Greeted by several members of Divest McGill who had come to offer a celebratory cake and attend the open session of the meeting, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) convened for the first time this semester on February 2. The BoG approved a borrowing plan to address McGill’s urgent deferred maintenance needs and heard a presentation of the annual report on student life and learning.
Deferred maintenance plan, green chemistry initiative
The BoG approved the Building and Property Committee (BPC)’s proposed plan to address the university’s most pressing deferred maintenance needs, namely building infrastructure and technology.
According to the document, McGill suffers from “decades of underinvestment in infrastructure,” with an investment of about $1.58 billion being necessary to address infrastructure-related needs between now and 2021. However, even “by fully tapping all available sources of funds,” only $625 million is available, leaving a projected shortfall of approximately $953 million.
The plan recommends that the University request a new line of credit to facilitate borrowing for capital investments until 2019, and to issue a bond thereafter to finance the debt in the long term.
The BoG also passed a motion to enter into a grant agreement with the provincial government in support of “green chemistry” initiatives on campus. Associate Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Sarah Stroud called the initiative an opportunity for McGill to “step into a major leadership role in this field.”
Report on student life and learning
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens presented his annual report for 2013-14, emphasizing a number of initiatives. These included the launch of the McGill App, the development of the “Counsellor in Residence” program, the first inter-university Iron Chef competition, and a review of the Fall 2014 orientation, which Dyens called “the best frosh in North America.”
When BoG Vice-Chair Claude Généreux asked Dyens if McGill had seen an uptick in student satisfaction with their experience at McGill, Dyens responded that McGill’s score on the National Survey of Student Engagement is “okay, not great,” but that student engagement in student government is higher at McGill than at other universities.
Dyens also noted that students were highly critical of the University’s advising services, but that about 90 per cent of students would recommend McGill.
Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Juan Camilo Pinto asked Dyens if the University had data on student mental health, and if there were mechanisms in place to help students deal with high levels of stress.
“We have mechanisms in place,” Dyens responded, adding, however, that some students choose to come to McGill for the challenging environment. He added that the administration was working to make regulations a bit more “understanding about what students are going through.”