Since she began her job last September, Principal Suzanne Fortier has spent almost seven months getting to know the people, places, and challenges of McGill as a university. Last Friday, the Principal met with student journalists from The Tribune, The McGill Daily, and le Délit to speak on the university’s accomplishments and her goals for its future.
“I’ve spent most my time on the campus of McGill, to hear what were people’s goals, aspirations, frustrations, [and] criticisms on issues, so I could get a sense of what are the things we need to do,” she said. “My goals in the first year were to immerse myself and be part of the community, and start building relationships with the community that were based on trust and respect.”
Fortier emphasized the importance of recent strategic plans in the areas of academic goals, research, sustainability, and diversity.
“A lot of groundwork has been done, and I feel like we should use that and move to action,” she said. “My priorities are the community’s priorities.”
The principal said she has five key priorities for McGill, including improving the learning environment, promoting research, and increased interconnectedness with other universities and alumni. She also emphasized the need for improvements to administrative processes and the campus—in both physical and digital infrastructure.
“We’re not where we need to be; we don’t live in the digital world here at McGill,” Fortier said. “We need to make progress in the number of classrooms that are well equipped digitally, [and] to also make progress in terms of our library.”
Regarding the current political uncertainty facing Quebec leading up to the provincial election, Fortier expressed confidence in McGill’s strong institutional identity and cultural diversity—especially in the face of the Parti Québécois’ proposed Charter of Values.
“It [is] an important part of who we are not only to be welcoming, but to be promoting cultural diversity on our campus,” she said.
Fortier was optimistic about the provincial government’s planned re-investment in universities next year, but she emphasized that the provincial election means that McGill cannot count on having this money.
“Some of the money we were hoping to invest was in the area of advising, since that’s an area [where] the community feels we need to have more resources,” she said. “We were working on an agreement with the government, but now with the election nothing has been confirmed. Not a single university has a signed agreement at this point; we have to wait to make the firm plans until the elections are done. C’est la vie.”
The principal also briefly discussed the actions the university has taken to combat sexual assault, in light of the recent court case against three McGill athletes accused of sexual assault. However, she emphasized that it is a complex topic.
“I don’t want to respond to that specific case, which is a very complicated one,” she said. “We need to continue having these discussions, no matter how difficult they are. We need to take concrete steps. We cannot take extreme positions too fast, because we’re getting into complex territory here.”