Senate highlights

by Karl Jarosiewicz

The uncertain status of the McCord Museum prompted Professor John Zucchi to ask if research projects are being jeopar-dized. He noted that the Museum has been without an archivist and that the number of hours that the archives are available to researchers has been reduced.

Vice-Principal (Research) Pierre Bélanger said that he'd like to clear up some misconceptions. He stated that historical archives had not been closed to researchers and that there was no threat of a merger of the McCord's collections with McGill's collections. Furthermore, he said that since mid-January, "there have been substantial improvements made" to the situation at the McCord. Funding has been found that may "soon be permanent."

Bélanger said that researchers are assured of approximately 25 hours a week to access the archives. He also said that the collections are being reordered and the catalogues computerized.

A wing and a prayer

Noting that Dean Donna Runnalls of the Faculty of Religious Studies would soon be concluding her term, student representative Lisa Grushcow asked why no search committee had been formed to look for her replacement.

The faculty has been the subject of scrutiny by the administration for various reasons, including its low undergraduate registration. There has even been talk of converting Religious Studies from a faculty to a department which would be folded into the Faculty of Arts.

Grushcow noted that the faculty was created in 1948 by the Joint Board of the Theological Colleges and an endowment from the Birks family. The Theological Colleges still own the books in the faculty's library and the Birks family endowment continues to support faculty programs. Under the terms of the 1948 agreement, any change in the faculty's status could jeopardize this support.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Bill Chan said that questions about the faculty arose following an annual report prepared by Dean Runnalls. Since the report revealed that only 23 students were majoring in the faculty, the administration wondered if it had "the critical mass of students to continue as a faculty, or if it should not rather become a unit of the Faculty of Arts." A committee was struck to examine the situation and its report was recently submitted.

"On the matter of the [1948] agreement, the committee was silent," said Chan. However, discussions have taken place with the Joint Board of the Theological Colleges, which have been "friendly, cooperative and frank." Because of the ongoing nature of the discussions, the Principal took the decision to defer the appointment of a new dean.

"Why not appoint an acting dean?" Grushcow asked.

"It's an option," admitted Chan, adding, "and most likely to be done." He assured members of Senate that there is no threat to existing programs within the Faculty of Religious Studies.

Statistically speaking

Vice-Principal Chan presented the Winter Term Registration Summary, saying that part-time enrolment is down and adding that "this is a national trend." He noted that this is the first set of statistics since the October referendum and stated that the fact that there is no significant change in the figures is a good sign.

Other figures in the summary show that the percentage of students whose mother tongue is French is up, and the percentage of women has increased to 53.3% of the total student population.

Dean Donna Runnalls took the opportunity to note that, although registration for the Faculty of Religious Studies is low, "it is relatively flat" if compared with the numbers over the years. She also said that many of the students enrolled in Religious Studies programs are from other faculties.

Service fees go up

Dean of Students Rosalie Jukier presented the Proposed Student Services Fee Schedule for 1996/97. Fees will rise by about $2 per term for most students, and about $1.20 for part-time students. This proposal was made by the Coordinating Committee on Student Services, a parity committee composed of faculty members and students. Jukier noted that the fees cover approximately 50% of the real cost of services such as health, athletics, chaplaincy and career placements.

Dean of Engineering John Dealy complained that the placement services "do not serve Engineering students" adequately. He said that the problem may be due to a lack of resources.

"I'm hearing that loud and clear from other areas, too," said Jukier. "A cyclical review committee will look at the issue and will report before the end of the year."

Graduate student Linda Carlson asked if graduate students would be able to "buy services piecemeal" instead of paying a global fee for services they don't use.

Jukier said that the idea is being looked into. "I've been reviewing the history of the fees and this issue has never yet been debated."

Cyberspace vs. real space

Vice-Principal (Planning and Resources) François Tavenas presented two documents: the Senate Committee on Computing Annual Report 1994-1995 and the Senate Committee on Physical Development Annual Report 1994-1995.

The report on computing describes the activities of a selected group of academic and administrative departments, as well as the resources used for computing and information technologies across campus during the '94-'95 period. The Vice-Principal noted that McGill faces an information system crisis in the next few years.

"All of our systems will cease to operate in the year 2000," said Tavenas. The problem is that all the data systems use a year numbering scheme that will reach zero on January 1, 2000. Students' records are particularly vulnerable, but many other systems are affected. The problem is being addressed.

Timing is everything

During his presentation of the report on physical development, Tavenas noted that McGill is the first university in the city to complement the City of Montreal's master plan with its own plan.

"We did this over the course of two city administrations. It was a big political exercise." The result is that procedures for approval of physical development on campus will be streamlined in the future.

Professor Gaetan Faubert said, "We talk about downsizing the University, but we should include our buildings and estate" in the discussions. He cautioned that using real estate as an investment is risky. Furthermore, our deferred maintenance weakens the value of our buildings and adds a financial burden to the budget.

"We have to be serious about looking at our properties and how we use them," he said. He suggested that McGill divest itself of non-essential real estate.

"We're interested in reducing the load," replied Tavenas. "But not during a bad market!"