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McGill News
ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Working a little magic

I examined with interest page 29 of the Fall 1999 issue of the McGill News describing "How McGill Works." It was interesting to read that the Board of Governors is "in practice, approximately equivalent with the Senate in power, just charged with different jurisdictions." Thus it was strange to read that the Senate is "subject to the authority of the Board of Governors." Maybe this is just the way things really are, but there certainly seems to be a contradiction in these descriptions! Or should "in practice" be replaced by "in theory?"

Robert Ham, BEng'83
Cologne, Germany

Ed. note: We asked Secretary-General Victoria Lees to reply. She says: According to McGill's Statutes, "The Board of Governors of the University, under the terms of the Charter, possesses general jurisdiction and final authority over the conduct of the affairs of the University." That being said, the Board, again in accordance with the Statutes, devotes its attention largely to the business and financial affairs of the University. For instance, it makes all contracts and appointments. Senate, on the other hand, while "subject to the authority and powers of the Board of Governors," exercises general control and supervision over academic activities. The duties of the two bodies are quite separate and very few items require approval by both houses. There is Senate representation on the Board and vice-versa, and joint Senate-Board meetings on current big issues occur once or twice a year. I agree with Mr. Ham -- it is confusing. But like so many things at McGill, the magic is that it works.

Helpful story

Thank you for the article "To B.A. or Not to B.A." in the Fall 1999 issue. It felt great to have some rather vague and unexpressed feelings articulated in such a universal manner. The statistical facts on the future employability of Arts graduates were also comforting and revealing.

Having graduated in 1996, I came home eager (bursting, actually) to enter the real world. One year later, having stumbled through several menial jobs, I found myself writing to the papers asking if anyone wanted an anthropologist. My despair was complete.

Three years later, however, I was back on track, having started (and subsequently sold) my first business and gone back to the University of the West Indies to get my Master's in English literature. The decision to return to school was lauded by all until they heard what I was going to do. "What? Not again!" they seemed to say, and I myself was flooded with doubt about doing something more technically applicable that would land me a career. It is somewhat of an inner struggle to study what you feel passionately about, knowing that there are many near you who disapprove and simply cannot understand. For myself, however, as succinctly stated in your article, the study of English, and all that is classified under the heading of liberal arts, is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.

At the age of 25, my final working future is still uncertain. But I have learned to deal with the opposing desires for "career-making" and doing what actually stirs me and makes life interesting. Better than that, your article has made me realize that I am not alone in my uncertainties, and made me see the intrinsic value in the subjects "we" choose to study. I have never taken the time or effort to enlighten those who ridiculed my course of study or to unburden myself of the shame I have sometimes felt, but I began to feel a great sense of empowerment and solidarity with my liberal arts brethren and sistren upon reading your article.

Thank you, Patrick McDonagh and McGill News. Great job!

Robert Clarke, BA'96
Trinidad, West Indies

Web worthy view

I recently happened upon Cornell's very cool web site. They have a live web cam mounted over a courtyard that streams images 24 hours, and it's fun to log in now and again to see how things are in Ithaca.

While the undulating hills around Ivy League Cornell are very appealing, it doesn't hold a candle to the view of McGill's central campus looking up McGill College from Place Ville Marie -- especially at Christmas. If any campus deserves the world attention of a web cam, it's McGill.

Mark Wolfe, BA'84
via e-mail

Calling computer scientists

Due to the fact that last year the Computer Science Undergraduate Society (CSUS) of McGill was unable to publish a grad yearbook because of time limitations, the CSUS will this year will be issuing a yearbook covering 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, including all the memories, special events and grad photos. Any and all past Computer Science grads who would like to purchase or contribute to the yearbook are encouraged to send inquiries to either csus@cs.mcgill.ca or to myself directly at laura@cs.mcgill.ca.

Thank you.

Laura Barile, BA'99
Co-Chair, CSUS Yearbook Committee

Spread the word

That was a great "Epilogue" by Andrew James in the last issue of the McGill News. It deserves a wider circulation. I suggest he try the New York Times op-ed page.

Brian How, BSc(Agr)'39
via e-mail

Document search

In your special worldwide issue last year (Winter 1998-1999), you carried, among many marvellous pieces, "Fighting for the Right," by alumna Hélèna Katz which mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Would you kindly adviseas to where a copy (suitable for framing, preferably) of this esteemed document might be had.

Donald L. Rankin, BSc(Agr)'66
Port au Choix, Nfld.

Ed. note: For anyone interested, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be obtained from the Publications Office of the United Nations in booklet form (at $1 a copy or $20 for 100). A poster is also available from the United Nations Bookshop, tel. (212) 963-7680, or write to the UN Bookshop, GA32, New York, NY 10017.

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