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The first question in Senate on November 5 came from Senator Philip Carpenter, who asked how McGill reconciled its prohibition of political rallies on campus with two recent events: John Manley's talk in the Leacock Building, and the FTAA gathering by Roddick gates.
Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky replied that the policy consists of a delicate balancing act between the rights to assembly and to freedom of speech, and the risks to property and community. Factors to consider include whether the organization is part of the McGill community, if the event is indoors or outdoors, who is expected to attend, whether security be guaranteed and whether the language advertising the event is acceptable.
Senator Gregg Blachford was surprised that rallies could be stopped at all, and he asked about the decision-making process. Yalovsky said that everyone has to apply to the planning office to hold an event on campus, and they decide in conjunction with administration. Political events are admitted, as long as concerns about potential problems are met. Senator Vivian Choy asked whether students, since they were not consulted about the guidelines, would have input into the decision-making in the future. Yalovsky said that that might be possible.
The bulk of Senate was devoted to Provost Luc Vinet's presentation on the university's undertaking of a new planning cycle -- the why, what, who, how, and when.
Why? Not only is McGill under new leadership, but the university is at the end of the four-year cycle based on CRC/CFI plans. The performance contract with the Quebec Education Ministry is finishing up, there's an upcoming capital campaign and McGill continues its dedication to academic renewal.
What is it? The planning will provide a framework for collegial leadership and decision-making. Part of the process of developing a plan is considering where resources will be allocated and monitoring the implementation. It must be practical, and align all facets of the university, academic and non, from teaching to HR to infrastructure. This will help with getting both governmental and non-governmental funding, and allow for a creative plan to unfold over much of this decade.
What has to be done?
All units should develop a plan, called a "compact," develop tools and set up processes. The compacts will express the unit's mission in respect to teaching, recruitment, enrolment, research and space needs. Also, each compact should list partners and budgetary requests.
The aim is to improve quality and relevance of each unit, to be involved with the most promising areas of teaching and research best suited to McGill. "We must be responsible to our students," Vinet said, "and see that their time at McGill is spent constructively." This includes looking at the curriculum's interdisciplinary and pedagogical models. Will we need to prune in order to grow?
The hot spots to look at include teaching, graduate programs, research, academic renewal, support staff, space and partnerships (both within the university, and outside).
Who? Everyone is invited to contribute, and the deans and chairs are responsible for the administrative process, Deputy Provost Tony Masi is in charge of support and data functions, while the Academic Planning Group heads up steering.
How? The development of the compacts will be done through deans meeting with each other and with groups and individuals. Guideline documents will be made available soon. The first drafts of the compacts rest with the faculties, who will provide profiles.
Then a multi-year budgetary model will be set up, and we'll all see what leeway there is. The follow up lies in the hands of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance). They'll provide and benchmark data analysis, review the program, oversee finances and monitor the implementation of the compacts, adjusting where appropriate.
When? The first draft of the process happens from the middle of November till the end, and then the early part of December will see the deans present preliminary plans and faculty profiles to the Principal and Vice-Principals. In mid-December, the Provost will send a summarizing memo to the deans. Further rounds of meetings will occur in February, and by the end of that month, the compact will be finalized. Mid-March will see the Provost's resource recommendations.
As soon as Vinet finished the presentation, a rash of queries and responses came from the floor. By and large, Senators appreciated the report's clarity.
The first question, no doubt on the mind of many, came from Senator Sam Noumoff. Why use the term compact, he asked, "instead of all sorts of marvellous alternatives?" That answer remains shrouded in the mists of the office of the Deputy Provost, as Anthony Masi, was not at the meeting.
Noumoff followed with a comment about the variation in performance indicators across campus, and urged everyone to keep those in mind when evaluating success.
Noumoff also said that "these notions suggest that we're moving in a common direction. One of our strengths is that we move in all directions." He hopes this university virtue will not be impeded. As an example of McGill's multidirectional bent, he pointed out that the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies would necessarily lead to interdisciplinary graduate supervision, instead of single supervisors, and hinted at contention over this issue. Vinet commented that either modes are relevant. "We cannot fault or criticize colleagues for co-supervision of graduate students."
Senator Lydia White said that the timeline seemed unrealistically short, if the process is to include units under the faculty level. Vinet said that the faculty consultation process was ongoing.
In response to a range of queries, some parts of the process are still being developed, Vinet said, such as consultation with faculty members and the role of non-academic staff. He hopes that students will be included in the dialogue.
Vinet also assured Senate that the data will be used to inform the plan discussion, not to strictly and quantifiably measure different units by the same stick.
There were a few concerns about the short timeline, to which Vinet replied, "We need to be realistic, but we need to be ambitious." The university will be kept apprised of the plan's progress through a website.
"Before we sign off on the compact, we have to make sure everyone signs on," Vinet said.
The Reporter will write on Carol Cumming Speirs' report on her five-year tenure as Ombudsperson for students in the next issue.