Editor's notebook

Editor's notebook McGill University

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ALUMNI QUARTERLY - winter 2008
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Home > McGill News > 2001 > Summer 2001 > Editor's notebook

To my surprise, I discovered that a number of the people and events featured in this issue were also on the pages of the McGill News 25 years ago. After our stories were in production, I dug out copies of the News from 1976 with a vague idea of perhaps adding a "From the archives" piece to the Newsbites section.

It seems the big story of the day was the near-death experience of the Students' Society. Years of spiralling debt and mismanagement at the student-run University Centre, combined with an almost complete lack of credibility with McGill undergraduates, had led to the resignation of the Society executive and a request that the Dean of Students suspend operations until a new constitution could be worked out. The Dean, a former Students' Society president himself, obliged, forming a committee to formulate a new constitution and appointing an acting executive director.

The coincidence is that the Dean of Students was Saeed Mirza, the subject of this issue's Q&A interview, and the director he appointed was Sam Kingdon, who is featured in our cover story on trees. Kingdon was one of the great "gardeners" who helped maintain the beauty of McGill's green spaces.

He was also, it turns out, a rather skillful hand in other areas. According to the 1976 McGill News, his arrival at the University Centre to administer the trusteeship of the Students' Society was greeted with dismay by the McGill Daily and many of the student clubs, who condemned the move as an attempt by the University administration to seize control. The tune had changed when he left a year later. Students then wrote to Senate commending Kingdon for his "energy, integrity and dedication which ... earned him the respect of the very students who had originally balked at the mere idea of a trusteeship."

This issue's Epilogue is a first-hand account of a convocation exactly a hundred years ago which sounds almost too unlikely to be true. However, the McGill News story on the Students' Society problems delves into the organization's history. Apparently the Society was formed at the instigation of McGill alumni in the early 1900s in an effort to channel the energies of Edwardian-era students "who were disrupting the usually calm campus with their rowdiness and frivolity." A further small coincidence is that a relative of mine, George W. Grier, was a 1901 graduate, although apparently not one of the "Arts boys" who made the convocation ceremony so memorable.

Everyone loves to hate politicians who, let's face it, have been giving us lots of ammunition lately. The stumbling Stockwell Day, leader of the Canadian Alliance party, is in possibly the most agonizingly slow political freefall in recent history. His decisions, which have ranged from goofy (arriving by jet ski at a press conference) to ethically iffy (accepting taxpayers' money to pay for a lawsuit), have decimated his party.

The recent bill which passed through Parliament at the speed of light giving hefty raises to MPs and senators has upset some citizens' groups, although an informal TV poll showed that a surprising number of people thought the increase was deserved. Certainly, after my conversations with three McGill graduates who were appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1998, I have a healthier respect for our political institutions and tremendous admiration for these women in particular. You can read about them in "Red Chamber Renaissance."

Some of you may have received the first issue of McGill's latest alumni publication, an electronic newsletter called e-McGill. It will be sent every quarter via email to graduates and friends for whom we have a current address. e-McGill will give campus and alumni news tidbits and will provide links to all sorts of interesting sites on the web.

For example, if you'd like to have a look around the University, visit McGill's home page regularly at www.mcgill.ca. Each month, you'll find different photos of the downtown and Macdonald campuses. The whole collection is archived and can be viewed at www.mcgill.ca/photos. To be included in the next e-McGill mailing, contact records@martlet1.lan.mcgill.ca and update your personal information.

Finally, a thank you to our readers. The McGill News had the distinction this year of being named the top university magazine in the country. One important measure of a magazine's success is the engagement of its readers. With our always plentiful supply of Alumnotes, photographs we receive of alumni branch events, letters to the Editor, submissions for the Epilogue page, and notes from graduates describing their lives in far-flung places, we showed we have a very engaged readership, indeed.

Keep up the good work!

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