you please, to say the least, offer more counselors?
    Thank you

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  4. Anthony says:

    I am International student at the mac campus who doesn’t understand why I have to pay health insurance fee when each time I am so sick, there isn’t any physician to attend to me at the Mac campus. Right now i am so down and when i went to the health service center here at mac campus, i was told to go down town tomorrow morning to be checked out. Must i die before someone takes my health at mac campus serious ?What are your plans to better the international student health care system at the Mac campus?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  5. Ludivine says:

    Can you please shed light on why the infrastructure restyling is outdoors rather than indoors? McTavish, with its expensive bulbs of grass that lasted only a few weeks in the beginning of the year, is an example that funds towards facilities are being unequally and if I may say so, unintelligibly distributed. Many classrooms, notably in the Science buildings such as Rutherford, Arts such as ARTS120, and Leacock require refurbishing.

    My question does not demand the renovation of classrooms, inasmuch as it queries your priorities.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 3

  6. Justin says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 17

  7. Foodie says:

    Why is it acceptable to offer poor-quality and expensive food services in the non-residential buildings on campus (e.g. the McConnell Cafeteria)? One can find food of superior quality and freshness, at lower prices, just a few meters from campus. There is way too much junk food, with no obvious effort to address issues of sustainability and nutrition.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 3

  8. Joshua Greenspoon says:

    Why do you feel that it is appropriate to have construction going on at Mclennan library during the final exam period?

    This has happened for several days now and is very distracting to the hundreds of students attempting to study for final exams.

    This construction should be delayed until the summer term to allow a quite study space for students preparing for the final exam

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 4

  9. Lauren Konken says:

    Mrs. Munroe-Blum,
    How productive are you by 9pm at night? Is it realistic to have exams run so late at night when students may in fact have exams the same day from 9-12noon or 2-5pm the same day? Or worse, write an exam from 6-9pm and another at 9am the next morning? Last year when I had two exams one day and a third the morning of the next it was not considered a conflict because they weren’t ‘within one day’ even though conflict policy says within 24 hours. Worse, when I asked if it was a conflict at the service point I was told to drink redbull and quit complaining by the clerk. How is this appropriate behavior on behalf of the administration? How is this considerate of student’s schedules and ability to prepare? Please enlighten me.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 53 Thumb down 5

  10. Vadim says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

  11. Hannah says:

    Why is this session in the middle of exams? Are you trying to deter students from actually watching it?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 53 Thumb down 8

  12. Catherine says:

    Dear Dr. Monroe-Blum,
    We are aware that calling the strike movement on campus a “so-called strike” or a “boycott” is a rhetorical means to undermine this very movement. Many of us are wondering why do you refuse to acknowledge the strike movement on campus?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 74 Thumb down 23

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 26

  14. John L says:

    McGill has an outstanding international reputation but reputation often lags behind hard truths about actual quality. What do you see as some of the vulnerabilities in the quality of the university that could diminish its reputation in the future? What do you think will be the top two things that the new principal and the university community as a whole will need to address in the next few years if McGill is to maintain its high international standing?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  15. Anonymous says:

    Dear Dr. Munroe-Blum,

    I have been a member of the McGill adminstrative community for many years and am concerned at the lack of understanding and expertise that senior management have accross all portfolios relating to polices, procedures and processes. I am appaulled by the dollars being wasted on hiring external consultants to review over and over again areas that apparantly are not working well only to inform us of what we already know. Why are we not using internal resources and the experience and expertise of those who have been at the university a while to get things done the right way. We, internal staff, are not being heard by senior management – we are being made to feel like we’re complainers when all we really want to do is make things work better without wasting so much time and money. Let’s stop trying to fix what’s not broken, let’s stop reinventing the wheel and let’s work together for a better more cohesive more productive McGill!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 51 Thumb down 2

  16. Annick McKale says:


    À la lumière du récent conflit entre d’une part le gouvernement et les administrations universitaires et d’autre part une large proportion d’étudiants au sujet de la hausse des droits de scolarité, comment justifiez-vous la rémunération vraiment très élevée rattachée à votre poste?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 13

  17. Claude says:

    Lindsay, I do agree with a lot you say and empathise with your plight. I am one of those who believes that the CRA acted intolerably badly in this file, especially reassessing retroactively; their rules were not clear back then.

    McGill has been acting in good faith in this file. The Quebec government still grants tax exempt status to postdoc scholarship-type income, whether paid from a competitive scholarship or from a research grant. The current status still gives postdocs the Quebec tax exemption, which is significant.

    Parental leaves are granted from competitive postdoc fellowships and from most research grant stipends.

