Volume 29 - Number 14 - Thursday, April 10, 1997

Senate Highlights

by Karl Jarosiewicz

Professor Sam Noumoff called on Senate at its April 2 meeting to endorse a motion reading: "Be it resolved that Senate recommend to the administration the establishment of the position of Faculty Ombudsperson, and that the administration report back to Senate its disposition of this recommendation."

Relief from anxiety

Noumoff stated that such an ombudsperson position would comple-ment "longstanding procedures" by helping arbitrate cases where rules were open to interpretation.

He said that during these changing and uncertain times, stresses were mounting and special efforts had to be made to offset negative feelings. "The cost would be small in comparison" to the anxiety the ombudperson could relieve.

"There will be costs," remarked Vice-Principal (Research) Pierre Bélanger. He listed office overhead, a part- or full-time secretary, a faculty liaison, and the salary of the person filling the position. "The cost is too high," he concluded, especially in these fiscally tight times.

Professor Leanore Lieblein was not as fault-finding and proposed a friendly amendment. She suggested changing the name from "faculty" ombudsperson to "academic" ombudsperson to include librarians in the constituency.

The motion was adopted by Senate. A response from the administra-tion will be forthcoming.

Eight Leacocks short

McGill is suffering from a space deficit, said Chuck Adler, director of Physical Resources, who was invited to present the Annual Report on Physical Development to Senate. The campus actually has about 500,000 square feet less than the Ministry of Education calculates is needed for McGill's population and its needs.

"That is about the same size as eight Leacock Buldings," said Adler, putting the problem into tangible terms.

He noted that several new projects will help alleviate some of the space problems. The recently completed M.H. Wong Building, the pro-posed new student services building, and the new Law library will each help specific departments and faculties.

Upcoming renovation projects include work on the space vacated in the old Law library area and the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building garage. This latter work should begin in about a month's time.

Adler informed Senate that the ministry has asked McGill to phase out the space it rents in many downtown office buildings. Currently, the University rents space which the provincial government subsi-dizes at a rate of about 75%. McGill is among the last of Quebec's universities to benefit from this plan.

The ministry now prefers to hand over a lump sum that will enable McGill to purchase a property. "We're looking at some space close to campus," he said.

Seeking renovations donations

As far as the quality of our space goes, Adler admitted, "We're struggling. The backlog of deferred maintenance will cost $136 million. Conservatively speaking, $15 million a year will help us to slowly work at the problem." Unfortunately, McGill doesn't receive that much from the ministry.

He stated that "we're using a three-pronged approach" to deal with the situation. Physical Resources has applied for capital money from the ministry which may soon become available. They're also taking the approximately $6 million a year allocated in the budget to spend on building maintenance and stretching it as far as it will go.

Finally, Adler said his department is beginning to do private fundraising which requires carefully planned, attractive projects. Donors who would otherwise be unlikely to donate to building maintenance might be enticed if the project was the restoration of an historic McGill building.

Adler mentioned that the $1.5 million he had earmarked for deferred maintenance this year would be supplemented by contributions from other less traditional sources. "Some deans will kick in funds this year. We've had a very good response [from these deans]."

He also noted that McGill libraries have more books per student, a greater number of seats, and more technical support than the ministry's standards require. We surpass the Quebec average, but instead of helping, this translates into less support and sympathy from the ministry.

Back to the future

Principal Bernard Shapiro presented his document Renewal at McGill. This document represents the culmination of the Macdonald Commission, the P&P and the APPC reports based on the discussion paper Towards a New McGill.

Professor Sam Noumoff made a motion to expand the discussion of the document into something much more profound. He stated that Senate had missed an opportunity to seriously debate some important issues, such as what size the University should become and which units were fundamental to its mission as a teaching and research institution.

"You chastise Senate," Noumoff said to Shapiro in reference to his document. "Surprisingly, I agree with you."

Shapiro noted that he had also commended Senate for keeping its vision of the University fixed to reality. "People got off the vision track and tried to think more concretely." In his report he did, however, call Senate's approach to some of the more controversial elements "relatively cautious (fearful) but, nevertheless, constructive."

The discussions to date in Senate on the APPC and P&P reports have focused on the individual recommendations and how they would work in the real world. Now, said Shapiro, the task remaining is to figure out "how the recommendations relate to each other," producing a vision for the future of McGill.

Senate agreed to continue discussion at an upcoming meeting of five or six key points which the principal will cull from the larger set of issues.

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