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Vice-Principal (Academic) Luc Vinet presented Senate with the semi-annual report on full-time academic staffing changes, which indicated that the University has stopped the hemorrhaging of academic staff by increasing the hiring of new faculty over the last several months.
Political science professor Sam Noumoff wondered about the salaries that new academic hires were receiving. He posited that if new professors were earning too much, it could "create resentments in units" between the newcomers and older professors who have more modest salaries after spending years with McGill during leaner times.
Law professor Richard Janda also worried about "tensions between those who are here and those who are coming."
Vinet responded that if McGill wants to attract talented people, it has to follow the market rate for the new crop of academics, especially in areas where the demand for certain types of expertise is high.
He added that McGill is also implementing strategies for improving the lot of current McGill faculty. The plan is to boost salary levels so that they are at the 50th percentile of Canada's other top research universities. The University's new James McGill and William Dawson programs are also aimed at providing additional salary and research support for high-performing McGill professors.
Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Morty Yalovsky presented the annual report from the Senate Committee on Physical Development.
The report's list of priority construction projects for McGill included construction of a new wing to the Strathcona Music Building to accommodate additional performance, practice, recording and library facilities (cost of almost $30 million, $18.4 million of which will be paid by the Quebec government); a new arts building to house arts departments currently spread out across campus (anticipated cost of $15 million); an information technology building to be named after Matrox Graphics founder Lorne Trottier, who will supply up to $10 million of the $17 million required to build it; a genome building to house the Montreal Genome Centre, the Montreal Network for Pharmo-Proteomics and Structural Genetics and other units ($27.9-million cost. covered by funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation); and a new student residence equipped for about 250 beds ($10 million required).
In terms of longer term goals, the report lists developing McTavish Street so that it becomes even more of a centre for student activities, while moving more administrative units, particularly those that don't interact much with students, to 688 Sherbrooke Street.
Yalovsky stated that McGill is close to selling a portion of its property on Macdonald Campus. The buildings in question, which house John Abbott CEGEP, have been leased to the college for a nominal fee for several years. McGill decided to sell the property outright and has determined its sale price to be about $20 million.
The Quebec government will almost certainly purchase the buildings for John Abbot's continued use, according to Yalovsky. He said a number of legal issues still need to be worked out, but the sale will likely be finalized by the end of the academic year.
Dean of Law Peter Leuprecht complained about the space shortages his faculty is facing, particularly since his predecessor, Stephen Toope, was promised that these shortages would be addressed.
Leuprecht was particularly irked that units having nothing to do with the law faculty, most notably the Banner Project, were occupying space in the New Chancellor Day Hall Building that previously belonged to law.
Yalovsky replied that the administration was looking into ways to move non-law units out of that building "as quickly as possible."
Chemistry professor Pat Farrell raised another sore point: the lengthy, seemingly never-ending renovation projects begun during the summer. Farrell was especially troubled by the work going on around Burnside Hall and the Otto Maass Chemistry Building, which has complicated access to these buildings for months.
"Can we have some assurance that these projects will be completed within a reasonable time period?"
Yalovsky was quick to say he shared Farrell's frustrations over the delays. He added that, because of Quebec government regulations, McGill didn't have final say over the contractors selected for the renovation work.
He noted that lawsuits followed in the wake of renovations done to Faculty of Engineering buildings last year, renovations that took so long, they compromised some of the faculty's teaching and research activities.
Yalovsky said that McGill is now insisting that clauses involving severe penalties for tardiness be included in new deals with contractors.
Economics professor Myron Frankman mentioned that the stairs linking McTavish near the Brown Student Services Building to Dr Penfield remain uncompleted after months and pose a possible safety hazard.
Yalovsky agreed and stated that McGill is lobbying the City of Montreal to hurry up and finish the job.
Graduate student senator Robert Sim wondered if McGill might be able to use any of the Royal Victoria Hospital's buildings once staff, students and patients are moved to the McGill University Health Centre's new building in 2005.
Yalovsky replied that McGill was thinking about using some of the buildings, possibly for student residences, but the MUHC was putting off detailed talks about the future of the Royal Vic, at least for the time being.