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Highlights from February 27 Board of Governors meeting

McGill's Board of Governors met last Thursday, February 27.   I am writing to share highlights of the actions and discussions from the meeting, as I have promised to do. 

The Chair welcomed three new Board members to their first regular meeting of the Board.

  • Ram Panda earned a Master’s of Engineering and an MBA from McGill.  He is currently the Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board in Engineering.
  • Tina Hobday, who earned her BCL and LLB at McGill, is the President of the McGill Alumni Association. She is a partner at Langlois Kronström Desjardins.
  • Alvin Shrier is the Hosmer Chair in Physiology at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. He is the past president of the MAUT.

My remarks included the following items:

  • The February 11 federal budget contained substantial investment for research and innovation, including the creation of a Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which will invest an additional $1.5 billion over a 10-year period starting in 2015-16, an additional $46 million a year to the federal granting agencies, and support for graduate student and post-doctoral internships.
  • The Quebec budget tabled on February 20 raised overall funding for the education sector (primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities) by three per cent. However, the budget did not provide details on how much of that increase universities will receive.  The Government is also looking to revisit fee and grant policies for international and Canadian out-of-province students.
  • My main focus in the fall term was to reacquaint myself with the campus community. This term, I am branching out to meet with alumni and friends of McGill in major cities in Canada and the U.S., with some visits in Europe and Asia to come next fall.
  • I informed the Board that all my travel and hospitality expenses would be posted online on the Principal's website, starting in April.

I finished my remarks by congratulating members of McGill’s community who recently achieved major recognition for their accomplishments. These included Professor Brenda Milner who won the Dan David prize, a prestigious international research prize, as well as biology professor Ehab Abouheif and physics professor Aashish Clerk, who were awarded NSERC Steacie fellowships, and Michael Lifshitz, a doctoral student at McGill who won an André Hamer Postgraduate Prize. I also highlighted the McGill students and alumni who helped Canada’s women’s and men’s Olympic hockey teams achieve their thrilling victories. Finally, I extended congratulations to Kip Cobbett, the Chair of McGill’s Board, who received the James A. Robb Award from the Faculty of Law in February to honour his exceptional volunteer work in Law and at McGill more broadly.

In the closed session, the Board reviewed five draft priorities that built on ideas from the January Board retreat and McGill's academic and research strategic planning documents.  Following consultations with student and employee groups, I will present the priorities to the McGill community in an address on March 28. Details of how you can participate in the meeting will be available in the coming weeks.

The Board began the open session by discussing outcomes of the University's Strategic Reframing Exercise (SRI), launched in 2010 and concluded in 2013.  Overall, SRI initiatives generated additional revenues and helped the University achieve savings. The SRI also served to pilot best practices in the planning and delivery of projects, which have now become embedded in the way we work.

The Board approved the new lease agreement between the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the University. The lease covers the use of the student building on McTavish Street until 2021.

Deputy Provost Ollivier Dyens presented the annual report for the Student Life and Learning portfolio. Highlights included the 2013 Consultation Fairs, the creation of the Co-Curricular Record, the implementation of the MasterCard Scholars Program, the new uApply graduate admissions system and a reorganization of food and housing services.

Four Board Committees and Senate submitted reports. Items of interest to the broader McGill community include: 

  • The Executive Committee approved the creation of the Subcommittee on Family Care.  The new subcommittee will make recommendations regarding policies and projects related to members of the McGill community caring for dependents.
  • The Board approved a process designed to provide McGill's Building and Property Committee with more precise project cost estimates for construction and renovation projects. 
  • The Finance Committee submitted the second of three presentations that Provost Anthony C. Masi gave to both the Committee and Senate leading up to McGill’s 2014-15 budget. The University is tracking on budget  to end the fiscal year with a $10-million deficit, as was projected in last year's budget. 
  • The Audit Committee approved a revised Internal Audit Charter that defines more fully the purpose, authority and responsibility for internal audit activities.

Finally, the Board Chair welcomed members of the student team from the Desautels Faculty of Management who won the prestigious $1-million Hult Prize in the Fall of 2013. He invited the students to speak with the Board about their winning proposal to develop insect farming as a source of food for under-nourished populations.

The full minutes from the November 28 open session of the Board, plus a summary of the closed session, are now available online; the minutes from last week’s meeting will be available shortly after the Board approves them at its next meeting on April 29.

As always, I welcome your questions, comments and ideas, which you can send to me at suzanne [dot] fortier [at] mcgill [dot] ca. I hope that your Reading Week is restful and rejuvenating.  

Sincerely,

Suzanne Fortier
Principal and Vice-Chancellor