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McGill Board of Governors convenes for first meeting of the year

Discusses university funding, Charter of Values and orientation

On September 26, the Board of Governors (BoG), McGill’s highest governing body, met for the first time this academic year. This was McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier’s first BoG session as Vice-Chancellor of the board.

The governors typically meet twice a semester, in addition to the one joint BoG-Senate meeting per semester. The composition of the board is heavy on McGill alumni and prominent figures in Montreal – there are also two student representatives, Jonathan Mooney and Katie Larson, who head Post-graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and the Students’ Society of McGill University, respectively.

Fortier opened the meeting with remarks on her new position as principal, telling the board, “I came back to be a part of a community, a full member of a community, to face our challenges together.”

The principal also mentioned that she was happy with the success of Orientation Week, even having taken part in some of the activities herself, although commenting that there were “some incidents we would have liked to not have had.”

On the open session docket was mostly housekeeping, approval of agenda minutes from May – when Heather Munroe Blum was still acting principal in the position of  Vice-Chancellor of the BoG – as well as announcements from the previous week’s Senate meeting.

Fortier reiterated her remarks made two weeks ago at Senate regarding the University’s stance on the Charter of Values. “There are very good, strong policies at the University protecting and respecting diversity and expression,” she said.

Also discussed was the recent meeting held in Quebec City between Quebec universities and the Minister of Higher Education, Pierre Duchesne. The meeting was, according to Vice-President (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil, between “administrators of universities, chairs of different boards of universities, leaders of unions, and student union leaders.”

Marcil told The Daily that the Minister, “wanted to discuss the orientation and priorities for the year that is coming.”

According to Marcil, Duchesne announced at this meeting the PQ had planned a $1.7 billion investment to universities across the province for the 2014-15 – an increase in support of around 8.5 per cent.

“We were concerned because of the budget of Quebec – we had some concerns that […] reinvestment would be put at risk. However, [Duchesne] confirmed that the reinvestment will happen,” he said.

The $1.7 billion will be spread out among the province’s universities, Marcil explained. When asked by The Daily how much McGill is expected to receive, he stated “a fair share” – though it is unclear at this point in time how the money will be broken down.

In November, the University will meet one-on-one with the Quebec government again to set a bilateral agreement between the University and the government.

“It will be the first meeting between the new principal and [Duchesne],” said Marcil, adding, “The government wants to link the new money coming in with objectives, and the government plans to negotiate with each university according to their own mission and own strengths. McGill is very open to the approach.”

“We are sure that under that model McGill will secure some good financing for our students, profs and researchers” Marcil continued.

Additionally, the BoG discussed the upcoming joint Senate-BoG session where, Provost Anthony Masi announced, there would be a joint review of mental health and stressors on students, examining the “risk factors” contributing to student mental health.

Despite happening the same day, the ratification of the Principal’s five-year contract by the BoG – which notably revealed Fortier’s salary – went unmentioned by the members.

The next BoG meeting will take place on November 28.