Senate Highlights

by Karl Jarosiewicz

Two reports presented at the March 20 Senate meeting indicate that the hiring freeze and retirements are reducing the number of staff in both the academic and administrative and support sectors, and are also easing the burden on the operating budget.

Fewer managers

The first report, Total Administrative and Support Staff Positions, presented by Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Phyllis Heaphy, highlighted the reductions during a three-month period last summer.

"The three months ended August 31, 1995 show an unpre-cedented decrease in the number of middle-management and executive staff paid from operating funds," according to the report. "This unusual change is primarily due to retirements and the effect of the hiring freeze."

The number of Ms and Es continues to decline. In November 1995 there were 605 Ms and 23 Es for a total of 628. This is down one E-level position since August and represents a decline from May's high of 647.

Moreover, while the cost of this many management positions remains relatively stable, less is paid from the operating budget and an increasing amount is paid from other funding sources.

Fewer services

The total number of support staff has declined from 2,911 as of May 31, 1994 to 2,741 on November 30, 1995. Although a reduction in staff numbers and, therefore, the operating budget may come as good news, there is a downside as well.

In response to a senator's question about how we will maintain the same level of services with fewer people, Heaphy replied, "The short answer is we won't have the same level or the same kind of services."

Vice-Principal (Academic) Bill Chan presented his Quarterly Report on Academic Staffing Changes. Excluding the Faculty of Medicine, University totals indicate that departures of professors exceed hires. The large numbers of departures appearing on the charts in each of the first quarters of the last three years "reflect...early retirements."

I can quote me

Making reference to an article in La Presse (March 18) in which Principal Bernard Shapiro is quoted as saying that the University will be drastically downsized by as much as one-third, Professor Faubert asked the Principal to explain "exactly what was meant by this statement."

Shapiro said he would be happy to respond, but following the presentation of the report.

"Quarters are not always meaningful, especially slow periods," commented Professor Pat Farrell. "Besides, both of these reports are out of date by six months; any reason why?"

Recalling Heaphy's comment about reduced services, Chan said that "it requires someone to go after information...but we'll try to get it sooner in future."

Following Chan's report, Shapiro responded to the question regarding his comments to a La Presse reporter. He said that the reporter had asked him if he thought the University could remain at its present size, to which he replied that he envisioned it not larger, but smaller.

The reporter asked "What about one-third smaller?"

"That would depend on policy discussions," Shapiro replied. Apparently, the reporter was persuaded by his own imagination and reported his conjured figure as gospel truth.

"What to do in these interviews--say nothing?" asked Shapiro, as if to say, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." He ruled out writing a letter to the editor to complain.

Degrees of discontent

The 277th Report of the Academic Policy and Planning Committee (APPC) recommended to Senate the adoption of a "proposal for a new master's in manufacturing program" on condition that the administrative and financial details be hammered out by APPC and a review be conducted after three full years. The program would be jointly run by the faculties of Management and Engineering.

Student representative Tiffany Townsend admitted that the "program sounds great, however we're again approving a privately funded program without a policy" to govern it.

She referred to a new master's in management program created by a consortium of universities from Europe, Asia and North America and led by McGill, which had been approved earlier this year. It, too, would have private funding support and higher tuition levels.

Vice-Principal (Research) Pierre Bélanger claimed that it was similar to a master's in aeronautical engineering program that had been created some years ago.

"What makes it different is the level of tuition, which is an administrative issue and not an academic one."

"I do not agree," said Professor Leonore Lieblein. "This affects access to a university program."

Going private

Associate Dean of Science Nicholas de Takacsy opposed it as well on the grounds that "we're selecting our student body; it's not just companies sending their employees here for expensive upgrades."

Further discussion showed that tuition levels were not finalized (approximately $5,000 per year), nor had the number of students who would be allowed to participate been worked out.

Dean of Management Wallace Crowston said that "other students would be allowed on a space-available basis." However, as Professor Malcolm Baines pointed out, "The cap only refers to room size," and it remains unspecified.

Dean of Engineering John Dealy pointed out that the operating funds to start this program came entirely from the two faculties and that the University wouldn't have to pay anything.

Student representative Eric Beaudry claimed that "piece by piece, we're privatizing the University. The only renewal being discussed is in privately funded programs. That's not a good message."

"I share your concern," said Chan. "But publicly funded programs are in jeopardy. We do not have the money to hire. We can either do nothing, or choose the lesser of two evils. To do nothing is to accept defeat."

The motion carried and the program has been approved.

Religious respect

The Committee on Timetabling and Student Records reported to Senate that it wanted approval of a policy for the accommodation of religious holy days. The policy would allow students of all faiths a mechanism so they would not have "to write examinations or be otherwise evaluated on their religious holy days."

"It's already difficult to reschedule due to larger class sizes. How many extra days will be added to the calendar?" asked Professor William Anderson.

Student representative Lisa Grushcow stated that no extra days would be added. The policy tries to defuse conflicts. A calendar of religious days, produced by the Ontario government, would let faculty members know which days different religions used as holy days.

Professor Ted Meighen asked, "Can't we just put it in the regular calendar?"

Student representative Steven Erdelyi noted that "McGill boasts about a student population from over 100 countries, yet we should respect their beliefs."

Dean of Students Rosalie Jukier added that the policy does not seek to disrupt, "simply to accommodate students whose religious observances conflict with the academic calendar."

"Why are we spending so much time on this?" asked Bélanger. "It's only putting on paper a piece of common sense; it's something we've been doing for years anyway."

The policy was approved.

Ending prejudice

Vice-Principal Chan presented a Policy on Discrimination and Harassment that would finally provide the University with a policy to fight discrimination of all sorts.

"There is indeed a need to adopt such a policy," he said. However, he asked that only the first seven items of the policy be approved.

He said that he was waiting for the new policy on sexual harassment to be approved so that the policy procedures for both could be harmonized.

Meighen supported this position, adding that "the sexual harassment policy has better procedures. Bring the two together. I hope that we can resolve both very soon. There's been an incredible amount of work put in by students on this."

The motion to adopt items one through seven of the policy was accepted.