News  Senate approves changes to graduate supervision

Off-Campus Fellow Program to be extended, Senate composition reviewed

On October 22, Senate met for the second time this year and approved changes to regulations on graduate student supervision and to the composition of Senate. Questions from senators addressed McGill’s policy toward athletes with a criminal record, the promotion of a safer campus, and support for the Off-Campus Fellow Program.

Graduate student supervision

A set of changes to the regulations on graduate student advising and supervision, presented by Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Associate Provost (Graduate Education) Martin Kreiswirth, sought to create mandatory supervisory committees and orientations for supervising professors, as well as to clarify existing guidelines. The changes have been in the works for the past few years, following ongoing complaints about supervision from graduate students that began in at least 2012.

Both Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Medicine Senator David Benrimoh and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) President Juan Camilo Pinto were pleased with the proposed clarification of the student-supervisor relationship.

“From a student’s point of view, it gives me a clear idea of what I can expect and how the [supervisor-student] relation is going to be,” said Pinto. “This is critical for graduate students.”

Arts Faculty Senator Catherine Lu expressed concern that the document was unclear, arguing that it was poorly structured and that it did not make the distinction between supervision and advising evident. “I found it confusing,” said Lu. “There’s no rational ordering to the whole document.”

Kreiswirth urged Senate to approve the document, given that the changes had been in the works for a long time, and that it had already been approved in principle by Senate in May. “It’s time to vote on this as it stands,” said Kreiswirth, adding that he didn’t want to feed into the common sentiment that “it’s very difficult to make changes at McGill, we just stall and stall.”

After some debate, Kreiswirth accepted an amendment to bring the policy to Senate for review after three years, having monitored its implementation. The changes to the regulations were approved, with five senators voting against.

Athletics and consent, and off-campus fellows

Addressing a question from SSMU Law Senator Dan Snyder and VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan on cultivating a culture of consent and gender equity in Athletics, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens reiterated his position that McGill would make no special provisions in that regard. “I will not target one group of students and divert resources,” Dyens stated in his written response.

Medicine Faculty Senator Gordon Crelinsten disagreed, arguing that student athletes could in fact benefit from a “concentrated, targeted program,” because they are “at risk [and] more vulnerable than other ambassadors of the university.”

Addressing a separate question from Science Faculty Senator Tim Moore, Dyens also clarified McGill’s position on inviting someone with a criminal record to join an athletics team, explaining that the decision would be taken on a case-by-case basis, with himself and Provost Anthony Masi having the final say.

In response to Lu who noted that disciplinary action is usually not entirely discretionary, but rather is a ruling that requires a formal procedure, Dyens said that the University was “looking into that process” to see if improvements could be made.

Responding to a third question from SSMU Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Dyens noted that he has asked residences and Campus Life & Engagement to submit a joint plan by the end of the year to extend the Off-Campus Fellow Program, a service aimed at integrating students living off campus into the McGill and Montreal communities. The program’s funding has recently been cut, and its future was uncertain.

Senate composition, building construction lawsuit

Senate also approved revisions to the University Statutes modifying the composition of Senate itself, bringing the size of the body from 107 to 113 members. Masi explained that the changes sought better proportionality in representation of the faculties.

Pointing out that students represent 29 per cent of Concordia’s senate, Stewart-Kanigan expressed concern that the review did not increase the proportion of student representation, keeping it at around 18 per cent.

Robert Couvrette, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) presented the report of the Senate Committee on Physical Development for 2013-14, which details the construction work undertaken during the year. Couvrette explained that the Wong building’s masonry is being completely replaced, even though the building was built only in 1996, because “the stone was installed with bad design. We have a lawsuit for the contractor and the architect on that.”