THE BLOG

Open Letter to Pauline Marois, Premier of Quebec

03/07/2013 05:36 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Dear Premier Marois,

Speaking at the infamous Summit on Higher Education you held last month, McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum warned, "The quality of Quebec's teaching and research is at risk." Perhaps you thought she, along with all those who do not share your intolerant, inequitable and highly partisan beliefs were delusional, yet it turns out Munroe-Blum was dead on.

A headline from this Tuesday's Montreal Gazette read, "McGill's reputation tumbles in the 2013 World Reputation Rankings." The explanation it, and many other papers with similar headlines, gave was twofold. The first, and most damaging in the long-term, involves "the grim financial situation for Quebec universities," as the Ottawa Citizen put it. Although we may never know beyond a doubt why McGill's reputation abruptly fell in the eyes of 16,000 academics from all around the world, we can be sure that millions of dollars of funding cuts to this great institution has undoubtedly had an effect on their opinion, and will continue to do so.

Although this is indeed a major issue for Canada as a whole, which only houses three universities from the top 100, as per the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, it is a decidedly calamitous predicament for Quebec, a province boasting to have a top-notch education system, despite its low tuition rates. This is the one and only university from the province in the top 100, and it is unlikely that there is another that will soon be able to take its place. Regrettably, in the span of a single year, McGill University has plummeted down the ranks from 25th to 31st.

The second part of the media's explanation does not blame the government, but the student protestors of last year. However, the government is once again to blame - and I refer to the one currently in power - as it in fact overtly supported the demonstrators, whose numerous demonstrations often ended in violence and reportedly cost taxpayers in excess of $90 million dollars.

While in the opposition, the Parti Québécois was quite vocal of their support for an economically inept movement that landed the most heavily indebted province in the dominion into yet more debt. Yet it of course reneged on its promises, as many student groups now see it, and has decided to raise tuition along with the rate of inflation. This raise of some $70 dollars a year, much less than the cost of many mandatory university textbooks, has once again brought back many of last year's student demonstrators onto the streets. This of course will be no boon to the reputation of McGill, nor that of any other university within Quebec.

McGill is of especial importance, not only because it is an internationally recognized institution that attracts brilliant minds from across the country and around the world but also because it injects more than five billion dollars into the Quebec economy. McGill gives back to Quebec, far more than it receives in funding from the province. However, without sufficient funding, it will be forced to cut professors, courses, services, and the list goes on. This has already started to happen at McGill and it is evidently already starting to have an effect on how the school is perceived internationally.

I genuinely hope that you will do away with these ridiculous cuts to Quebec's universities, perhaps even increasing funding as you did for your beloved Office Québécois de la langue Française. I further hope that you will return the roads of Montreal to the bikes, cars and busses that they were intended for and make sure that a terribly small minority of students are not allowed to speak for the whole lot of us.

If your government continues to be soft on the infinitesimal minority of students who take to the streets, especially when it comes to McGill where not a single faculty voted to strike last near, while taking a hardliner stance against universities themselves by drastically defunding them just as they're begging for more funds or at least new means of procuring them, you can kiss your education system, economy and fledgling government farewell.

Sincerely,

Kokulan Mahendiran

McGill Student

PS excusez mon anglais, s'il vous plaît