Commentary | Our board of governors

How a fortress of solitude runs our University

Over the past several years, the relationship between the McGill administration and the students, faculty, and staff of McGill has become increasingly hostile, punctuated by certain events this semester. The most visible of these include labour disputes and student activism surrounding tuition increases. However, this is only the very tip of the ever-expanding iceberg floating just below the surface of our community. Students should be curious about the identity of this administration, and how exactly it wields its power: our education is in their hands.

The Board of Governors is entrusted with the maintenance of all University property and the administration of the University. It is officially incorporated as “The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning” and operates its oligarchical power over the University in both practice and attitude, which trickles down to each department. Sitting at the top of McGill’s complicated and bureaucratic hierarchy, the BoG has “final authority over the management of the University.” 12 of the 25 voting members are mysteriously appointed “Members at Large” and nearly all of them come from the upper echelons of the corporate sector.

There is no feasible way for these individuals to be in touch with the interests of students, staff, faculty, and the McGill community at large. Students are represented by only two voting members (the presidents of SSMU and PGSS), while staff and faculty have a combined total of only six.

Although meetings of the Board of Governors do have brief open sessions, the dates and minutes from these are not accessible ,and the majority of decisions are made during the private sessions. Our one undergraduate student representative is required to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to attend BoG meetings. This opacity is one of the most pressing problems with the current structure.

The outside associations of each Member at Large are another concern. Why is the Chair of the Board of Governors also the Director of Citibank Canada? Why are other members the CEOs and executives of RBC, Telus, HSBC, and Bell Canada? And what would a real estate tycoon or the president of Hydro-Quebec know about the well-being of undergraduate students and McGill as a whole? The integrity of our community rests in the hands of a far-removed, unaccountable group of individuals with special corporate interests.

“Corporatization” and “privatization” are two words that have been thrown around in regards to both our University and post secondary education in North America. To us, these objectives illustrate a systematic disappearance of social responsibilities; an example being student run cafes making way for a monopoly of unethically-produced food with a veneer of sustainability. We unknowingly sustain a structure where the University can invest our funds with little regard for consultation or ethics.

In the wake of the events of November 10, a group of concerned students has formed the Governance Reform Project, which aims to work towards a long-term democratization of the governance structure of McGill beginning with a community assembly. As it stands, the BoG and general administrative structure of the University alienates the majority of the community – students, faculty, and staff who deserve the strongest voice. Now is the time for us to break this oppressive and self-perpetuating stronghold.

Jacueline Brandon is a U1 History student. She can be reached at jacqueline.brandon@mail.mcgill.ca. Jaime MacLean is a U2 English Literature student.She can be reached at jaime.maclean@mail.mcgill.ca. The McGill Governance Reform Project will hold a Communal Assembly on November 24th at 5:30 p.m. at 3720 Ave du Parc. All staff, students, faculty, and members of the McGill community are encouraged to attend. For more information visit mcgillgovernancereform.wordpress.com.


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