Research and recruitment
McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) convened for the first time this academic year on Monday. Members of the administration announced their intentions to continue to develop McGill as a research-intensive university with a focus on graduate programs. A lack of resources – due to both an endowment affected by the economic crisis as well as a decrease in government and private research funding – has factored heavily in the administration’s plan to attract graduate students who are in high-revenue fields.
In a presentation about research revenues, questions were raised about the significant drops McGill has seen compared to the other top-five Canadian research universities over the past four years. Denis Thérien, Vice Principal of Research and International Relations, said the trend is due in part to the time it takes grant money and investments to be accounted for in the University’s budget. He added that McGill has also failed to prioritize research and graduate subsidies in comparison to several other universities.
McGill cuts $1 million in health benefits
“We have to stay extremely disciplined,” said Principal Heather Munroe-Blum regarding the University’s current financial situation, “Tough decisions will have to be made.”
One such tough decision will be a cut of $1 million from the University’s employee health benefits program.
McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) member Trevor Garland submitted a petition of over 1,000 signatures that calls the cut to employee health benefits “unfair and unjust.”
MUNACA Vice President of Labour Relations David Roseman later commented that MUNACA doesn’t intend to refuse cuts outright, but wants to renegotiate the terms of their collective agreement to rearrange their health benefit plan, rather than reduce it.
The Quebec government has introduced Bill 38, which would control university governance by setting up specific requirements to be met by administrations across the province – including a clause requiring 60 per cent of a board of governors to come from outside the university.
Munroe-Blum, as a member of the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (CREPUQ), said she is working to create a proposal rejecting this lobby by the government.
Chairman of the BoG Robert Rabinovich echoed her statements, saying the bill would “infringe on the independence of the University.”
Course packs delayed
The McGill Senate convened for the first time this year on Tuesday, and high on their agenda was a motion tabled by education professor Alenoush Saroyan asking the administration to explain why course packs were printed late this September. Saroyan took issue with the administration’s decision to stop using Eastman Systems – the company McGill has relied on for the past 10 years – and to move the printing in-house. This year, McGill Ancillary Services took over the job of printing course materials – a move Saroyan argued was not in the best interest of faculty or students.
Associate VP University Services Jim Nicell replied that despite 10 years of work with Eastman, the company’s contract was up for renewal and that moving publishing to McGill would cut costs by making the most of using digital resources – instead of paying copyright twice on material the University already owns.
He informed Senate that the delays were due to start-up problems, such as working out legal details and purchasing new printing equipment, and that Ancillary Services has added a third shift to their staff who are now working around the clock to print the 11 remaining course packs.
H1N1 pandemic preparation
Geography professor Tim Moore raised concerns over the University’s handling of H1N1 prevention. He questioned the Senate on whether the administration’s “social distancing” – avoiding groups of people – would actually be effective. He also asked whether the University has any medical steps in mind for dealing with a pandemic, and if hand sanitizers will be made available on campus.
The administration responded that the University has been working on pandemic planning since last June, but that the key to prevention was personal hygiene. While hand sanitizers will be made available at various locations across campus, it was stressed that prevention comes down to washing your hands and sneezing with etiquette.
Some senators commented that hygiene at McGill becomes rather difficult when washrooms are left a mess. Principal Heather Munroe-Blum responded that the University would take all necessary measures to maintain hygiene, regardless of the cost, if more janitors are required.