On Wednesday, September 21, the McGill Senate convened for its first meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year in the Redpath Museum auditorium.
Principal Suzanne Fortier’s opening remarks included a brief outline of McGill’s enrolment numbers for this year. The total number of students currently enrolled will not be disclosed until the second week of October, but Fortier explained that the figure has increased by roughly 2.6 per cent compared to last year. Fortier added that “this is the biggest increase” in enrolment that she has seen.
The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Erin Sobat and Science Senator Sean Taylor submitted a question concerning course assessment technologies. More specifically, the question focused on whether students must purchase programs required in certain courses for practice or extra credit, such as the McGraw-Hill Connect homework program. It was generally agreed that these programs are not mandatory but provide students access to extra resources when needed. The proposed solution was to encourage professors to communicate with students, and work together to provide the necessary support and to resolve any problems arising from extra-curricular homework.
“This is the biggest increase” in enrolment that she has seen.
Policy on harassment
Associate Provost Angela Campbell brought a memorandum to appoint geology professor Natalie Oswin as an assessor under the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination Prohibited by Law (not to be confused with the recently released Draft Policy on Sexual Violence). The Senate approved Oswin’s term as assessor beginning October 1 of this year and ending September 30, 2019. Oswin will replace Professor Robert Leckey, who was recently appointed Dean of Law.
The annual report on the Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination Prohibited by Law, which Campbell presented, showed an increase in the number of assessors in the last year, from the minimum of eight assessors to ten, along with increased assessor training. She noted that there had been an average of 36 cases per year over the last ten years; the majority concerned harassment. There were four possible outcomes to each case, with 72 per cent of the cases stopping at inquiry only, while the others were either informally resolved, formally resolved (which may or may not have included disciplinary action), or withdrawn.
Sobat questioned why a majority of the complaints had stopped at the inquiry stage, to which Campbell responded that most people prefer not to proceed with a full investigation, and that many of the inquiries were simply questions.
There had been an average of 36 cases per year over the last ten years; the majority concerned harassment.
Joint Committee on Equity
A major focus of the meeting was the annual report of the Joint Board-Senate Committee on Equity (JBSCE). The report revealed that the JBSCE has been advocating for the implementation of McGill’s own Employment Equity Policy for the coming academic year, as well as an increase in the number of gender neutral washrooms on campus.
A brief debate followed about how those who identify as female at McGill account for 58 per cent of the population, but the female gender is still considered under represented. Campbell noted that she would like to focus on the specifics of each faculty, such as engineering, in which women make up 27 per cent of students, an increase of six per cent over the past five years.
Campbell stated that, personally, she does not believe that men are underrepresented on campus, in terms of the cases and inquiries that the JBSCE receive. In response to a question about whether there is an absolute number that defines under representation, Campbell said, she does not believe there is. “I don’t think it is a fairness question in respect to men’s representation on campus. That’s my own personal take on this,” she said.
“We look at what’s happened historically and which groups continue to face barriers due to historical exclusion or ongoing difficulty accessing a full experience as a student or staff at the university,” Campbell further elaborated. The human rights principle and the Quebec charter on the grounds of discrimination are also taken into account.
“I don’t think it is a fairness question in respect to men’s representation on campus.”
Principal Fortier also brought up the “scissor effect,” which describes how there is a higher percentage of women in undergraduate studies, but there is a higher proportion of men in the higher graduate degrees.