The 2013 Times High Education World Reputation Rankings (WRR) were recently released. The WRR measures the best universities in the world based upon the opinions of over 16 000 academics. In the most recent results McGill University, which has held the 16th spot since the creation of the WRR a few years ago, fell to 25th place. As a McGill student, I am not troubled by this. In fact, I hope this continues to happen.
McGill's positive rankings were one of the reasons I decided to attend the school for my undergraduate degree. This was not the only reason, and it has turned out to be a relatively unimportant one thus far, but it still factored into my decision. I imagine this to be the case for the thousands of other McGill students who have applied to the school throughout the years.
Since the administration at McGill seems intent on treating McGill like a business, the reputation the school caries is of the utmost importance. A good reputation means greater interest in the school amongst consumers, or what used to be called students. Therefore, as long as the rankings remain high, business should not suffer, and all is well. In the spirit of the student strikes last year, I claim that a drop in rankings is necessary to tell the world that all is not well at McGill. In fact, McGill is rotting from the inside out, largely because of the decisions the administration has made.
The last academic year saw numerous events take place which have made the disdain McGill's administration has for many within the school clear. Primarily, the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) which represents the non-academic workers at McGill, were on strike for a few months due to their sub-par collective agreement. Most of the lower ranking schools in Quebec which surround McGill offer far better pay and benefits to their non-academic workers. Throughout the strike these workers were legally forced off campus by McGill, while some were even subjected to arrest. McGill has indicated that it is willing to treat the people who keep the school running like dirt. This is likely because MUNACA workers do not factor into the university rankings in any meaningful way.
Additionally, a great deal of student activism occurred last year, both at McGill specifically, and in the broader anti-tuition movement. For example, a peaceful occupation which took place on November 10 of 2011 was crushed after a member of the McGill administration allegedly called the riot police. Numerous students outside of the occupied building were beaten and tear gassed by police, including those passing through campus such as a professor simply trying to pick up his children from day care. Another occupation which took place in February of 2012 was ended by seven vans of police officers called in by the administration.
This year, in an effort to prevent more student activism, because, you know, a university really shouldn't be the place for that, the administration is attempting to pass a series of protocols which represent a serious threat to civil liberties. This is not only my opinion, but the opinion of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. This protocol essentially allows any protest which the administration deems to interfere with daily activities to be broken up by police, most likely with violence. It seems that McGill is willing to crush any form of protest which actually matters in order to preserve the precious university rankings.
Finally, this year has also been plagued with a series of financial cuts imposed upon McGill by the Parti Quebecois government. Though these cuts are not the administration's fault (in fact, the administration was supporting the Liberals misguided attempts to raise tuition last year) they have dealt with the cuts in an incompetent manner. For example, eight percent of Arts courses at McGill (approximately 100 courses) will be cut in the 2013-2014 academic year. These cuts will reduce the number of course lecturers while increasing the strain put upon already over worked professors. Essentially, the diversity of Arts courses at McGill will be reduced in favour of larger more general courses which will be devoid of anything comparable to an intimate learning experience.
McGill is well aware that many students, staff members, and alumni, are not content with any of the decisions previously mentioned. Their response, at best, has been to offer meaningless and largely symbolic consultation sessions; at worst, silence, or even more insultingly, PR stunts like an attempt to break a world record by making the largest fruit salad ever, at McGill.
As a student at McGill I care about what the institution can offer to students, and my fellow students themselves, far more than the rankings given to the school. As such, and since it has become clear to me that the administration is not willing to listen to students unless we can offer a material threat to the school, I can only hope that McGill's rankings will continue to drop. Perhaps a drop in rankings will force the administration to finally listen to the people who make up McGill. I'm not holding my breath though.