The portfolio of senior administrator Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson’s profile is the topic of a for-discussion document written by SSMU President Maggie Knight and several presidents of McGill faculty associations.
Official signatories to the document, addressed to Provost Anthony Masi, include Knight and the presidents of eleven faculty associations.
The document started as a joint initiative between Knight and some of the faculty association presidents at McGill. The result is a document with recommendations aimed at improving the portfolio by making changes to the role of the Deputy Provost.
The document states a long-term goal of reassessing the Deputy Provost’s portfolio “to ensure its success in years to come, and enable McGill to further its mission as a student-centred University.”
Knight explained that the document arose from a letter sent by some faculty association presidents over the summer, which expressed concern about the extension of Mendelson’s term without consultation.
The document refers to conflicts between students and Mendelson, including the closure of the student-run Architecture Café in the summer of 2010 and the withdrawal of the McGill name from 132 student clubs and services last semester.
“Stemming from [the letter], when the Provost embarked on his revision of the Student Life and Learning portfolio, we were invited as a group to meet with him and discuss things. And given that there are a lot of different issues and it is a complex and detailed portfolio, we wanted to provide a document that was as thorough and constructive as possible,” said Knight.
Jade Calver, Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) president, did not sign the letter. She told The Daily she abstained from signing because AUS Council had recently submitted a similar document.
“[Last week’s document] was kind of going along the same lines of the earlier document we had sent to the Deputy Provost,” said Calver. “I didn’t think it was appropriate to sign on a similar letter.”
Calver clarified that, despite not signing the document, the AUS agrees with the sentiments expressed in it.
One of the recommendations states that “students should be informed and consulted in the decision-making process; in the case of decisions being made during the summer, there must be proactive consultation throughout the winter semester.”
Knight stressed the importance of stronger communication lines between the office of the Deputy Provost and students.
“There are clear forums for academic issues, like Senate. We have representation in those committees,” said Knight. “There is no similar body for the governance of student life. It’s very much centralized within the Deputy Provost office, and there isn’t the same committee structure or government council type structure.”
According to Josh Redel, president of the Engineering Undergraduate Society, another important feature of the document is the call for better relations between the portfolio and faculty associations.
“Right now we do get a decent amount of support from the portfolio, but unfortunately, on certain things, like the McGill name and Arch Café, it’s always reactionary as opposed to proactive,” he said.
Catherine Coursol, president of the Law Students’ Association, spoke to potential ways – mentioned in the document – of closing the gap between students and the administration.
“I think doing so would go a long way to minimize both the real disconnect that exists, and to bring the perceived extent of the disconnect into perspective,” she said.
In an email to The Daily , Masi addressed the recommendations.
“I very much appreciated the thoughtful contribution of these student leaders. Their presentation was impressive, both in terms of content and tone, so much so that we have incorporated some of their suggestions in the Terms of Reference questions for the [Student Life and Learning] review,” wrote Masi.
Masi said that consultation processes are ongoing.
“We will continue to consult with students and look forward to further productive conversations during a full day retreat on February 27, when we will convene, along with Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, to learn more about student perspectives and opinions,” he said.
In a previous version of this article the authorship of the document pertaining to the extension of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) portfolio was misrepresented. The article attributed sole authorship to Maggie Knight. In fact the document was authored by several individuals of whom Knight was one. The Daily regrets the error.