President addresses complaints about video board


McMaster President Peter George takes full responsibility for the installation of the state-of-the-art video board, known as the “Mactron,” adjacent to the Ivor Wynne Centre, as well as the controversy that has followed.

In recent weeks, a number of members of the University community, including staff, faculty, and students, have lodged formal complaints about the structure. Complaints range from the appearance of commercial advertising on the board to the light pollution caused by its illumination at night.

“I didn't fully understand our commitments under contracts to advertisers,” said George at the April 27 meeting of the Board of Governors. “I didn't give high priority to the issue of the videotron's installation.

“Quite frankly, I took (the installation) too lightly.”

George said that the University's administration is currently reviewing its agreement with the company that installed the board, including the University's obligations to advertisers. Results of those discussions will be taken to the Planning and Building Committee. He hopes that the Committee will then report its findings to the Board at its June meeting.

Martin Dooley, professor of economics, addressed the Board on behalf of the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) and presented a motion that was passed unanimously at the April 18th meeting of MUFA. That motion read:

“The concerns which many members of the McMaster University Faculty Association have expressed with regard to the new video board or “Mactron” are numerous and include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: the possible zoning violation, visual pollution, the potential driving hazard, the detriment to relations with our Westdale neighbours, the excessive use of University facilities for private- sector advertising, the representation of the Mactron as primarily a scoreboard, and the approval process for the board within McMaster. The McMaster University Faculty Association urges the administration to actively seek alternatives to the current Mactron arrangements. We urge that, in the process of further deliberations, the administration provide clear, accurate information to all parties concerned, within both McMaster and the broader community, about the alternatives being considered and seek the responses of such parties prior to taking actions which are difficult to reverse. We further request that the incoming president of the McMaster University Faculty Association convey this motion to President Peter George.”

Dooley said that MUFA is concerned over the lack of consultation with both the Board of Governors, as well as the University community and residents of nearby Westdale.

He said, “A blow has been dealt to the spirit of honest and consultation at this University.”

Dooley later concluded, “A flawed decision-making process has produced a flawed decision.”

The McMaster Students Union has also formally expressed its disapproval.

The board, valued at one million dollars, was donated by alumnus Paul Leskew and his family, with the support of Coca-Cola, and was unveiled in October. The Mactron was manufactured and funded without a single dollar of student, university or government money. It is the first university video board in Canada and the first rotating video board in North America. The structure is fourteen by twenty-four feet (or two stories high) in size, and features 16.7 million colours and full motion video.