Senate highlights

by Karl Jarosiewicz

1995's last Senate meeting on December 6 began with a rather rare question period from members. Professor Maria Predelli asked how plans for a University-wide centre for language instruction and learning were being made and implemented, and on whose authority these plans would be carried out.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Bill Chan responded by putting the issue in context. He said that a workgroup was set up to advise Dean of Arts Carman Miller and himself on the state of language teaching and learning at McGill. The workgroup would consult widely.

There are a number of units which offer language instruction, he said, including the French and English Language Centre, Continuing Education's extensive language courses, and various individual academic departments. The purpose of the workgroup is to devise a strategy for coordinating and "pulling together to create the best environment for students."

Chan said that it was inappropriate for him to comment directly on Predelli's three questions, that they would best be left to the workgroup when it has finished its review. However, he said that "any changes proposed will be considered by the Academic Policy & Planning Committee, the faculties and Senate."

Campaign rundown

Professor Gaetan Faubert asked whether the Twenty-First Century Fund had reached its conclusion. "I understand," he said, "that the end of the campaign was December 1995. Could you advise Senate of any extension? Also, what amounts have been collected so far?"

Acting Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) R. David Bourke answered that the decision to extend the campaign had been made in September at the McGill Fund Council's meeting.

He declared that there are "subdivisions of the campaign which could benefit" from the extension. However, face-to-face solicitations for three of these subdivisions would end by December 31.

The student subdivision has actually exceeded its goal of $5 million with a total of $7.7 million. Faculty and Staff Gifts also surpassed its goal of $4 million. However, the other subdivisions are lagging.

To date the total amount of gifts and pledges totals $182,505,440, of which $100,000,000 is in pledges.

Bourke's written report stated that the "Campaign Office, which had been set up as an independent unit at the start of active campaigning, will be closed by May 31, 1996 and all ongoing activities will be absorbed into the McGill Development Office."

Harassment regulations almost done

Vice-Principal Chan stated that "the Board Committee on the Regulations Concerning Complaints of Sexual Harassment has met many times" and is nearing completion of its work. Nearly all the outstanding issues have been resolved and approved by committee members.

The only item remaining concerns the procedures for a tribunal that would hear contested cases. Because the issue is also part of a discussion on "disciplinary mechanisms for academic staff," the recommendation was made that discussion on the Sexual Harassment regulations be deferred until the disciplinary mechanisms are presented.

Senate agreed.

News not all bad

"I've given this speech before," said Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Phyllis Heaphy in her update report on the budget and its consequences. "It's the good news, bad news, good news speech.

"The good news is we will have $3.3 million more than we originally planned for, for reasons outside of our control. We erred on the conservative side.

"The bad news is that it appears that the grant news for 1996-97 will include bigger cuts than previously announced." While this is far from official, "it is sufficiently certain to build into the budget," said Heaphy. McGill will lose $6.6 million this year and $13.2 million next year.

The vice-principal noted that the faculties will be asked to deal with an 8.3% cut, although 12% had been proposed as a measure to handle "the worst case scenario." Why only 8.3% if we now have the worst case scenario?

"Because, back to the good news, the additional $3.3 million we now have will be carried over to next year's budget as a base item. Also, the projected surplus will be reduced by $1 million."

Some of the "windfall" will be spent on early retirement packages, although it won't cover all costs within faculties.

However, it is clear that "we will not eliminate the deficit in five years," added Heaphy.

Biting budget bullets

Other budget updates included the news that legal costs will exceed the budgeted amount and that the contingency fund of $1.9 million is fast disappearing. The special investigation within Facilities Management "is eating into this." These details spell out the need to set aside additional money in the contingency fund for next year.

"It's important to understand the uncertainty we're working in. We're taking our best shot."

Professor Malcolm Baines asked if the budget could include a breakdown by number of items to allow a more detailed reading of expenses.

Heaphy replied, "We don't have the system that allows us to do that yet, but we're getting there."

Professor John Wolforth stated that "the process is very random. Units that make the right moves (e.g., pay for early retirements) may end up being punished. It becomes impossible to plan, indeed unproductive." He asked for a plan that would "aid those who have to make the decisions."

"We offered a choice to the faculties," Heaphy answered. "They agreed to accept the policy we now have. There was an alternative choice to have a central fund."