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The Senate meeting of December 3 had a full agenda, covering everything from the policy on political events on campus to MUNACA negotiations to the makeup of the Board of Governors.
Provost Luc Vinet gave a brief update on the planning process. Information is available on the web at www.mcgill.ca/provost/planning/cycle. Senator Bernard Robaire asked if chairs of departments would be consulted as to their planning priorities. Vinet replied that he would expect the deans to do this.
In her remarks, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum said the university is keeping engaged with the provincial government's planned commission on higher education.
"The terms of reference are not yet set," said Munroe-Blum, adding that the administration, along with those of other Quebec universities, is trying to ensure that the commission remains focused on issues of funding and quality.
She spoke briefly about the labour negotiations with MUNACA, who have rejected the administration's final contract offer and voted to allow job action, up to and including a strike.
The university feels that their offer is a good one, and is trying to prepare so that a strike, should one happen, will not be too disruptive to the university's teaching and research.
Senator Anthony Paré asked if the university was making any effort to ensure that the MUNACA side of the dispute was getting out to the university community. The principal replied that the university was posting messages on the main page, but making sure all sides are presented is "complicated." (For more information on MUNACA negotiations, see story page 1).
"The administration has been working to put out factual information," she said.
The university's policy on political events on campus is unclear and unevenly enforced. Senator Vivian Choy pointed out that the same group may get permission for an on-campus event one week, but be rejected the next. She put forward a motion that Senate strike a committee to review the current practices and procedures in this area. The motion was seconded by Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky, and was passed unanimously.
Senate went into committee of the whole to discuss a presentation from Robert Rabinovitch, chair of the Board of Governors.
He noted that in the corporate world, the trend is for boards to be much smaller and more efficient. At 45, McGill's board is relatively large. Rabinovitch recommended that the university board be drastically reduced to 18 members.
Paré asked if size was all that counts in making a board more efficient: "Did you look at membership or procedures?" he asked.
Senator Kendall Wallis pointed out that if we are looking to the corporate world for models on governance, we should remember that as they are responsible to shareholders, the McGill board is responsible to students and faculty.
Choy said that under the current board, students have three members that constitute nine percent of governors. Under the proposed new board, students would constitute 11 percent, but would have only two members. She said it would be very difficult for so few students to credibly represent 17,000 people with widely varying backgrounds and concerns that make up the McGill student body.
Senator Sam Noumoff pointed out that no matter what the makeup of the board, the real concern is what it does.
"There's no magic in 45 and there's no magic in 18," he said.
"How do we re-energize it? Let us find a way to get more involved in decisions," he said.