McGill, News

Dr. H. Deep Saini to become McGill’s next Principal and Vice-Chancellor

On Nov. 14, McGill announced that Professor H. Deep Saini will be the next Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the university. The Principal is tasked with representing the university on the global stage and helping shape the future of the institution. 

Saini will take over the role from Christopher Manfredi, who has occupied the position of Interim Principal since McGill’s former Principal, Suzanne Fortier, stepped down at the end of August. McGill Principals serve five-year appointments, and Saini will begin his first renewable term on April 1, 2023. 

Saini holds a Master of Science (Honours) in Botany from Punjab Agricultural University in India and a PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of Adelaide in Australia. He is currently serving as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Dalhousie University, a role he has occupied since January 2020. He will be McGill’s first non-white Principal in its more than 200-year history.

McGill Principals are approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) upon recommendation from the Advisory Committee for the Selection of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, which was assembled after the university announced in January 2022 that Suzanne Fortier would be departing. In a statement to The McGill Tribune, McGill media relations officer Frédérique Mazerolle elaborated on the role of the Advisory Committee, which is composed of 14 people, including members of the BoG, faculty, students, and outside consultants.

“The Advisory Committee was responsible for defining the role and set of competencies for the position of University Principal and Vice-Chancellor,” Mazerolle wrote. “As part of the Committee’s work, consultation sessions were held with various groups and individuals in the University.”

Richard Gold, a law professor at McGill, sat on the Advisory Committee that unanimously nominated Saini. He is confident that Saini will bring much-needed transparency and trust to McGill.

“There was a hunger for someone who was transformative—that is, someone who would not merely rely on McGill’s past glory but who understood that a contemporary university needed to actively embrace the world and current problems,” Gold wrote in an email to the Tribune

“We heard a strong desire for someone who does not just speak about [Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion] but who embodies it and is committed to it. I believe that Dr. Saini is such a candidate, someone who will strive to repair the broken trust on campus, who will restore collegial governance, and who will engage rather than talk down to us.” 

Kerry Yang, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) vice-president University Affairs, expressed similar optimism about Saini’s leadership. Yang, who also sat on the Advisory Committee, felt great responsibility representing the undergraduate student body, stressing the importance of choosing a leader who would communicate with students and take student advocacy to heart. 

“Even though Suzanne Fortier did a good job, she wasn’t able to really connect with students,” Yang said. “Being able to sort of find a next Principal who is more student-centric, is able to connect with them […]I think was something that I really went on.” 

Karol Kapsa, U3 Arts, hopes the new Principal will work to address the staffing shortage and program cuts they have witnessed during their time at McGill.

“I know like in the English Department and other Arts departments, there’s been a serious lack of just teachers, of like, professors, to the point that a lot of undergraduate courses, and programs are getting slashed because like [Master’s] students take priority,” Kapsa said in an interview with the Tribune. “That’s pretty worrying to see, like the wheels just kind of feel like they’re falling off after COVID.”

According to Gold, a smooth transition of power should be a priority for the McGill administration ahead of Saini’s arrival. .

“As we go through the next few months, I hope that the current administration will start building bridges so that Dr. Saini starts with a strong and united community,” Gold wrote.

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