    All in all, you are probably better off this way, but an open discussion is warranted. The only thing that is horrible is CRA’s retroactive stance. This should be appealed to appropriate tribunals.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7

  18. Lindsay Lewis says:

    Dear Dr. Munroe-Blum,

    Postdocs at McGill may simply not be as numerous as undergrads, and due to our small numbers our issues may not be as salient to the rest of the community – but as you are surely aware we are an essential component to the very functioning of science and research at McGill. We have been facing extremely serious problems, as many of us have now individually found ourselves becoming financial scapegoats, caught in the middle of a war between McGill and the Canada Revenue Agency.

    Up through 2010, McGill classified postdocs as “students,” informing us that our fellowship income was tax-exempt, and issuing us CRA forms that supposedly qualified us in full for the education tax credit. McGill recruited hundreds of postdocs in this manner. In March 2010, the CRA “clarified” that postdocs are not in fact students, and so we are not – and never were – tax-exempt.

    They have now reassessed many of us for years’ worth of back-taxes (2006-2010) prior to their clarification – for years we had never expected to be taxed for, for many thousands of dollars each. There are two sets of issues surrounding this: whether postdocs should be taxable, and whether it is fair to apply it retroactively.

    Issues with taxing postdocs:

    (1) In separate rulings from the CRA, it has determined that postdocs are not considered employees – and so we have no access to such rights as employment insurance, pensions, or parental leave. Postdocs at McGill have therefore fallen into a grey area, a “no man’s land” – we are not students, and we are not employees. We pay taxes as employees would, but without access to any of the benefits or safety nets that we are paying into.

    (2) Now that taxation is being selectively applied, our net income is often even less than graduate students who rank below us. We are effectively financially penalized for earning our degrees.

    Issues with retroactive taxation:

    Despite the CRA’s recent claim that postdocs were always taxable, McGill recruited several hundreds of postdocs from 2006-2010 who were all misinformed that they were tax exempt. The CRA blames McGill for misinforming and misleading the postdocs, whereas McGill blames the CRA for not making their policy clear enough years earlier.

    A mistake was clearly made between the CRA or McGill, but certainly not by individual postdocs. I strongly feel that it should be worked out at a higher level – between the CRA and McGill. The CRA should not be pursuing individual postdocs to foot the bill for this mistake.

    I would like to know the following:

    (1) What is McGill doing to grant some kind of fair status (student, or employee) to its postdocs? It is unjust to leave us in a position of non-status. Personally, I would have accepted being an employee, IF I had been notified in advance of my taxable status, and IF I had been eligible for EI, pension, parental leave, etc. If McGill is to accept the CRA’s decision that postdocs are not students, we MUST be made employees.

    (2) When is McGill administration going to do something concrete to rescue its postdocs from the Canada Revenue Agency’s financial persecution? As I see it, there are two options. One option is that McGill could take responsibility for the misinformation, and reimburse postdocs who have been retroactively targeted by the CRA. The other option, if McGill’s view is truly that the CRA is to blame, is that McGill should take legal or political action on our behalf (or fund our legal representation in appeals court) to pressure the CRA to cease this practice.

    On a personal note, I have to admit that, ironically, I find myself jealous of the undergrads’ concerns with their tuition hikes. Why? Because at least they have received some notice in advance. For postdocs, we received no advance warnings of the vast sums of money we were about to lose. We have been robbed, retroactively.

    This financial persecution has vast implications: it has caused many of our best and brightest young scientists to leave science, or to leave McGill and pursue their careers elsewhere.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 155 Thumb down 8

  19. pizzapocket says:

    There is no doubt that there is a multitude of nutritionally balanced meals being offered through MFDS. What I don’t understand though is the pricing structure, even a sedentary undergrad can’t get a decent filling meal on campus for less than 15 dollars.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 73 Thumb down 14

  20. IntimidatedAssistantProf says:

    Dear Principal,

    after the unfortunate events on campus last November, you also asked for questions being posted on this blog. Some of which were answered during the podcast, regarding the others you wrote:

    “During the Nov. 29 webcast (view it here), Principal Heather Munroe-Blum fielded questions on a wide range of topics. She answered about 20 questions before time ran out, but you’ve asked us well over 100 questions, and we’re going to do our best to give you answers on this blog as quickly as we can.”

    Now, this was almost 5 months ago, and still not all questions were answered.

    Please, explain to me why I should have any faith in your word any more.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 73 Thumb down 31

  21. Jay B. says:

    Dear Principal Heather,
    As the generation of baby boomer professors are slowly, but gradually retiring, McGill is pumping up fresh blood, or better said, recruiting new professors. These often young, energetic and ambitious Assistant Professors are probably the cream of the crop and must have been selectively handpicked because of the many significant publications linked to their names. However, having a lot of publications is not synonymous with having teaching skills. In fact, it kind of means that these people have spent a lot of time researching and in the lab, activities requiring independence and known for their solitary nature. These new researchers thus don’t necessarily have any people’s skills, ignorant of any concept of management and coming from different areas, often clueless about the educational culture and system in Canada. So my question is simply this: What efforts, if any, is McGill making into preparing and integrating these new professors?

