Letters McGill University

| Skip to search Skip to navigation Skip to page content

User Tools (skip):

Sign in | Sunday, July 22, 2018
Sister Sites: McGill website | myMcGill

McGill Reporter
September 21, 2000 - Volume 33 Number 02
| Help
Page Options (skip): Larger


To the editor:

Your coverage, however brief, of the current lawsuit between SSMU and The McGill Daily (in last issue's article "Wojtek Baraniak: politics and paparazzi") was misleading, and contained factual inaccuracies. The Daily is not battling SSMU in court for space, as your article says. The Daily is suing SSMU because Wojtek, among others, decided it was appropriate to evict our newspaper from its office, despite the fact that we have a lease. Your article also suggests that we are arguing that we shouldn't have to pay rent to SSMU; this is wrong. We have never said that we shouldn't pay any rent to SSMU for our offices. In fact, we pay upwards of $17,000 a year for our mouse-ridden, windowless space, and have never suggested that we pay less.

The first thing I tell my writers at The Daily is to get the facts straight.

Perhaps you should start telling your writers the same.

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts
Co-ordinating News Editor
The McGill Daily

The lawsuit might be centred around the legality of the lockout, but the lockout didn't just happen out of the blue. SSMU and the Daily had held talks prior to the lockout about the paper's lease that involved the two sides maintaining differing viewpoints about rent and space. I did goof in suggesting that there was any discussion about the Daily not paying any rent at all. A misunderstanding on my part and one I sincerely apologize for.

To the editor:

Your recent article on Brian Young's book entitled The Making and Unmaking of a University Museum: the McCord 1921-1996 deals with the contents of that book but leaves an inaccurate and incomplete picture of events involving the McCord since 1980. I believe the McGill community may be interested in all the facts so as to fairly evaluate the decisions taken by the University and the Museum since that date.

In 1980, following an unsuccessful period as a branch of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord became the responsibility of an independent corporation controlled by McGill. The raison-d'être was to ensure continued federal funding for the museum. Despite this, by 1985 the McCord was in near-crisis. It could only afford a half-time director, it had a full-time staff of just seven persons, a budget of $650,000, a deficit, annual visitation of 35,000, an inadequate building incapable of accommodating collection growth and virtually no teaching or research links with McGill or other institutions.

A federally funded study of both the McCord and the Redpath museums was commissioned by the University and carried out by the consultant Coopers & Lybrand. While it recommended that the Redpath should retain and strengthen its departmental and faculty links (which has in fact taken place), it recommended that McCord's best chance of survival lay in expansion, increased independence, and increased involvement with the Montreal community. The University accepted this bold recommendation and acted upon it with the incredibly generous financial and moral support made available by the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Today, the Museum has a staff of 50, including three PhDs, more than 50 volunteers, a budget of $4 million, a balanced budget, annual visitation of 100,000 and a state-of-the-art building more than twice as large as before. Its board has expanded to 24 and includes McGill's principal, two governors and two senior professors.

Research and service to the academic community has dramatically increased. Over 2,000 requests and visits were handled in the Archives and Documentation centre last year. The web site now displays 25,000 images and receives an average of 275,000 "hits" each month. A new research associate program will be launched shortly so as to formalize McCord's relationship with an increased number of scholars. More than 20 student interns from all over the world worked on the collections last year, and staffers were responsible for 17 publications and lectures during the year.

Brian Young's book suggests that the McCord has been in decline since 1980. If this record of growth and achievement is seen as "decline," I must be missing something.

One last point: the book also suggests that the direction chosen for the museum by the McGill and McCord boards is "the very antithesis of the museum's original mandate." I beg to differ!

In 1919, when David Ross McCord was in the process of gifting his collection to the University, he wrote, "the Museum I shall create will not be a McGill museum, nor a Protestant one, still less an English one…It is a national museum and shall be known as such, not a museum of any particular educational institution…"

When the enlarged museum reopened in 1992, the heads of the four Montreal universities presided equally so as to demonstrate the McCord's intention to become more a part of the larger community. Today, students, scholars and visitors from around the world make growing use of one of McGill's most precious possessions.

I believe Mr. McCord would be happy with what has taken place!

R. David Bourke
Chair, Board of Trustees
McCord Museum

To the editor:

As the thrill and fun of the beginning of the new (millennium) academic year evolves into an eager focus on achieving a high performance in the learning, teaching and creative activities which are the raison d'être of the University, time looms large as a factor to contend with.

The computer, the communication networks, electronic databases and powerful search programs have brought an enormous amount of information within reach of our desktops. But the process of catching the information we desire can be very time consuming.

Now this introduction could lead into a long discourse, but here I focus on one task which is basic for all staff and students: that of performing online literature searches.

When you go to the McGill Libraries web page you will see "Peruse" followed by "web" and "telnet" links. The telnet link through my browser does not function, but the direct telnet connection works perfectly, and telnet is so much more efficient than the web page interface.

In my experience, from a workstation on a fast LAN link,with a test search which retrieved 83 records, telnet saved me 23 minutes; it took 28 minutes through the web interface, 5 minutes through telnet.

Just multiply that by what you will be doing this year, and it may make a lot of sense to those of you who do not know it, or think it appears archaic, to become familiar with the telnet interface.

How could it save so much time? Well, one usually scans the abstracts to make decisions on whether to keep or discard a reference. I did not read the abstracts, but required that I could see all the text on screen before moving to the next retrieved record.

With the web interface, of course, one has to wait for pages to load, and we all know how much that tests our patience. Telnet takes you from one record to the next very quickly.

Even better, you do not have to make your arm ache (and waste time) continually reaching for the mouse. Once learned, the simple set of key strokes come easily and give very rapid fingertip control.

Not all that is Windows or web is wonderful. Not everything which is graphically pretty is functionally superior.

From home through DAS, the Windows telnet connection to Peruse is provided by HostExplorer, which you will find on the Computing Centre's (/cc/das/) download page.

There are just two more words of advice: "constant vigilance." There are always ill-informed forces at work operating under cover of the commendable banner of progress who consider things like the Peruse telnet interface fair targets for the trash can.

The language of the agents for these forces includes: "Nobody uses it" while looking straight into the eyes of someone who does; "You don't need it -- you can do it through the web," implying the latter is better; "The web is better because it hyperlinks directly to..." implying that we should give up one good thing because we can get another instead -- what rubbish; "It is not supported anymore."

The last, of course, is the worst, the biggest cop-out, the best smokescreen. We must not let it get to that stage.

Roger Palfree
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine

view sidebar content | back to top of page