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Message to the community (Feb. 19, 2013)

A message from Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University

Dear members of the McGill community,

I write to update you on our ongoing assessment of the serious impact that the government-imposed cuts will have on students, faculty and administrative and support staff at McGill and in the Quebec university system.

McGill has faced very serious underfunding for more than a decade, as have many Quebec universities.  Now, less than a year after the Government of Quebec committed to addressing this underfunding, we are facing a crisis. 

The University’s 2012-13 budget was based on the previous Quebec government’s pledge to ensuring increased investments in higher education. Eight months into the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology reduced university funding by $124 million, which represents $19.1 million for McGill. Universities were given the impossible task of making these cuts over the course of four months. That dire situation has now worsened.

On February 8, we received the grim news that those 2012-2013 base budget cuts will recur next year, that is, they will double. In total, McGill’s base budget grant from the Government of Quebec will be reduced by $38.2 million by April 2014. As well, the Government has demanded that we reduce our expenses by 50% of this total, $19.1 million, by April 2014. The government warned that failure to do so will result in an additional cut of approximately $32 million.

Despite consistent promises of open consultation on the financing and governance of universities, the current Government has already determined the actions it will take on a majority of the most important issues.

These unprecedented cuts are not abstract.  They will hurt people we care about in our McGill community, and families across Quebec. They will reduce the ability of McGill to continue to make an outstanding contribution to Quebec, both socially and economically. 

We are committed to continue to fight the Government’s decisions, but we are obliged to prepare for the worst. Our priorities must be to protect our core academic mission, and to ensure, as best we can, the well-being of our community, including our staff. We will need, however, to take serious action, including eliminating positions and pulling back on services, supports and programs. 

The Senior Administration has not yet made firm decisions regarding how we will implement the cuts. We continue to examine and review the options, including those coming from you and the broader McGill community and, those that have been developed in the context of the SRI administrative initiatives underway. Provost Masi and Vice-Principal Di Grappa hosted Town Halls last week, in which hundreds of members of the McGill community came out to express their concern for the well-being of McGill.  We received many valuable and thoughtful ideas regarding next steps. Please continue to contribute your ideas, feedback and comments to budgetcuts [at] mcgill [dot] ca or on the Red blog.

We will continue to work, both through the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ), and directly, to demand that the Government reverse these ill-advised decisions and restore effective funding for education and research.

McGill is an outstanding Quebec institution, and all in the McGill community are proud of the contributions and service we provide.  We consistently earn a place at the table alongside the world’s best institutions.  Our academic and research performance is exceptional. Our credit ratings, audit and financial practices and budget and governance recognition all point to a track record of sound oversight. Our performance reflects the quality and discipline of our people and our operations and a clear sense of mission and purpose.

This is a difficult and worrying time for our community, and I share your concern. It is a time for us to pull together.  Our aim is to ensure that McGill University, regardless of the challenges we face, will have our people and programs equipped to continue to contribute at the highest level. Thank you for the determination and commitment you are expressing.  Together we will work our way through this crisis.

Kind regards,

Professor Heather Munroe-Blum