In the hunt for new profs

In the hunt for new profs McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 8, 2001 - Volume 33 Number 10
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 33: 2000-2001 > February 8, 2001 > In the hunt for new profs

In the hunt for new profs

Barry Levy wants some new professors. Stuart Price will be playing a major role in hiring new professors. We suspect they'll be doing lunch soon.

Levy has been re-appointed to a new five-year term as the dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies. Price, the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, begins a new chapter in his life Monday when he becomes McGill's first ever Associate Vice-Principal (Academic Personnel and Planning).

"Barry Levy has done a lot of good with his faculty and we were looking for continuity," says Vice-Principal (Academic) Luc Vinet of Levy's re-appointment.

Vinet sees the faculty's expertise in dealing with ethical matters as a natural avenue for building up new links with other McGill units where an interest in ethics is growing.

Planning for a new chair in environmental ethics, a joint appointment between the faculty and the McGill School of Environment, is well under way, for instance.

"We expect to see the Faculty of Religious Studies enhancing its profile within McGill," says Vinet.

Levy concurs. "We are actively looking for links with other faculties." He is hesitant about giving out too many details until plans are firmed up, but he says talks are under way with the Faculty of Music and the School of Social Work over new linkages.

The dean says his faculty has received a bit of a bum rap in the process leading to McGill signing a contrat de performance with the Quebec government. Education minister François Legault insisted that McGill improve its graduation rates for religious studies students. Levy says his faculty's track record is actually quite good; it's a matter of how you count the students.

Students doing a Bachelor's of Divinity program in the faculty tend to switch to a master's program administered officially by the three theological colleges that serve as the faculty's partners. While there is an administrative change in terms of the schools they are seen as attending, McGill is involved in teaching the students throughout.

"The truth is our people are staying on doing their studies and they're succeeding."

Two years ago, a special joint committee of McGill and the theological colleges affiliated with the faculty, suggested that religious studies might be better served as a school within the Faculty of Arts.

The committee's report added, though, that the faculty should retain its status for the time being, noting that any quick transformation "would be misinterpreted outside McGill as a downgrading of McGill's support for religious studies."

Levy has been consistent in his assertions that his faculty should carry on as a faculty. He thinks the uncertainty over his faculty's fate has hurt its efforts.

"One of my concerns is for the faculty's public image. Our public image has been damaged. What we're dealing with here is a high-quality faculty producing significant research, providing good teaching and training a significant number of graduate students. I don't think people appreciate all that our faculty offers."

The faculty has focused much of its efforts on developing new parnerships on the international front. It co-sponsors an annual archaelogical summer dig in Israel, in which McGill students, and not just from religious studies, get their hands dirty learning about the past of one of the regions most steeped in religious history.

It is also a partner with the Elijah School in Jerusalem, which offers an intensive summer school involving scholars and students from a variety of religious traditions and from universities, theological colleges and seminaries from around the world.

Because of the current unrest between Israelis and Palestinians, there is a chance that the summer school will move to McGill this coming summer, Levy says.

He says Middle East tensions have temporarily thwarted his plans to travel to Asia to develop new links between his faculty and institutions there. "I was told it would be too dangerous for someone who is Jewish to be in Indonesia right now" as the Muslims in that country have been strongly supportive of Palestinians in their disputes with Israel.

But his first priority, says Levy, will be to "rebuild the faculty as close as we can to what it used to be. We used to have 15 full-time professors. Now the number is closer to 10."

With the burgeoning interest among students in ethics, Levy says he especially needs some new blood on that front.

Which is where Stuart Price comes in. Working with Vinet, Price will play a major role in laying the course for the hiring of hundreds of new professors.

"He has experience in hiring new people in an area where it is notoriously difficult" because of intense competition from other universities and companies, says Vinet.

"The differences in compensation that we are able to offer and what companies can offer are huge at times," notes Vinet. Nonetheless, Price is credited with making some good hires for his department.

Price says salary is an issue when it comes to attracting good talent, but insists that McGill has a lot going for it - a reputation for excellence, Montreal's unique charms and a low cost of living that is the envy of many in Toronto or Vancouver.

Price says he will be looking at a number of factors -- the needs of deans and departmental chairs, the academic areas into which McGill will be expanding, the possibility of support from programs like the Canada Research Chairs and Canada Foundation for Innovation, the areas in which holes will soon be created as a result of impending retirements - as he helps develop McGill's hiring strategy for the next few years.

With the University committed to hiring 1,000 new professors over ten years, Price says his new job was irresistible.

"I'll be in a position to help influence where the University will be going. At the end of the 10 years, McGill will look like a very different institution."

He knows he faces a learning curve. "I know what's happening in engineering, but I need to better understand what's going on in the other faculties."

The Board of Governors recently announced another appointment. Musical theory professor Donald McLean, the associate dean of the Faculty of Music, will succeed Dean of Music Richard Lawton in August. We will feature an interview with McLean in a future issue of the Reporter.

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