McGill University principal Suzanne Fortier to resign in August

McGill University Director Suzanne Fortier.

McGill University principal Suzanne Fortier has announced that she will step down in August, just under a year before her contract expires.

Dr. Fortier served as Director for two terms, starting in September 2013. A graduate of the university and former President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Dr. Fortier was seen as a leader who would build better relationships. with the provincial government in Quebec City.

“After nearly a decade in this role – and as the University now enters its third century – Principal Fortier felt it was the perfect time to hand over the baton to a new leader who will shape the future of our university, ”said McGill spokesperson Cynthia Lee. in a written statement.

“The decision is his and was taken after careful consideration. Until then, Principal Fortier will continue to help lead our University safely to the port, through what she hopes will be the end of the COVID storm, so her successor can navigate calmer waters. towards a bright future for McGill.

She left shortly after the university marked the bicentenary of its founding. It was named in honor of James McGill, a Scottish fur trader and slave owner whose Burnside estate became the site of the downtown campus of the University of Montreal.

Considering the history of the university is one of the many thorny issues that Dr. Fortier has navigated over the past few years. Since the onset of the pandemic, handling the implications of COVID-19 has dominated all other issues and, in some cases, caused friction between faculty and administrators. McGill did not impose a vaccine mandate, for example, like other Quebec institutions, but this decision drew criticism from some professors.

Dr Fortier was also at the helm during an outcry over an article written by former director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, Andrew Potter. Professor Potter resigned his administrative post after his article sparked an intense wave of anger in Quebec, which has led critics to accuse Dr Fortier of failing to adequately defend academic freedom.

Dr. Fortier’s compensation gained attention this year after Le Journal de Montreal announced that she received more than $ 850,000 last year. The university said Dr Fortier’s compensation has always been public and matches that of other directors in the U15 group of research universities. In addition to her base salary, which would have been over $ 470,000, she received an amount accrued under the university’s executive pension plan, said Ms. Lee, the university spokesperson. .

Andrew Kirk, president of the Association of Teachers of McGill University, said professors had varying opinions about Fortier’s tenure, but most would wish her luck. He said she had been a good diplomat for the university to the government of Quebec and the community at large, where McGill is sometimes seen as a distant English-speaking institution that attracts its students from elsewhere in Canada and around the world. .

Professor Kirk said there have been disagreements with professors, especially during the pandemic, but most admit she has a tough job.

“I think she will be remembered for pointing McGill in the right direction,” said Professor Kirk.

Richard Gold, a professor at the law school, criticized McGill’s response to the pandemic on issues such as vaccines, masking and air filtration. He said Dr. Fortier was chosen primarily to improve relations with the provincial government and it is not known exactly what she was able to accomplish.

“It’s time for new leadership that goes beyond ‘Let’s not disturb Quebec City,’ said Professor Gold.

He said an ideal candidate for the post of director would be someone with a global vision like Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University and former dean of McGill, who will end his term in Cambridge in September.

An advisory committee will recommend possible candidates to McGill’s board of governors and a new director is expected to be appointed by the fall, Lee said.

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