    Leaving them to figure it out on their own is one painful approach for everyone and could take many, perhaps 10-20, years.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 82 Thumb down 15

  22. Xiao Li says:

    I understand that the academic publications of McGill have been weaker than University of Toronto and The University of British Columbia for quite a time, like demonstrated by the Academic Ranking of World Universities from Shanghai Jiaotong University. According the recently released “Nature Publishing Index 2011″ (, UofT ranks 25th (75 papers in Nature group journals, and 17 papers in Nature), UBC ranks 48th (43 papers in Nature group journals, and 12 papers in Nature), while McGill ranks only 98th (25 papers in Nature group journals, and 3 papers in Nature). Although it is the fact that McGill’s faculty and student number is much smaller than the other two, I am still very concerned about the academic influence of our university, given that publicaitons are doubtlessly the most important means for a university to reach wide influence today.

    Therefore, I am asking how the university’s leadership considers the present academic publications and influence of McGill? Has our university commenced or planned any strong hand to promote our academic publications?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 50 Thumb down 21

  23. Anonymous says:

    I am also appalled at the lack of study days between the end of classes and final exams. Due to the lack of study days, I finish classes on Monday but have my three heaviest exams on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that same week. I previously studied at the University of Waterloo, and we always had final exams scheduled on Saturdays there; of course, it is not desirable to write exams on weekends, but I believe it is certainly better than having exams start immediately after classes end. Could you maybe resort to scheduling exams on weekends to make sure future semesters always have proper study days before finals?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 77 Thumb down 14

  24. Anonymous says:

    The addition of the new 6pm time slot creates significant problems in regards to exam conflicts. In previous years, having three exams in two days in the configuration of either morning, afternoon, morning or afternoon, morning, afternoon was considered a conflict. With the addition of the evening time slot, neither of these configurations counts as a conflict anymore. Now in order to qualify for a conflict we have to have three exams in 24 hours. This is unfair to students, because we don’t get any more time to study just because you added an extra exam session in the evening. How can you adjust the regulations regarding exam conflicts to accommodate students’ basic needs for food and sleep as you have in the past?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 90 Thumb down 9

  25. Fionna says:

    I know that this is generally controlled by the faculties, and I have in fact mentioned this in my course evaluation, but can McGill make a policy which limits the weight of a final exam to let’s say 50-60% on the final mark? Unless it’s the student’s choice? I have a biology course this semester with a final exam worth 75% of my grade. That’s a lot riding on one day. Perhaps give a student choices? Like one of my education courses last semester which was great: 2 midterm essay each worth 25%, if you chose to write them, in which case final exam was 50%. If you chose to write only one, it would be 50% and the final: 50%, if you chose to write none, your final was worth 100%.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 23

  26. As you no doubt know, .any US universities (public and private) effectively use moneys raised from tuition fees paid by undergraduates and MA students in order to offer competitive funding packages for doctoral students in the form of tuition rebates, scholarships, and bursaries (so tuition fees paid by undergrads subsidize grad student stipends). McGill has committed to a laudatory policy to spend 30% of all new tuition moneys received on student financial assistance. My question is: does that mean increased financial assistance at all levels? Or is it the case that a disproportionate amount of moneys raised through undergraduate tuition fees will go into financial assistance for graduate students as part of competitive funding packages? Should 30% of tuition hikes at the undergrad level be put into financial assistance for which undergrads only are eligible? Why or why not?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 51 Thumb down 14

  27. Stu Katz says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 40

  28. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 46

  29. Jonathan Mooney says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 32

  30. Luke says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 49

  31. Maggie says:

    A landmark decision was made in January by the Ontario Labour Relations Board regarding the status of postdoctoral fellows.Postdocs are now considered employees according to the Ontario Labour Act and are therefore required to make CPP and EI contributions. (
    What is the current status of postdocs in the university, and what will the university’s stance be in case a McGill Union applies for a bargaining unit of post-doctoral fellows? Is this stance simply because the University does not want to make QPP contributions or offer any benefits to postdocs?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 9

  32. Sebastian says:

    Why does the Administration feel the need to stigmatize dissent?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 86 Thumb down 57

  33. Emma Feldman says:

    Why are police allowed on campus at all given their record of brutality? Many universities have policies with the police that prohibit their entry. Having seen the report from U.C. Davis which acknowledges the inappropriate use of force, how do you, Principal Munroe-Blum, as a member of their Board, intend to reconcile this issue with student protestors from their campus and ours?

