Yesterday’s News: March 1967
by Diana Grier Ayton
The March 1967 issue was full of news of Expo’67, Montreal’s memorable and hugely successful world exhibition (and technically not a “fair” as it’s generally called) marking Canada’s centennial. Montreal had beaten out Toronto to host the event with its theme of “Man and His World.”
Hundreds of McGill people – advisors, architects, contractors, doctors, engineers, businessmen, lawyers – were involved in everything from Expo’s conception to ensuring that it would open as scheduled on April 28. But the man squarely in the hot seat was McGill governor Robert Shaw, BEng’33, deputy commissioner general of Expo’67. Among the monumental tasks he oversaw were the creation of a new island and the extension of an existing one in the St. Lawrence River as well as the construction of bridges to connect them. The river bed was dredged and filler material shipped in, as the article noted, “by a seemingly endless stream of trucks moving more than one-a-minute day and night for seven months.”
Writer Duncan McLeod, BA’48, also told readers that there had been a flurry of excitement when crews were excavating the foundations of Expo buildings in 1963. McGill geologist Dr. T.H. Clark found what he thought might be a type of diamond-bearing rock. Laboratory investigation revealed it was indeed similar to rock found in South Africa, but not the real deal, and hopes for a local diamond mine were dashed.
The previous issue of the News had featured an article on a student survey of all arts and science courses published as the Course Guide. The article was written by student John Fekete, billed as executive editor of Course Guide ’66 and editor-in-chief of Course Guide ’67. The Guide was greeted with howls of protest by faculty members and apparent indifference by students. In March, the News reported that Fekete’s calls for volunteers to distribute and collect questionnaires for the next edition were largely ignored, and his editorship was threatened by a move to re-open applications for the job.
Fekete resigned and Course Guide ’67 was shelved, but in just a few short months, he would be embroiled in a McGill Daily scandal when he decided to reprint part of a satirical article describing necrophilia involving John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. This immediately prompted charges of obscene libel by Principal Rocke Robertson and the University administration against the Daily.
The controversy escalated as students felt shut out of disciplinary procedures. Hundreds of students took over the James Administration Building. Classes were cancelled and what had been a relatively minor disciplinary problem exploded into a general protest over student power within the University. In the aftermath, Fekete was disciplined for his article with a token one-week suspension. And shortly afterward, student seats were added to the McGill Board of Governors and Senate.
A partial solution to Quebec’s teacher shortage was proposed by the McGill Alumnae Society. The women graduates recognized that “there is [sic] a considerable number of married women with undergraduate degrees whose children are in school and who have time on their hands.” With the perquisites to enter a specialized course of study, they could “fill a useful position in the Canadian labour force.” The principal obstacle would be pursuing full-time study, so the Alumnae Society surveyed women graduates in the Montreal area and then persuaded McGill to set up a pilot project to establish three-year program of evening courses leading to a teaching qualification. Due to start up in September of 1967, the program would be open to men and women.