Did McGill Force This Director To Resign Over a Shitty Hot Take?


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Did McGill Force This Director To Resign Over a Shitty Hot Take?

Kinda seems like it.

After receiving furious backlash over a Maclean's hot take that used a severe traffic jam to illustrate the failings of Quebec society, Andrew Potter has resigned from his post as director of McGill University's Institute for the Study of Canada.

Potter, who will remain an associate professor at the school, posted a statement about his resignation on Twitter Thursday. He said the decision came in light of the ongoing negative reaction within the university and outside of it.


"I deeply regret many aspects of the column—its sloppy use of anecdotes, its tone, and the way it comes across as deeply critical of the entire province. That wasn't my intention, it doesn't reflect my views of Quebec, and I am heartbroken that the situation has evolved the way it has."

The column, titled "How a snowstorm exposed Quebec's real problem: social malaise," was published online Monday. In it, Potter used the province's mishandling of a 300-car highway pileup during a recent snowstorm as an entry point to discuss his other beefs with Quebec, including how it has a "pathologically alienated and low-trust society." He also said the police don't wear proper uniforms, people don't volunteer, and implied that doctors and restaurants insist on cash, with the latter handing out "two bills" if you choose to pay by card.

Outrage over the piece came in from all sides—Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told the CBC it was based on prejudices.

Potter later issued an apology on Facebook and Maclean's made two corrections to the article.

After it went up, McGill's official Twitter account tweeted that Potter's views "do not represent those of #McGill."

Several people pointed out that it seemed odd for McGill to release such a statement.

University of Waterloo professor Emmett Macfarlane wrote in Maclean's that the school's tweet is a "reprehensible attack on the core of the academic mission, and specifically on academic freedom."


Read more: A Canadian University Professor Is Under Fire For Rant on Political Correctness

He explained that academics should be free to express their views without fear of retribution.

McGill released this statement confirming Potter's resignation but said it will not be commenting further.

Universities have been under increasing scrutiny over issues like academic freedom and free speech. On Wednesday evening, Ryerson students protested a campus appearance by far-right provocateur Ezra Levant; last week Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor who is opposed to non-binary pronouns, was drowned out by activists at a debate at McMaster University.

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.