    Why has McGill contracted private security instead of forming a campus police force, as is done at most schools in the U.S.? Private security has no connection to our community, their purpose is apparently to protect the University from its students, rather than protect students from actual danger. Students have been raped and mugged in areas adjacent to campus where the majority of us live. Why aren’t these areas patrolled during high risk hours of the night and activities like Frosh?

    McGill has invested in many environmentally and socially injurious companies, from BAE systems and Haliburton to GoldCorp, Suncor, and Barrick Gold. Why doesn’t the administration form a separate endowment fund for ethical investors, as has been done at Brown and is in the works at Harvard?

    The academic rigor of most universities pales in comparison to that of 30-40 years ago. I do not know how McGill performed in the past, but at present, students are not required to have any knowledge of the liberal arts, environmental stewardship, or social responsibility. Knowledge is instrumental to a democracy; the commodification of education cheapens its value. As a government-funded institution, how does the university intend to address this most pressing issue?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 106 Thumb down 56

  34. Tyler Michaels says:

    Preamble: In her study of citizen participation, Sherry Arnstein identifies different ways in which members of governing bodies interact with their constituents. She identifies “Informing,” “Consultation,” and “Placation” as forms of “Tokenism,” because although they do allow for the voices of the governed to be heard, they “lack the power to insure that their views will be heeded by the powerful”(Arnstein, Sherry R. “A Ladder of Citizen Participation,” JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224. Available at

    In the last year at McGill, many consultations have been proposed and carried out by your administration. They provide members of the McGill community the opportunity to voice their opinions and both appear to be and feel heard. However, it seems to me – and may seem to other members of the McGill Community – that these consultations are forms of tokenism that lack the power to force McGill’s Administration to listen to the demands and desires of McGillians.

    Question: Will you write a “white paper” immediately and have it ratified by the Senate and Board of Governors before your term is over that would force the administration of the university to make concrete changes based on the results of consultation processes such as the ones carried out this year?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 80 Thumb down 17

  35. Matt says:

    It is likely that there will be a tuition fee increase. Should there be an increase, where and how will the extra funds be distributed?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 116 Thumb down 21

  36. Curious says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 73

  37. Lester says:

    I have seen Montreal Police on campus several times since November 11th during small peaceful protests. Were they given permission by the administration?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 127 Thumb down 47

  38. Norman says:

    I am a student in Chemistry and its near impossible to find a proper academic adviser. My science adviser has never been able to help. Why have awful advisers not been replaced? What are you doing to improve academic advising?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 103 Thumb down 13

  39. Joe says:

    It would be naive to say the administration is neutral on the issue of QPIRG’s existence. Why is the administration actively trying cut its ties with QPIRG?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 98 Thumb down 86

  40. Leroy says:

    As much effort as administrators are putting into getting through the year, I sincerely believe huge mistakes are being made. Does the crackdown on the use of the McGill name not directly alienate student groups and damage their relationship with the administration? Please answer the question and not give reasons as to why its happening. If you have properly outweighed the costs and benefits of these actions you should be able to answer honestly.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 110 Thumb down 20

  41. Smart Minerva.

    Smart Minerva has run free for fours year. It has helped tens of thousands of McGill students over those four years. This year, having graduated, I asked for formal funding. This funding would not only help run Smart Minerva, but give me time to develop software for McGill students since the central systems are so lacking. McGill students have been very supportive of this, knowing that I can personally provide services that McGill itself has failed to provide.

    Following a process, it was decided behind closed doors that another system will be integrated. If, come September, it is clear that McGill made the wrong choice, will McGill acknowledge this mistake and choose to support the software McGill students originally wanted?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 320 Thumb down 29

  42. Jordon Townsend says:

    Hello Principal Heather Munroe-Blum,

    I am writing a final report so must be succinct.

    The new format for final exams has many notable changes. The most obvious is the addition of a 6pm exam. Less obvious, is the meaning of having a “Study Break” on April 14th and 15th then class on the 16th with exams starting the next day. It seems ludicrously redundant to allocate study time to the weekend.

    I understand the difficulty in scheduling so many exams but I am left with a question ringing in my head.

    Who is best served by the changed to the final exam format?

    Many students must write multiple exams within a very short time period and somehow they are not considered in conflict. This alone would be acceptable if there was any time at all to study once classes end. These two changes together will surely result in test results that are less indicative of performance in a course and more-so of luck of the draw.

    Please acknowledge that the weekend study break is not a substitute for the usual time given to study for exams after classes end.

    How do you plan to fix this issue?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 272 Thumb down 32

  43. Ahmad S Mat Su says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  44. LiveFreeOrDie says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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