MAUT Newsletter   |   McGill Association of University Teachers  |   December 2018




The Potter Affair: CAUT Threatens to Censure McGill


On November 23rd we received the CAUT’s Report on the Implications for Academic Freedom in the Case of Andrew Potter at McGill University, authored by Prof. Mark Gabbert of the University of Manitoba. The principal argument in the report is that what it calls the “Fortier Doctrine,” that is, the view that academic administrators do not enjoy the same degree of academic freedom with respect to their administrative positions as do ordinary faculty members with respect to their faculty positions, is in conflict with the CAUT’s policy on Academic Freedom. It is further stated that this doctrine will have a “chilling effect on [administrators’] personal scholarly work, their public activity, and their actions as administrators,” create an environment in which “academic freedom of all academic staff is undercut,” and thus “a negative impact on the freedom of expression of the entire academic community.” The Report enjoins McGill to adopt a clear policy giving full protection to the academic freedom of administrators in accordance with the CAUT policies and to revise its Academic Freedom Statement as well as the faculty handbook accordingly. Failing this, the Report recommends that the CAUT impose censure on McGill University.


As you may remember, MAUT organized a Forum on Academic Freedom a year ago to debate the issues that had arisen as a result of the Potter affair. The conclusions we drew from the discussions at that Forum were, among others, that we should develop a procedural mechanism such as a Senate Sub-Committee or an Academic Freedom Assessor to address possible cases of violations of Academic Freedom and that MAUT should exercise greater vigilance in monitoring the mandates of academic units and administrators in Senate to ensure they properly protect administrators against inappropriate restrictions of their Academic Freedom (for more on the Forum see MAUT’s December 2017 Newsletter). We will now have to decide whether and to what extent we will have to move beyond those conclusions and follow the CAUT Report’s recommendations. I look forward to a vigorous debate among ourselves in the coming months!



Marc Richard Recipient of CAUT Academic Librarians' and Archivists’ Distinguished Service Award


The CAUT has awarded its annual award to recognize outstanding contributions by academic librarians and archivists and other academic staff to the advancement of the status and/or working conditions of academic librarians and archivists at Canadian universities and colleges to our own Marc Richard! The award committee praises Marc for his long-standing “commitment to professional librarianship,” his many contributions to the Library’s and University’s governance structures and regulations and his “ongoing work to improve the working conditions and collegial self-governance mechanisms of McGill Librarians.” We all knew what an amazing colleague Marc is, but now the whole country knows! Bravo Marc!


Axel van den Berg,

MAUT President


MAUT Winter Brunch



To RSVP to the 2019 MAUT Winter Brunch on January 27th, please email by January 18th.



MAUT on YouTube


If you missed the Fall 2018 Guide to the University faculty orientation event hosted by MAUT, it is now available online for viewing. To view archived coverage of public events sponsored by MAUT (e.g., Fall 2017 Academic Freedom Forum), please visit our YouTube Channel.



MAUT Child Care Survey


As highlighted in the MAUT Council meeting on Oct. 17th, findings from our Fall 2018 child care survey of MAUT members showed most faculty with children to initially decide against enrolling their children with Kids and Co., the company with which MAUT recently maintained a preferential access agreement, typically due to having other more preferable options. Among faculty who used the service, reported satisfaction was mediocre with complaints pertaining primarily to the very high cost and the benefits reflecting mainly guaranteed access at short notice (e.g., upon hiring).


Following from findings that further showed members to believe MAUT should contrast and compare potential agreements with alternate childcare options, the preferential access agreement with Kids and Co. has been suspended pending recommendations from an ad hoc committee tasked with assessing how MAUT can best inform members of timely and cost-effective child care options.


Become a Member


To join MAUT and continue to be informed of or participate in our efforts to improve the working environment for faculty and academic staff at McGill, please download an application form or email with any questions. Thank you for your support!


Nathan C. Hall,

MAUT VP Communications



Invitation: SSMU Student Groups


Hi MAUT members!


I am Sophia Esterle, the SSMU VP Student Life and would love to see more collaboration between SSMU and MAUT! I have been reflecting on student’s difficulties connecting with professors and their classes when they are in big classrooms or too shy to go to office hours. One way that students connect with our university and find their community is through student groups that fit their interests and hobbies, and what should stop professors from doing so too! This would help show students that you are (of course!) people too, and approachable!


Several groups have already reached out and listed their involvement ideas with you through this form.

If you are interested in either attending, working with or speaking in other student group’s event, check out this list or our website. Please email me if you have any issue contacting the groups, questions, or if you would like to work more with SSMU.


Have a great end of the semester!


Sophia Esterle (she/her/elle),

SSMU VP Student Life




Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Teaching Staff-Student Intimate Relationships


The Committee was struck in the spring with the mandate to review the University’s current policy approach to teaching staff-student intimate relations. The Committee has spent the summer and fall preparing its final report for presentation in early December.


