Principal Heather Monroe-Blum was the highlight of the first SSMU Council session of the semester last Thursday evening. In her opening remarks, Monroe-Blum expressed a wish to stay in contact with Council on a more regular basis, and her intention to respond to all councillors’ questions.
When Law Senator Alexandre Shee asked about tuition increases, Monroe-Blum tried to explain the financial logic behind her support for a form of deregulation of tuition fees, which she calls “re-regulation,” and described as deregulation with principles.
“What you should know is with our international students…McGill receives only the Quebec tuition from your fees. If you pay, say $12,000, McGill receives $1,750, and the rest goes into the Quebec system to subsidize students who come in free from France and from the Francophonie. I think if you want to look at a fairness issue you should look at that,” Monroe-Blum said.
Monroe-Blum noted that under her proposed system, the full amount charged to international students would get channelled back to the postsecondary institution they attend, and would theoretically benefit all students. She also defended McGill’s capital campaign and drive for private funding.
“There’s often a question about [if we are] overly corporatized…. My experience is not that the private sector or philanthropists want to tell us how to do our business,” she said. “[But the] government tries to tell us all the time how to do our research. Government values certain disciplines over others…Humanities and social sciences get short [changed].”
Arts Representative Sebastien Ronderos-Morgan asked about McGill’s new travel policy, which restricts students from travelling to countries with formal travel warnings from the Canadian government.
After commenting on the “international nature of McGill,” Monroe-Blum stressed how dangerous travel to insecure areas can be. She mentioned that Canadian diplomatic and federal support pulls out of the countries that the directive would prevent travel to.
“I’ve lost three colleagues [in Afghanistan and Mumbai] in less than six months. These aren’t casual concerns about safety,” she said.
SSMU VP External Devin Alfaro asked why former Quebec Health Minister Philipe Couillard was appointed as a Senior Fellow at McGill’s Law School. Couillard is under investigation by Quebec’s lobby commissioner for talks he held with a private health care company that was not registered with the provincial lobby bank and that hired Couillard two months after he retired as Health Minister.
“Controversy, in itself, does not have us shy away if something is good at McGill. We actually invite a lot of people to come work in as a distinguished speaker or a fellow. If the guy’s corrupted, I think there’s no record on that,” Munroe-Blum said in his defence.