Senate: double-overtime

Senate: double-overtime McGill University

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McGill Reporter
November 24, 2005 - Volume 38 Number 07
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Senate: double-overtime

The sun had set. The spectators and back-row BlackBerry tappers had long departed. But the Senators remained. In a marathon session guest-chaired by Dean MacLean on November 16, the McGill Senate debated everything from buildings to bookings, from mandates to money.

Parliament, McGill-style, kicked off with a question from Senator Reed who asked whether fees for booking on-campus rooms could be lower, and whether the university would be amenable to creating a workgroup on the issue. Other Senators added that the issue affected faculty members as well. To this, VP Yalovsky responded that the high costs of supplying porters, security, heat and other expenses justified a higher charge for booking rooms during silent hours. The university, however, is looking at proposals to facilitate cheaper bookings.

Senator Krajewska then inquired whether the university had considered a waiting list system to alleviate the jockeying for courses on Minerva that occurs during registration period. Interim Provost Masi acknowledged that administration is aware of this issue, and added that the office of the registrar is preparing a pilot project to address it. The project will be tried out in the Faculty of Law this spring.

Senator Stubley launched a debate on handicapped access at McGill with a question that called attention to a periodic lack of compliance with the university's "Standards for a Barrier Free Campus." The administration noted that a large majority of the downtown campus was fully accessible, and explained that an absence of provincial funding has delayed expanded access to certain legacy buildings. But the Senate also collectively agreed that too much leeway had been accorded in recent design and renovation plans, leading to "unacceptable outcomes."

After a final question related to enrollment numbers in management, the body moved on to peruse a confidential list of candidates who may receive an honorary degree. This was followed by a PowerPoint presentation of a white paper that outlined an ambitious range of future strategic plans and priorities for McGill. These include an increased focus on interdisciplinary research, an enriched student experience, and a greater commitment to integrating new faculty members.

Senator Glenn praised the white paper's commitment to a transdisciplinary mission, but cautioned that the university must take care to ensure that this endeavour is undertaken with concomitant support for libraries and teaching loads. Senator Cooke later added that the plan must also address the issue of academic support staff, noting that clerical staffing levels have yet to return to the those of previous decades, and that students have at times been forced into secretarial duties as a result.

Other Senators challenged the university to engage in a mode of creative thinking that will allow administrative structures to be derived organically from on-the-ground academic collaborations instead of pre-conceived organizational silos.

The place of the humanities was put forward by Senator Smith who observed that they appeared as something of an afterthought in the white plan's larger vision of McGill. He also stated that benchmarking of universities may be inevitable in the present era, but that the choice of an appropriate metric with which to do so remains elusive.

With the afternoon already dragging on, the Senators proceeded into a crash course on constitutional law after it emerged that the Faculty of Education had been inadvertently operating outside its governing statutes. The body ultimately devised a stop-gap measure that will be used until a revised constitution for Education is prepared, and took note that other faculties may come to face the same predicament.

Money talked and then Senate talked money as VP Yalovsky presented the financial report for 2004-2005, showing that McGill continues to run a strategic deficit that will allow it to grow and invest in the future. During the presentation, Senate was amused to learn that McGill bonds carried a higher rating than those of the Quebec government according to Standard & Poor's.

The tireless Senators then turned to the prickly issue of the ancillary services committee, amending its terms of reference to allow two-thirds of committee members to convene a meeting at any time.

As the moon glimmered outside, steadfast registrar Sylvie Franke was called on by Senate to present McGill's fall enrollment numbers and then, finally, finally, Senate came to a close.

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