At a Town Hall with Principal Heather Munroe-Blum at Macdonald campus yesterday afternoon, a handful of students voiced concerns about insufficient shuttle bus service between downtown and the campus 40 kilometres west of Montreal.
Three students at the event – including Macdonald Campus Students’ Society President Emily McGill – separately brought up the need for improved transportation to Macdonald campus. They complained that the McGill shuttle buses fill up during rush hour, leaving many without a seat.
“It’s a wonderful service, but it’s always full during rush hour,” said Rona Strasser, a third-year Parasitology PhD student.
There are over 1,400 McGill students in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, which occupies MacDonald Campus.
Munroe-Blum answered that the University was not willing to spend more money on increasing service.
“Having the people to teach and having the place to teach will take priority over a shuttle bus,” she said.
The principal suggested that students pass a fee levy to expand shuttle service. She indicated expanding the commuter rail service – requiring lobbying to municipal, provincial, and federal governments – was the best long-term solution to transporting students between the campuses.
“There’s no door in the world that you can’t open as principal of McGill,” she later said, explaining the role she could play.
Munroe-Blum highlighted the importance of the West Island campus, and its growing interaction with the downtown campus.
“This campus was the first organization that wasn’t a not-for-profit to hold a conference on global food security,” she said of the September conference organized by the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The Association of Postdoctoral Researchers was unable to get a clear response on whether they would be treated as students or employees for tax purposes. Earlier this month, postdocs were notified they may no longer be eligible for $7,000 income tax exemptions contingent upon their status as students. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) stated in an October letter that they no longer consider postdocs students. Munroe-Blum called the way Canada Revenue Agency has changed its position at this stage irrational.
The principal also allayed Faculty concerns that the economic downturn would affect McGill enrollment, hiring, and pensions.
She pointed to trends that suggested investment in universities would remain high.
“We don’t want to put in place any omnibus or generic cuts or freezes,” she said. “There’s nowhere in the world that every dollar gets leverages as successfully as at McGill.”
Back downtown many were unaware that the Town Hall had happened. The Daily did not see any posters on campus, and many students only received an email invitation a day before the event.
The 48-person shuttle bus that arrived ten minutes before the event was just over half full – about normal for that time of day – and The Daily did not see any SSMU executives or councillors at the town hall.
“I do not believe any SSMU executives went,” said Devin Alfaro, SSMU VP External. “We did put up one poster in the office, but I believe that was because [former SSMU President] Jake [Itzkowitz] and [former SSMU VP University Affairs] Adrian [Angus] were the only featured students on the poster.”
But Munroe-Blum was happy with the meeting, and noted that it was rewarding to get a different perspective at this Town Hall, given its location.
“You’re the judge as to how useful this Town Hall was,” she summed up. “What I loved about the Town Hall is learning about every constituency. This has probably been the best [one] in that regard.”
While 70 members of the McGill community attended, only about two dozen students showed up to the event, largely from Macdonald campus.