Open Letter to Principal Fortier on Winter Conditions

Dear Principal Fortier,

As has happened in the past, when inclement weather is coming our way, we have received questions and concerns about the University’s plans on coping with the situation.

First of all, as was done at other universities in the city, serious consideration should have been made to simply closing the campus except for essential services. This would have done much to enhance moral and send the message that the situation – being the safety of all staff – was being taken seriously.

Second of all, communications with staff and students should have been much clearer. The University could have easily made use of its emergency response system, and used, for instance, phone messaging systems. Every other educational institution in the city issued clear winter advisory warnings in the form of banners across the landing pages of their websites the evening prior. They cancelled classes and work for all staff but those required for essential operations. The discrete nature of the message on McGill’s home page placed alongside every other “news” story was missed by some lecturers, who still made their way in to teach or work. The timing of the emails was also unacceptable, as anyone who had a long commute would have had to leave even earlier than usual and thus missed the message. Consistently, by the time those responsible send out emails or post rather imperceptible warnings on the website, it is much too late for many colleagues. In addition, the messages were inconsistent CBC and Radio-Canada were broadcasting that McGill was closed for the day: few who heard them would have thought to question their validity.

We would also like to point out the disparity of treatment between employees. Some staff were permitted to work from home but not all, even where such an option would have been practical for the departments concerned.

We know that you are aware of these issues, and are considering them on an ongoing basis, but we felt it important to communicate our concerns clearly in writing. You may also not have been aware of just how much confusion and inconvenience the inconsistency and lack of clarity in communication caused for many. We believe we can and will do better next time.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We have included two examples of communications, one from McGill the other from Concordia for your information.


Thomas Chalmers

President, MUANCA


Links to Concordia and McGill Winter Storm Warning: