The University Senate convened for its third meeting of the year on November 19, discussing potential cuts to student services, community engagement and out-of-classroom learning, and the effect on graduate students of the planned move of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) to the Glen site superhospital in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
Cuts to student services
In her opening remarks, Principal Suzanne Fortier informed Senate that McGill’s share of the second round of mid-year cuts to the Quebec university system, announced by Provost Anthony Masi last month, will be $4.8 million.
In a written response to a question from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan and Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Masi indicated that “some programs requiring matching funds from the University’s operating budget will have to be postponed, reduced, or cut in light of cuts to our funding.”
Because Masi was not present at the meeting, Fortier responded on his behalf to a follow-up question from Greenspon regarding student consultation.
“There will be consultation with the students on any of the services currently offered that might be affected by the cuts,” she said.
However, Fortier was unable to answer more specific questions from student senators regarding which services are likely to be cut.
“We’re not yet at this level of details in our analysis of the impact of these cuts that we can say precisely what would be the level of any reduction,” she said.
Fortier also touched on the issue of sexual assault in her remarks, noting “the importance […] to provide a respectful and safe environment for members of our community.”
Community engagement and out-of-classroom learning
Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rose Goldstein presented the report of the November 4 Joint Board-Senate meeting on community engagement through research and innovation.
Stewart-Kanigan noted that many student senators took issue with the event’s focus on industry despite its promotion as community engagement-centred, and with the elimination of the question period.
Medicine Senator David Benrimoh also criticized the fact that “the most important thing echoed at every single table […] the importance of community agenda-setting” was not reflected accurately in the report.
A statement detailing student senators’ concerns has been published on SSMU’s website.
Senate also held an open discussion on out-of-classroom learning and research internships.
Many student senators brought up the importance of both remunerating and crediting out-of-classroom research internships to ensure their accessibility. “It’s really important to allow these opportunities for students who may not be able to access them due to financial needs,” said Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim.
Arts Faculty Senator Catherine Lu disagreed, arguing that it is unclear whether students deserve credit for what they learn in an internship, and that out-of-classroom learning is valuable for students even if it is not credited.
Dean of Students André Costopoulos countered that, in arguing for formal acknowledgement of out-of-classroom learning, “[students] are responding to real-world pressure” from graduate schools and employers.
Concerns with MUHC transition to Glen site
Seeking to address graduate students’ concerns about office and lab space at the MUHC’s new Glen sitew, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) senators submitted a question about plans to ensure that graduate students have appropriate working space, and on whether student support staff would also be moved to the new site. The RI-MUHC is set to move to the Glen site in February 2015.
In his written response, Dean of Medicine David Eidelman stated that “it is the responsibility of each PI [principal investigator] to ensure that [their] graduate students […] are allocated appropriate working spaces.”
PGSS Senator Rui Hao Wang noted that, according to an internal MUHC memo, not all PIs will be eligible for working space, and further noted that support staff are supposed to move to a section of the site that has not yet been built.
Eidelman said that the University is working to resolve the issues, and instructed students to direct concerns to their graduate program supervisors. He explained that less space was secured than had been planned, and that the government has retroactively imposed restrictions on its use.
Costopoulos presented the 2013-14 report of the Committee on Student Discipline, which contains the data on disciplinary offences for the year.
“An indicator that our system actually works as a pedagogical system is that the number of second offences is extremely low,” said Costopoulos in response to a question on support resources from SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa. “We follow students afterwards […] we extend support as an outcome of the disciplinary process.”
Senate also approved a set of guidelines to harmonize definitions of academic entities (such as “Insitute” or “Group”) and a set of clarifications to regulations on sabbaticals and leaves of absence for academic staff.