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Fresh start to Senate
September 18 saw a roaring start to the new senate year. From the procedure for externally funded chairs to the wording of McGill's environmental call to action, senators rolled up their sleeves and got down to the business of orchestrating our University.
Political science professor Samuel Noumoff posed a question inspired by a July 26 New York Times article that reported ongoing discussions in Washing-ton about the possible need for the US government to require pre-publication review of any federally financed research that might raise concerns linked to national security. Noumoff wondered how McGill would respond should that come to pass, and "wants reassurance that the University stands by the freedom of publication." Vice-Principal (Research) Louise Proulx responded that it was premature for the University to take a position on a policy that didn't yet exist.
"There's a big difference between censure and review," Principal Bernard Shapiro weighed in, adding that the debate is an "interesting issue, what with the intellectual property questions of private funding with strings attached."
Senator Patrick Farrell brought up the question of the decanal appointments process, to which there has been added a new extra pre-step of faculty review by incoming principal Munroe-Blum. The Senate is concerned over this new requirement. Principal Shapiro said that the principal is required to consult with the advisory committee, "but is not limited to that committee." The aim is "to be as well informed as possible" before the principal recommends a new dean to the Board of Governors.
Shapiro will ask the advisory committee, over the next six weeks, to do an informal review to answer pointed questions concerning the two faculties that will need new deans, Arts and Education. For instance, how will the major changes coming up in the field of education affect the Faculty of Education?
Seating Ayn Rand
This summer's brouhaha over the proposal for an externally funded Chair in Philosophy of Ayn Rand got people thinking. Noumoff applauded Principal Shapiro's rejection of the proposal, then brought up a motion to request that the administration bring forward a proposal or alternate proposal to establish an institutional review procedure concerning externally funded chairs. How would they be vetted or approved? Should the Academic Policy and Planning Committee (APPC) or another committee be involved? The motion was passed.
Two new teaching programs hit the books -- one is the Certificate in Plastics Engineering, the other is for a BN in Integrated Nursing. The BN would allow for students to do five years of study straight from high school, effectively rolling three years of CEGEP and two years of university into one degree. Associate Dean Morton Mendelson raised the question of admission standards -- would the standards for admission to McGill change for those students who started their degree in CEGEP in order to finish it at McGill? Vice-Principal (Academic) Luc Vinet reassured Senate that any changes in admission would be aired beforehand.
Meanwhile, the teaching portfolio guidelines in the "Regulations Relating to the Employment of Academic/Librarian Staff" have been changed, at the Senate steering committee's request, by the APPC. The "guidelines" for the teaching portfolio have been changed to "instructions" and the language made more direct for those who are trying to put together a portfolio yet are confused over what's mandatory or optional. Still unsatisfied, Senate voted to send it back for retooling.
Concerning staff appeals of denial of tenure or reappointment, the University Appeals Committee made up a task force to look at the prohibition against the chair and the vice-chair of a committee both sitting on the same appeals hearing. The task force recommended, and it was approved, that this prohibition be struck, which allows for continuity and training within the committee.
Last spring Senate approved an environmental policy for McGill, and now the Senate Committee on Physical Development, along with the Sub-committee on the Environment, decided on a preamble statement, followed by supporting action items, to be recommended to the Board.
Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky said it was a pleasure to recommend to Senate the following for approval:
"McGill University shall strive to be recognized as an environmentally safe and responsible institution of learning, and as a model of environmentally responsible living.
"To this end, the McGill University community shall make every reasonable effort to:
"1. Prevent the over-consumption of energy and other resources, the production of waste, and the release of substances harmful to the biosphere;
"2. Maintain purchasing policies which favour environmentally benign, post-consumer, biodegradable, and non-toxic products wherever possible;"
At this point, however, Professor Wilbur Jonsson spoke up. "It could be clearer! It sounds like jargon!" he railed. "'Post-consumer product?' What does that mean?" The wording debate began, starting with the first principle.
Perhaps prevent should be changed to "discourage," Yalovsky proposed? A motion was held.
Bruce Shore said that weakened the language -- besides, "prevent" is adequately mitigated by the previous sentence. That motion was widely opposed.
The second motion was for jargon to be banished, and that post-consumer in the second point become "recycled." Yalofsky said, "You may not know what post-consumer is, but six months from now everyone on campus should." Shore cleared up the matter by saying a piece of paper you've already read is post-consumer, but not yet recycled. That motion also didn't fly.
Professor Noumoff asked, "Will there be a substantive report, not just one that enumerates principles?" It's in the works, he was told. And how about the environmental safety of employees at McGill? Mendelson brought up. Other subcommittees are working on that, Yalovsky said. Back to the language…
How about getting rid of the "over" and replacing prevent with "reduce," suggested Gary Pekeles, director of the McGill Northern Health Program. "I would accept that as an amendment if you'd trust me," Yalovsky grinned. He'd happily use less air conditioning in summer and less heat in winter if we'd let him. Will we get out our woollies for the office come December?
It takes a linguist to get the language right. Linguistics professor Lydia White suggested the first action item become "Prevent the over-consumption of energy and other resources, the release of substances harmful to the biosphere, and reduce the production of waste."
Third time lucky. This one sticks.