On November 28, the Board of Governors (BoG), the highest governing body at McGill, convened for the second time this semester. During the open session of the meeting, the BoG discussed research funding, other financial issues, the ongoing sexual assault case, and the proposed Quebec Charter of Values.
According to Jonathan Mooney, Secretary-General of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and a governor at the BoG, “this was one of the Board meetings […] in the last years that had the most items in open session.”
“There has been a lot of discussion at the Board level […] about increasing transparency. [This is] something that the Principal and the Board chair have really made an effort to do, and so I am proud of that and really happy about that,” Mooney said to The Daily, after the meeting.
One issue on the BoG’s agenda was the financial report presented by Provost Anthony Masi and Vice Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa.
According to Masi, McGill is in the early stage of planning next year’s budget, and is looking at what it will do now that there has been some re-investment from the government.
“It’s predicted that there’s going to be a surplus over the next four to five years, and it is because Minister Duchesne made an announcement where he said that there is going to be an additional $1.7 billion invested in Quebec universities,” Mooney said to The Daily.
The BoG discussed three potential ways in which McGill could use the surplus money. One idea was to use it to address the deferred maintenance problem, as there are buildings that are crumbling.
Other members mentioned that McGill had an additional $100 million in debt, and the surplus should be used to pay that off.
Another idea, proposed by Mooney, was to invest in hiring more professors in order to maintain a low student-faculty ratio.
“One of the things that has been said at the Board over and over again, is that one of the reasons we’re slipping in the rankings in some cases is because we’re seeing the ratio deteriorate,” Mooney explained. “It’s just a question of […] so many things pulling at us, in terms of where we need to spend money.”
Sexual assault case
The open session started with Principal Suzanne Fortier’s remarks. Fortier mentioned the sexual assault charges against three McGill students, and said “We have to make it clear that we take allegations of that matter very seriously.”
Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Ollivier Dyens (DPSLL) had sent an email to the McGill community on November 21, in which he stated that the overall response of the University did not meet the expectations of the community, and that the University would hire a full-time coordinator, who would work with Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS).
When asked by governor Kenneth Hastings about the financial aspects of this new position, Dyens said that the first six months of the position would be funded through savings the University had made, with the DPSLL budget funding the majority of it.
Quebec Charter of Values
Also discussed at the BoG meeting was the Quebec Charter of Values (Bill 60). The motion that was brought to BoG’s attention was the same as one that was passed unanimously by Senate on November 20.
In January, McGill will participate in the public hearings at the Committee on Institutions of the Quebec National Assembly and will present its position on the Charter.
“The Board will see it wise to have a resolution, as we did in Senate, so we can go to the hearings with the support of our Board,” Fortier said while presenting the motion.
Governor Ronald Critchley questioned the secular spirit of the Charter, which the resolution said to uphold, and commented that the Charter could be the “thin end of a wedge that invades the freedom of a semi-independent university.”
“If we are neutral, and truly secular and we accept the so-called secularism of Bill 60, does this bode well for the future of affiliated institutions that teach Presbyterianism, that teach the Anglican creed, that teach United Church theology?” Critchley asked.
The student observer of McGill Association for Continuing Education Students (MACES), Amine Arezki said, “What is expected of us it that we respond to what is good for the environment. I think if there is a problem with the niqab, it should be handled internally, and not necessarily in response to the government.”
“I feel it was strange that the university employees were treated like government employees. We are independent here,” Arezki continued.
The BoG unanimously approved the motion, and an email on behalf of the BoG was sent to the McGill community on November 29.