News  Senate shoots down Arch Café committee

As students protested inside Leacock, SSMU President Zach Newburgh’s resolution to create a committee to review the functions and operations of the Architecture Café was not brought before yesterday’s Senate meeting, following the recommendation of the body’s steering committee.

Despite this rejection, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson did announce the creation of a “working group on student communication and consultation.” Like Newburgh’s original proposed committee, the group will be made up of various administration and student representatives, and will report to the Deputy Provost. (See sidebar on facing page for more information.) However, it does not have an explicit mandate to discuss the Architecture Café closure.

At Senate, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Newburgh both expressed their gratitude to the Deputy Provost for establishing the group, and Newburgh later called it “a really good step in the right direction.”

Budget concerns in light of the provincial budgetary Bill 100, new accounting principals, and deferred maintenance dominated the remainder of the meeting.

Bill 100
Bill 100 stipulates that public institutions must reduce general administrative operations by ten per cent and institute a 25 per cent travel expenses reduction over the next four years, as part of a Quebec government initiative to return the province to a balanced budget by 2013-14.

Munroe-Blum described the bill as an “omnibus law that treats us all the same, and that distorts each university’s ability to follow through with their individual missions.” Its implications for McGill are not clear, she said.

Until last fiscal year, the University’s financial statements were not in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP) issued by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. This rendered the projected deficit for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2011 “greater than we anticipated,” according to the financial report of the Board of Governors, presented by interim Vice Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Richards.

Under the former system, liabilities such as pensions, vacations, and retirement were not recorded and their addition has increased McGill’s non-cash accumulated deficit.

“You now get to see the full value of benefits we accord our employees,” said Richards.

Michael Porritt, Executive Director (Residences and Student Housing), announced that two market studies are currently underway to determine the future needs of first-years, upperyears, and graduate students.

As of 2008-09, residences accommodated 52 per cent of McGill’s first-years. Porritt projected that this figure would increase to 62 per cent with the opening of new buildings. “We are still 100 per cent over capacity and it is the end of October,” said Porritt. However, he also brought up the possibility of having upper-year students live in residence in significant numbers. Currently, of the 3,850 students in residence, there are 41 upper-year students who are not floor fellows, Porritt said.

Porritt also stated that the residence system is facing $150 million in deferred maintenance costs, forty million of which is deemed high priority. A five-year plan to reduce these costs by fifty per cent will begin in fiscal year 2012. These costs are mostly concentrated in older and smaller buildings around campus, including MORE and graduate student houses with low occupancies and urgent maintenance needs.

– with files from Emilio Comay del Junco