In response to the Committee’s call for input from MAUT, we conducted a survey of our members in October on the principal question that the Committee was asked to address: Should the University prohibit such relationships outright? Of 374 respondents a substantial majority felt that such relations should not be prohibited outright but many qualified their answers in a variety of ways that should be useful in informing the deliberations of the committee. MAUT’s report analysing the results was sent to the Chair of the committee, Ms. Julie Lassonde. You can access the report here.


The Ad Hoc Committee’s final report was presented at Senate on December 5th. Its principal recommendation is that teaching staff-student intimate relationships should be prohibited within the same academic unit and, beyond the unit, where teaching staff has a supervisory/evaluative/teaching role over the student. At the same time, the report recommends that teaching staff may request an exemption from this rule if:


  1. there is no supervisory/evaluative/teaching role over the student and
  2. there is neither the reality nor the perception of unfair (dis-)advantage to any student in the unit, and
  3. accommodation of the relationship does not unduly burden other faculty members within the unit.

The second major recommendation of the Committee is that the University should continue to require disclosure of any teaching staff-student intimate relationships within an academic unit or beyond an academic unit where there is a supervisory/evaluative/teaching relationship. Teaching staff will be responsible for disclosing the relationship while disclosure by students and third parties should be optional.


In addition to these recommendations, the Report offers a number of guidelines and suggestions to ensure that these recommendations be implemented in a manner that will ensure the policy’s effectiveness and fairness. You can access the full report here.


We have to commend the Ad Hoc Committee for having produced a well-reasoned and balanced set of recommendations in the face of what must have been a tidal wave of frequently deeply contradictory arguments and demands. Some students, at the December 5th Senate meeting and elsewhere, have forcefully expressed their disappointment with the Report. For them nothing short of a complete, cross-campus prohibition of all teaching staff-student relationships can satisfactorily protect students against potential abuses of power by teaching staff.


As the responses to MAUT’s survey showed, while there is no full consensus among our members over the question of whether or not such a complete ban would be workable and desirable, a clear majority of our members does not think so. Given the strong, conflicting views expressed by both faculty members and students there is no way the Ad Hoc Committee could have satisfied everyone. But it has done as good a job as could be expected under the difficult circmstances.


Axel van den Berg,

MAUT President




New Supplemental Health Care Inquiry at MAUT


After speaking with faculty and staff about our Manulife supplemental health insurance plan, the MAUT Council and I have set in motion a mini-inquiry into our supplemental health care benefits plan. This mini-inquiry will begin by comparing our supplemental health plan with those of the three research universities in Québec. 


Québec now ranks among the top three provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, for privatized care in Canada. Québec also has one of the worst shortages of Family Doctors in Canada. This shortage presents a formidable challenge for new faculty, their families, and for faculty whose current Family Doctor retires or leaves the province. In practice this means faculty and staff are incurring more out-of-pocket health care expenses including jumping into the private system. We thought it was time to investigate what sorts of health care expenses faculty pay into the private network that are not covered by our current Manulife plan.


For those of you who came here after 2010, we had better and more expansive coverage for preventative care and for complementary medicine (for example, homeopathy/massage therapy/acupuncture/osteopathy) until the university resorted to  policy measures that redefined health care in more restrictive terms.


We are asking faculty to contact MAUT with your experiences with privatized care and to offer an estimate of your annual out-of-pocket health care expenditures. This inquiry is a first step in reviewing our current health care coverage. Second, once we have comparative figures, from the three Québec research universities, we hope to move toward a review of potential supplemental health care plans.


I am also looking for faculty and staff volunteers to help me with this endeavor. If you are interested please email me.


Sandra Teresa Hyde,

Anthropology; Social Studies of Medicine; MAUT Council


Academic Salary Policy Forum


The current three-year salary policy cycle will end this year so it is time to start discussing the University’s salary policy for the near future. In addition to the ongoing discussions in the Committee for Academic Staff Compensation (CASC), MAUT and the administration have formed a smaller Strategic Working Group to consider the University’s long-term salary policy aiming to raise McGill’s salaries relative to those in the other U-15 research universities. At one point the University made a commitment to bring our average salaries up to around 5th place of the U-15 rankings, but we have since slipped to around 10th place.


In preparation for these discussions, MAUT is planning an Academic Salary Policy Forum some time in February to gauge the views of our members on McGill’s salary policy and to kick-start our discussions with the administration. You will be hearing more about the Forum soon. We look forward to a big turnout and a wide-ranging discussion!



Lisa Vo Recipient of the MAUT Engineering Scholarship


Following the 1989 massacre of women engineering students at the École Polytechnique, MAUT created an annual scholarship of $1,000 to support a female engineering student at McGill. This year’s recipient of the scholarship is Lisa Vo. Congratulations Lisa!


Axel van den Berg,

MAUT President



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