In a number of recent meetings, Quebec government ministers have told Principal Heather Munroe-Blum that recent cuts to higher education funding are permanent, and that McGill should expect more cuts in the future. The administration will continue to campaign for more money from the government, but according to Munroe-Blum, Premier Pauline Marois refuses to admit any amount of reinvestment.
That was the main message communicated by Munroe-Blum’s opening remarks at yesterday’s monthly Senate meeting.
The meetings she referred to were preparatory talks for February’s upcoming summit on higher education. According to Munroe-Blum, she attended meetings on behalf of the McGill community, as well as CREPUQ, the organization that represents Quebec’s university administrations.
The provincial budget cuts represent a $19-million blow to McGill’s budget. It is the “third reversal” of government higher education funding policy since April of this year, Munroe-Blum said, referring to the Charest government’s restructuring of tuition hikes last spring amidst student protests, and the Marois government’s subsequent cancellation of the hikes.
“We also must stay the course,” in resisting the cuts, Munroe-Blum said.
Munroe-Blum added that the Quebec Minister of Higher Education Pierre Duchesne told her there would be more cuts in the 2013-14 provincial budget.
The Faculty of Arts’ recently- announced decision to cut 100 classes from next year’s course offerings has nothing to do with the provincial cuts, and had been in the works long before the current government was elected, Munroe-Blum said.
Other Senate business included the annual report from the University’s ombudsman, Spencer Boudreau. According to the report, the past 12 months have seen 271 requests for ombudsman support from the McGill community, 250 of them from students. The vast majority of students’ requests, Boudreau said, are about class grades.
All McGill students are entitled to a re-read of submitted work after an initial grading. There is no definite procedure for the process however, Boudreau said, and he recommended a clearer procedure across faculties.
Boudreau also recommended that re-reads of submitted work should be conducted by a panel of three professors, rather than the single professor currently allowed for in McGill statutes.
Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Lydia White said the last recommendation was unrealistic, especially in obscure fields where there may be only one or two experts in a given field.
Boudreau held firm, however, saying that all other universities in Quebec have a panel of three professors for re-reads of student papers.