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The April 13 Senate meeting turned its attention to student fee structures, transgender issues and a host of procedural and administrative details. In the absence of Principal Munroe-Blum, the meeting was chaired by Dean Don McLean. The Principal was away in Trois-Rivières, attending to business that included a meeting with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and an appointment with Premier Jean Charest.
The opening question was brought forward by Senator Rapps, who asked about the progress of renovations to the athletics complex. In response, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Morty Yalovsky informed the Senate that the renovations are to proceed in one global phase, with construction slated to begin this month. The process will finish on schedule in September of this year.
In response to a question by Senator Acheson, Deputy Provost Anthony Masi stated that the administration has committed to providing academic staff with unlimited dial-up internet access. The action comes as a recognition that some professors rely on dial-up internet service when they work from home, and that the four hours of free access monthly that is currently available is not always sufficient. Masi noted, however, that the service is a real cost to McGill and that dial-up access will be eliminated in future years, due in part to the increasing presence of high-speed internet in most homes.
The final formal question was brought forth by Senator Bryan, who asked whether the administration is taking steps to allow transgendered people to be recognized by their name of common usage. Some transgendered individuals on campus choose to be known by a name that reflects a gender other than that normally assigned to their sex. As such, they may be subject to discomfort or a fear of being "outed" when the name that appears on McGill documents (including class lists and ID cards) does not conform to the name by which they have chosen to be identified.
"This is a complicated issue with no easy fixes," replied Deputy Provost Masi, noting that administration is sensitive to the issue and has been exploring solutions. He explained that the question gives rise to a thicket of other issues related to McGill's legal obligations and the integrity of campus records. Although the administration is moving to create technological solutions, it is nonetheless encountering inflexibilities related to these matters. As such, the issue will require further study.
Following questions, the Senate then moved on to adopt the most recent report of the Academic Policy and Planning Committee. The highlight was a new series of regulations for the governance of research centres at McGill and clarify the mandates and obligations of researchers and their centres. The report was adopted unanimously.
Senate turned its attention to a report of the Nominating Committee that asked the body to reconsider how to create the new Committee on Ancillary Services. According to Masi, who presented the report, the Nominating Committee believes that the mandate of the proposed Ancillary Service Committee cannot fit within the statutory constraints of Senate. He recommended that members adopt a compromise position in which the committee would fulfill the wishes of Senate without being tethered to the rules of that body.
Following Masi's presentation, a lengthy debate ensued as Senators ping-ponged opinions about how to distinguish the spheres of policy and governance from that of administration. Senator Noumoff drolly noted that he and Senator Mendelson were in accord for a second consecutive meeting, and argued that, since ancillary services touched upon matters of policy, they were indeed within the competence of Senate. In response, Senator Fuks and others argued that they did not want the new committee to get trapped in endless debates over administration versus governance. They recommended that the committee should be reconstituted based on a new structure proposed by the Nominating Committee. When the question came to a vote, the Nominating Committee's proposal did not receive the required two-thirds support of the Senate. This means that the Nominating Committee remains bound by the original instructions it received from Senate last December.
The last matter of debate at the meeting centred on student services fees, as several Senators asked how much of these fees should be allowed to go to inter-collegiate sports. In response, Senator Shore stated that sports produced significant benefits for alumni relations and fundraising. He went on to say that almost all of the new fees were being dedicated to purposes other than sports.
On a final note, the meeting was the last one for most of the student Senators in attendance. As chair, Dean McLean took the time to thank them for their contributions over the year.