Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook McGill University

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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2000 > Spring 2000 > Editor's notebook

Our thanks to all who called or wrote to us in response to the special 80th anniversary edition of the News. It seems the issue stirred a lot of memories. The comments we received were overwhelmingly positive and it was great fun for assistant editor Andrew Mullins and me to hear from so many of you.

We're now back to our regular format, although we do plan to stay with an expanded Newsbites section. There is also an extra page of reviews this time since books by and about alumni have been piling up in the office. Talking of McGill authors, our first story is by Virginie Raguenaud, BA'94, who contacted us in December to say that her sister, Marie-Eve Raguenaud, BSc'90, MDCM'94, would be accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières and to ask if we were we interested in a story. Were we ever!

The result is "Doing a World of Good," in which we had hoped to include an excerpt from the acceptance speech by Canadian doctor James Orbinski, president of the International Council of Médecins Sans Frontières. Unfortunately, there simply wasn't room for it.

Orbinski's words at the Nobel ceremony were both moving and fierce. He opened with a plea for the beleaguered people of Chechnya, and reminded the world that MSF, in addition to delivering medical relief, has always spoken out against assaults on human rights. "We act not in a vacuum, and we speak not into the wind, but with a clear intent to assist, to provoke change, or to reveal injustice. And ours is an ethic of refusal. It will not allow any moral political failure or injustice to be sanitized or cleansed of its meaning."

The international aid organization has announced plans for the $1.3 million in Nobel Prize money. It will be used to establish a Neglected Diseases Fund to pay for research — largely abandoned by drug companies as unprofitable — into treatments for sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, tuberculosis and malaria. MSF estimates that as many as 16 million people in Africa are at risk for sleeping sickness, a fatal neurologic disease. The drugs used to treat it were developed in the early part of the last century and are arsenic-based. In fact, the drug is so toxic that the "cure" kills as many as 5% of the patients who receive it. To learn more about Médecins Sans Frontières or to read Dr. Orbinski's Nobel address, go to the organization's website at www.msf.org or www.msf.ca.

We reported in our last issue that Coca-Cola was negotiating with McGill to be the sole distributor of cold beverages on campus. Coke and Pepsi have set up similar deals with dozens of North American universities, but they have also been rebuffed, for example by Simon Fraser and the University of Toronto. Last fall, the question became a hugely divisive issue at the Université du Québec à Montréal, leading to large student demonstrations and the eventual scuttling of the deal.

Opposition has been building at McGill, and as we go to press, students are voting on whether to back exclusive distribution rights for Coke. If the results show that students are not in favour of the agreement, then Coke may decide to pull out since students are the primary consumers on campus. Of course, it's harder to decide which way to vote when the terms of the agreement are secret, but that non-disclosure element and the long term of the proposed contract (11 years) may be enough to sink the deal — at least in the student referendum.

In addition to the arrival on your doorstep of this issue of the News, there are other harbingers of spring. The phonathons are under way, giving you a chance to support your alma mater and chat about McGill with a current student. Next month, the road show of the Leacock Luncheon hits Vancouver, with an appearance in May in Toronto. Check the Coming Events listings in the News for date and time and get there if you can. Moderator Derek Drummond proves that the term "funny fundraiser" doesn't have to be an oxymoron.

If you haven't yet discovered whether there's an alumni branch in your area, call (514) 398-3008. If you simply need to get away from it all, the Alumni Association travel program offers trips to destinations like Costa Rica, California or the Kalahari. Some are weeks of learning, some show you wildlife close up and some are just for cruisin' and shmoozin'. Call 398-8961 for information, or check the alumni website at www.mcgill.ca/alumni.

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