News  White Paper plan presented at Legislative Council

Councillors question whether strategic five-year plan will benefit McGill employees

McGill Provost Anthony Masi made an appearance at Legislative Council last Thursday to present the ASAP 2012 White Paper (Achieving Strategic Academic Priorities), a five-year strategic plan for the University referred to as the “blueprint by which we allocated funding.”

The plan was updated at Council to include a greater focus on technology in pedagogical work and interdisciplinary research. Masi remained for questions for nearly an hour after the allotted time for his presentation.

A major focus of the plan is increasing the number of professors at the University. Arts Senator Matt Crawford brought up concerns that this would come at the expense of course lecturers and TAs.

“We’d like to have more tenure track professors who can bring their expertise into the program,” stated Masi, who continued to explain that the positions would vary across disciplines. “Some faculties will be requiring more course lecturers,” he added.

Masi was reluctant to answer questions regarding the MUNACA strike, citing the fact that he has not been present at the bargaining table.

Education representative and former Daily Design and Production editor Kady Paterson questioned the White Paper’s proposed commitments to enhancing career development opportunities for all McGill employees, citing a perceived reluctance on the part of McGill to allow MUNACA members back to work.

“The support staff walked out. There’s a strike, so people should tone down their rhetoric,” Masi responded.

The comment came after questioning about the administration’s treatment of students who protest and visibly support MUNACA on campus.

“There is confusion between the ability to conduct freedom of expression and the inability of the University to go about its business,” Masi said.

“The injunction [against MUNACA] doesn’t say you don’t have the freedom of speech,” he added.

Masi spoke of increased commitments to TAs. “We have engaged with TAs in something called a ‘skillset’ program.  We are certainly in favour of anything that enhances the skills of our graduate students and our TAs,” he said.

Jonathan Mooney, representative for the Association of Graduate Students Emplyed at McGill, announced that the union will vote during its next Council meeting on whether to authorize pressure tactics.

“When we vote to authorize pressure tactics, that excludes a strike,” said Mooney, specifying that tactics may include letter writing campaigns and rallies.

In light of the upcoming fall referendum period, members of community radio station CKUT were present to see their referendum question approved by Council. The question asks students to vote on the continued existence of CKUT by renewing the $4.00 per semester fee from every undergraduate.

The motion is similar to their previous existence referendum question, but includes specification that the fee “is not opt-outable on the Minerva online opt-out system but is refundable on the premises of CKUT.”

Since the online opt-out system was instituted in 2007, CKUT and other interest groups supported by opt-outable fees have attempted to negotiate the system with the University, but have yet to see any changes made.

Myriam Zaidi, a CKUT board member and former SSMU executive, responded to concerns that forcing students to retrieve their refund from CKUT’s premises might be intimidating for some.

“This is like a refund, so when you purchase something at a store, you’re not pressured to answer whether or not you’re going to keep it,” she said.

Since McGill has control over the Minerva online opt-out system, questions were raised whether or not the University would make changes if such a motion were to be passed.  VP Clubs and Services Carol Fraser, who authored the motion, responded that, “McGill would be grossly delegitimizing democratic processes if it ignored the votes of thousands of undergraduates.”

QPIRG put their referendum question forward by collecting 500 student signatures, as opposed to submitting the question to Council. However, QPIRG representatives were present at Council to discuss the work of the group and answer any questions that councillors had.

A motion presented by the Executive Committee to enhance transparency was passed, despite questions regarding its constitutionality from former SSMU President Zach Newburgh. Minutes from in-camera sessions of the Executive Committee will now be available to Councillors upon request.