On Wednesday, November 10, McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) and Senate met for its annual Joint Board-Senate Meeting (JBSM) at the University’s Faculty Club on McTavish Street. The meeting’s topic was “McGill’s sustainability plans and initiatives,” and featured presentations from three McGill professors.
“Our [sustainability mission] at McGill has three components: teaching/learning, research and service to society,” said Principal Suzanne Fortier in her introductory remarks, “and so for us, it is very important to offer on our campus, and in a variety of fields, not just environmental sciences, [the chance] to learn about sustainability, to teach about sustainability, and also to empower our students to bring that in their activities, not only while they’re at McGill, but after they leave our university.”
The presenters at the meeting were part of the McGill team that spoke at the last Annual Meeting of the New Champions of the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China. All three presentations focused on accessibility in each of their scientific subfields.
“Global agriculture is now being shaped by globalization,” said Graham MacDonald, an assistant professor in the department of Geography, whose talk focused on sustainable approaches in worldwide agricultural systems.
“This is the century of urbanization: by 2050, seventy per cent of wealth – nine billion people – will live in cities. Cities form a vast global network, connected by flows of people, energy, goods, and information,” said Andrew Gonzalez, Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Sciences. “The challenge of this century is to make cities sustainable.”
“[In our research], we calculated boundaries for nine different earth systems, and together, those boundaries are defined by a safe operating space for humanity,” said Elena Bennett, a professor in the Natural Resource Sciences department at McGill, in reference to the different ‘spheres’ of Earth, such as atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, and humans’ effects on these spheres.
She focused largely on the intersection between humans’ social systems and sustainability. “If [humans] stay inside those boundaries, those critical systems are most likely to stay in the safer state,” she said.
While the night’s conversations may have revolved around McGill’s role in sustainability initiatives, no mention was made about McGill’s investments in fossil fuels, a subject that has caused controversy on campus in the past. Last year, the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) released a report which claimed that climate change did not cause “grave social injury,” and therefore divestment from fossil fuels was unwarranted.
For the first time last month, the BoG prematurely adjourned a meeting so they would not have to listen to members of Divest McGill who showed up to shed light on the recent open forums on sustainability.
Once again, the Board seemed unwilling to actively discuss environmental sustainability. Speaking to The Daily, one of the evening’s participants, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of repercussions, said that a member of his table called the whole discussion of the night “esoteric nonsense,” refusing to acknowledge McGill’s role in issues of sustainability.
AMUSE at the JBSM
Prior to the start of the JBSM, senators and governors were welcomed by members of the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) at the Faculty Club’s entrance.
AMUSE, 85 per cent of whose membership consists of student employees on campus, has been working since May to negotiate its second collective agreement with the University. The union commenced a five-day strike on October 28, when they felt that the administration was not willing to compromise. On November 10, the union re-initiated bargaining discussions with the University.
“I just came out of a bargaining session,” said Heather Holdsworth, a member of AMUSE and its bargaining team in negotiations with the administration, “and we’re hoping to increase pressure and awareness among upper administration and power holders at McGill to support and push for our bargaining priorities.”
Having listened to AMUSE members, McGill doesn’t seem to have come anywhere near their demands in recent negotiations.
“We know that the Joint Board Senate meeting is a space [where] people can advocate on our behalf and push HR [Human Resources] to widen their mandate in order for them to meet some of our bargaining priorities,” she concluded.