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The face of Senate was considerably changed as it reopened for business on January 15.
The new year marked the welcome of Robin Geller, as McGill's newly appointed secretary-general, and Heather Munroe-Blum, as incoming principal and vice-chancellor. Other new senators included librarian Sharon Rankin and chemistry professor David Harpp.
Munroe-Blum was pleased to chair her first-ever Senate meeting and she invited senators to provide feedback on her style. "We have serious work to do here," she said to welcoming applause. "This is an exciting time and our challenge will be to support the best cause in the world."
Linguistics chair Lydia White presented the first motion arguing for more transparency over salary increases for female faculty. On the question of anomaly adjustments, White noted every woman has a right to know whether -- or not -- they were considered for increases. Currently, she said, "Only those awarded adjustments are informed."
Provost Luc Vinet said that revealing who obtained merit increases, as well as who did not, would be counterproductive. He reminded Senate that anyone denied merit increases can bring the matter before their chair.
"It would be quite unwise, for retention purposes, if we were to tell people they were being considered but not given salary adjustments," he said. "Those funds are used to pre-empt poaching attempts for our faculty and staff."
White responded that most female professors would like to know whether their salary is in keeping with their rank. "I don't think it's a negative thing to be informed."
Vinet countered that guidelines for salary adjustments were well communicated through faculty or department letters, the McGill Reporter and the McGill Gateway.
Education professor Anthony Paré asked Senate what steps McGill had taken to hire more female professors. Vinet replied that McGill is being vigilant, adding that the university hired 37 women faculty, compared with 72 male professors, in 2002. Vinet pointed out that 35 percent of recent McGill hires were women. Given that the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies reports that women represented 35 percent of all new PhDs from 1996 to 1998, Vinet stressed, McGill is keeping with the norm.
In the aftermath of September 11, Sam Noumoff questioned Senate if McGill had been asked to present information regarding foreign teachers and students by foreign or local agencies. Absolutely not, responded Robin Gellar.
If McGill had been asked, she stressed, "we would normally refuse such requests under the Quebec Privacy Act."
Student senator Nick Peters brought forward to Senate complaints that December 2002 exams were disrupted by "intense noise" due to construction in and around the Rutherford Physics Building. He added that Chapter 1, section two, section 9C, of the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, grants students noiseless exam conditions.
Because of McGill's tight exam period, finding enough suitable rooms for exams can be a problem, conceded Dean of Students Bruce Shore. He asked that Senate consider extending the current examination period from 11 to 12 days.
One possible culprit for the overtaxed examination period was the proliferation of new courses, Shore added. Too many finals occurred within the same period last semester, requiring 400 adjustments for students with exam conflicts.
While the move might be unpopular, Shore asked Senate to consider abolishing the December 4 study day to extend the university's 2003 exam schedule. Student senators were adamantly opposed to losing their study day, which serves as a critical revising day for undergrads and grading period for teaching assistants.
Student Senator Nick Peters recommended adding evening exam slots as a potential fix to the exam period crunch. Student Senator Fred Sagel agreed. He said the 24-hour-break was precious and abolishing it would "unduly burden students."
Nick de Takacsy, associate vice-principal (academic), said no solution would be perfect, since conducting evening exams might cause some students to undergo three tests in one day. Shore added Senate should consider extending the semester by one day to allow for a 12-day exam period. Shore thanked Senate for their insights and indicated he would circulate recommendations to the Committee on Student Affairs.
Senate approved a new, 15-credit African Field Study Semester, which will be jointly offered by the faculties of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Arts and Science. However, student senator Vivian Choy questioned whether McGill was entering a slippery slope by offering the program, which will cost students about $12,000. "Are we developing a two-tiered system?" she asked.
Provost Vinet said the program would be approved despite its high cost. "It is better to have it than not have it at all."
The McGill Reporter will try to report on Senate whenever possible provided the review does not conflict with our publication dates, which sometimes cannot be adjusted.