Laughing Matters, Opinion

Solving McGill’s problems, one building sign at a time

It’s no secret that McGill is currently facing a pretty long list of serious problems. The university’s reputation has taken a hit over the recent scandals plaguing the student society. Budget issues persist, as the provincial government cut funding for the 2016-2017 school year. The administration continues to clash with student groups over its investments in fossil fuels. A recent report revealed the need to address discrimination in faculty hiring. Not to mention that our section of Sherbrooke can only be generously described as a “street” while the saga of the Great McTavish Ditch drags on.

With all these pressing issues, students and staff alike should be glad to hear that the McGill administration has launched a groundbreaking initiative. As of last month, McGillians have been treated to a bold new surprise: The university now has new building signs.

As the McGill Reporter revealed on Feb. 21, the administration has replaced the building signs on the Downtown Campus, and plans to do the same for MacDonald Campus soon, all as “part of a larger overhaul of exterior signage on McGill campuses.” Don’t be confused—the old, decrepit, oafish buildings are still the same, it’s just that fancy new signage that gives a concrete slab like the Leacock Building a whole new feeling.

According to the Reporter, the signs are part of an effort to secure McGill’s status as a world-class institution. The signs reflect a “new font, new materials, new design” philosophy, which is apparently part of “a modern design practice observed at leading North American universities.” Here the article specifically mentions Harvard and Yale, who presumably have built their prestigious international reputations on the back of their outstanding building signs. After all, Harvard couldn’t possibly have produced such notable alumni as Bill Gates, Ban Ki-Moon, and eight American presidents, if its building signs were in a lowly font like Comic Sans MS.


Don’t be confused—the old, decrepit, oafish buildings are still the same, it’s just that fancy new signage that gives a concrete slab like the Leacock Building a whole new feeling.

Of course, the ambitious signage project doesn’t necessarily mean McGill has let its other—more pressing—problems fall to the wayside. But, if the administration is looking to be more efficient, it could consider incorporating some easy fixes to other issues in its new signage project. For instance, it could save students a lot of trouble by simply adding an asterisk on the sign for any building that does exist in theory, but has in reality been rendered totally inaccessible by construction.

The signage overhaul also foresees the installation of an “interactive terminal” at the Roddick Gates, which will provide visitors with information about McGill and its downtown campus. Perhaps this terminal can also help McGill address some communications issues, and potentially improve its image. With a dizzying number of controversies on campus this year, it can sometimes be hard to remember where students should be directing their anger. A simple interactive app on the Roddick terminal could help clear this up. Concerned about the unethical investments of your university? Yes, you can take that one to the James Building—though results are not guaranteed. Mad about that thing another student said on Twitter? Take that one to SSMU, that’s not the admin’s problem. And of course, the terminal needs to be able to answer that vital question students ask themselves every day: Where is the current samosa sale?

The signage project does come with a degree of self-awareness: The project manager admits that signs are “small details” when it comes to the university as a whole. Let’s just hope the university’s renewed interest in “small details” isn’t a sign that they’ve given up on addressing the McGill’s larger flaws.



David Watson is an Opinion Editor at The McGill Tribune and a U3 Political Science and History student. He is currently one Nobel Prize away from being a Nobel Prize winner.


@McGillTribOp |


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