News | Student societies denounce Mendelson contract extension

AUS Council votes not to sign memo

Morton Mendelson will keep his job for another two years after his contract was extended this past summer.

The decision to extend Mendelson’s term as Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) has drawn the ire of student politicians, who have begun circulating a memo denouncing what they deem a lack of consultation about the matter.

On June 5, the SSMU executive sent a memo to Provost Anthony Masi inquiring about a committee to review Mendelson’s contract.

After SSMU sent a follow-up memo on June 17, Masi replied in a memo that he had made the decision to extend the contract, and that it was approved by Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.

Masi’s memo also promises to “work closely with the SSMU in assessing the structure and functioning of the Office of the Deputy Provost in assuring this important position at McGill University be clearly defined so that we will be able to find an appropriate candidate to fill it when Prof. Mendelson steps down in 2013.”

SSMU President Maggie Knight said that the student union executive “was expecting there to be student representation on a committee…in keeping with established practice.”

The McGill Charter of Students’ Rights states that the university “has an obligation to ensure that administrative decisions are made, or actions taken, with fair regard for the known and legitimate interests of students.”

In response to the contract extension, the presidents of 11 McGill undergraduate societies, along with SSMU, have signed a memo condemning a lack of consultation.

The memo is addressed to Masi and will be sent today. It identifies a “lack of trust in existing consultation processes.”

“Engaging in consultation about a key issue affecting students only after a decision has been made does not appear to be acting to remedy,” the memo reads.

Mendelson became the first-ever Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) when the position was created in 2006.

According to the McGill website, the position is “a central liaison among the University’s senior administration, faculties, student organizations and Senate, with a view to ensuring that impact on student life and learning is factored into decision-making.”

Mendelson was a target of student anger last year, as the administration’s primary point person after the closure of the Architecture Café.  The cafe was the only student-run eatery on campus, and was operated by the Architecture Students Association.

Notably, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) declined to sign the letter. While AUS President Jade Calver would not comment on her executive’s opposition to signing the memo, several sources from AUS have said that much of the opposition to the memo had to do with the AUS’s tense relationship with Mendelson.

Last February, after years of AUS financial mismanagement came to light, Mendelson withheld $90,000 in student fees from the society.

The minutes from Wednesday’s AUS council meeting were not available before The Daily went to print early Saturday morning.

AUS councilor John Cohen was one of six people who voted in favor of signing the memo. 24 councilors voted against signing the memo.

“AUS is certainly in a difficult position, and I understand what Jade [Calver] said about the need to tread softly with regard to Provost Mendelson, but that doesn’t mean that the values need to be compromised,” Cohen said, referring to student consultation.

Mendelson was unavailable for comment Friday, due to administration meetings.


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