News | Still no decision for Divest McGill

Board of Governors discusses divestment research, more budget cuts in sight

Correction appended July 10.

McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) held its final meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year on May 21. BoG Chair Stuart Cobbett opened by commenting on the success of the recent Canadian University Board Association conference held for the first time in Montreal from April 30 to May 2. Cobbett stressed the importance of the conference in generating francophone interest, as it was a fully bilingual affair.

McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier spoke about her recent meeting with Quebec Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão. According to Fortier, Leitão mentioned a $73 million cut to Quebec universities in the 2015-16 school year. Out of the overall amount, the cuts imposed on McGill could range between approximately $9 to $11 million.

The BoG also approved the Declaration of Compliance to Quebec Treasury Board Pursuant to Loi 65.1, a motion that requires the University to publish or make public any contract into which it enters that is above an initial $25,000 threshold.

Speaking to The Daily, former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa noted that she found this declaration particularly important.

“I think it might be interesting to a lot of students that this is public knowledge on the McGill website. They might find it interesting to see who the university works with and has contracts with,” Ayukawa told The Daily.

CAMSR report on Divest McGill

Three members of Divest McGill attended the open session of the meeting. Members of Divest have submitted two petitions to the BoG over the past two years, calling on McGill to divest from fossil fuels

In May 2013, McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) had advised the BoG to reject Divest’s original petition. Since then, CAMSR has updated its terms of reference to include grave environmental damage in its definition of social injury.

Reporting on the progress of CAMSR, Stuart Cobbett noted in the meeting that that they received a “very well put together and documented petition from Divest.”

“We are trying to work with [CAMSR] to make things as effective as possible,” Divest Campaign Organizer Kristen Perry told The Daily.

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios.”

McGill’s Secretary General Stephen Strople stated that the Board has called on the Royal Society of Canada, a national research council composed of distinguished scholars, to research the potential implications and consequences of divestment.

Speaking to The Daily, Divest member Sam Quigley stated, “With regard to study with [the] Royal Society, we are concerned that it is unnecessary because there is already an enormous body of research, and that it will cause a very significant delay in the process.”

“We want to stress that the mandate of the Board of Governors committee is to rule on matters of social injury, [as opposed to] secondarily commissioning studies to look at the policy implications of their investment portfolios,” Quigley continued.

Quigley concluded, “We are trying hard to respect their process. We are glad they are engaging, but we are a bit disappointed by their lack of regard for their own mandate so far, and we are hoping this will be rectified and that they will consider the social injury question, making a decision by July 1.”

Victor Frankel, another member of Divest, remarked that “CAMSR has given a 6 to 18 month timeline for the Royal Society study,” indicating that the July 1 deadline might not be met.

Newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim, also newly appointed to CAMSR by the BoG, stated, “The hope is that the research will point to fact that it will be a socially responsible choice to divest.”

“I think divestment is attainable,” Ibrahim said.

A previous version of this article stated that newly-elected SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim was newly appointed to CAMSR board. In fact, CAMSR does not have a board and its members are not elected, but appointed by the Board of Governors. The Daily regrets the error.

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