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May 14 was budget day for the Senate. As if that wasn't enough to have on the agenda, the meeting also had reports on Equity, changes in the bookstore, and revised leave of absence regulations. As Principal Munroe-Blum was unable to attend, Dean of Science Alan Shaver chaired the meeting.
The meeting started with a tribute to Carman Miller, who will be finishing his term as Dean of Arts this month.
Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky reported that the Academic Policy and Planning committee recommended that the university's ancillary services take over the running of the bookstore. He explained that McGill had run the store until 1998, at which time the decision was made to outsource the service. Chapters was the successful bidder for the contract. They ran the store as a loss leader, in the hopes that their operations at McGill could act as a foot in the door of the university market.
When Chapters went bankrupt, Barnes and Noble stepped in as a silent partner to the store. With the original contract running out, and the university not having received any acceptable tenders, McGill will be taking over once more.
"Given the experience we've gained, we believe self-operation is the best option," Yalovsky told Senate.
"We don't foresee a difficult transition -- all the staff will stay."
Provost Luc Vinet reported on the end of the teaching assistants strike. Overall, everyone walked away from the deal happy.
"We ended with a good contract that provides good support to students and contributes to academic excellence at McGill," said Vinet (see story on page 4).
Vinet also reported that the Joint Senate Board Committee on Equity had tabled its report. In accordance with its recommendations, a new equity office will be established soon. Its approach would be to educate the university community by supplementing existing policies, rather than creating a new set of regulations.
Yalovsky took the floor once more to present the 2003-2004 university budget. The university is entering into its final year of the three-year Contrat de Performance. For the last financial year, McGill met the requirement to not run a deficit -- or at least not a major deficit. There was a shortfall of roughly $300,000. It is not known if the new Liberal government will renew the Contrat de Performance or address the funding shortfall for Quebec universities.
Yalovsky said major new costs will come from increased academic and non-academic compensation programs, as well as the expected costs for maintaining new buildings. He said the university hopes to increase revenue in areas such as international student fees, which will rise eight per cent, as it did last year. Twenty percent of these new funds will go to financial aid for these students.
"We feel the current funding formula for international students is inappropriate," he said, adding that attracting such students is expensive.
Priority issues for operating expenses include Banner Support, academic renewal, McGill and Dawson professorships and $6.2 million reserved for "supplementary priorities." It is from this last fund that the costs associated with the TA settlement will likely come.
The university's total accumulated deficit is currently $11.6 million, the lowest among Quebec's top three research universities. The total budget for the coming year is projected to be $750 million.
Vinet took the floor yet again to present the revised leave of absence regulations. Bernard Robaire suggested that a clause be revised that the Principal report leaves of absence to Senate, as well as the Board of Governors. Only the latter needed to be informed under the prior regulations.
Associate Vice-Principal (Academic) De Takacsy asked if the two-year limit was absolute -- after all, there are plenty of three-year research contracts, and Senator Jonsson pointed out that serving for parliament is a four-to-five year term. Provost Luc Vinet replied that the principal could grant extensions easily enough. The revisions passed.
Yalovsky gave a brief update on McGill's Health and Safety Audit, which has been awarded to WESA/ENVIR-EAU, Water and Earth Science Associates Ltd. Over the summer, the consultants will check risk areas all over campus. A final report will be presented at the end of November.
Vice-Principal (Research) Louise Proulx gave a preliminary report on the university's Policy on Intellectual Property, which was implemented in 2001. There are still a few wrinkles to be ironed out, such as who owns the intellectual property, and if there's ample protection for students' research. One senator mentioned the slow response time of the office to her applications as a problem. Dean Shaver encouraged people to report to Proulx both good and bad experiences. Proulx will bring the policy to Senate again in the fall.