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The Senate meeting of May 25 was a busy one as Senators addressed a long list of topics before adjourning until September. Prominent agenda items included the annual budget, daycare facilities and a new policy to govern campus events.
Principal Munroe-Blum opened the meeting by congratulating the McGill community on recent achievements which have included 19 new Canada Research Chairs and prestigious awards given to Professors Brenda Milner and Margaret Lock. Finally, the Principal announced the reappointment of James Lund as Dean of Dentistry, and the successful completion of the ‘quiet phase' of McGill's capital campaign.
Senator Mendelson then raised the issue of daycare space, asking the administration whether the university will be able to create additional spots for parents in the McGill community. The question was on the mind of several other Senators, who joined Mendelson in noting that availability of childcare may emerge as a critical factor in McGill's effort to attract and retain high quality people. In response, Interim Provost Masi frankly stated that it is impractical for the university to enter a business with which it is not familiar, but that McGill is making efforts to join other groups in addressing the shortage of daycare. Other members of Senate noted that the daycare issue is a large-scale policy crisis in Quebec, and that solving it will require the university to generate partnerships at the city and provincial level.
The Senate then turned to questions of money, as Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Yalovsky presented the budget for fiscal year 2005-2006, which had been recently approved by the Board of Governors. The new budget will continue to implement McGill's long-term fiscal strategy of incurring a deficit for the next several years so as to invest heavily in academic renewal, infrastructure and support staff. Yalovsky noted that future projections see McGill implementing a balanced budget by the year 2009, on the strength of revenues drawn primarily from higher student enrollment, increased philanthropic donations and renewed government support.
In response to the presentation, Senators questioned whether the university will be able to garner more money from higher enrollment without also risking a deterioration in the educational quality McGill presently delivers. Another Senator questioned whether the university's stated intention to continue with ‘internal subsidization' is viable for large faculties like Arts.
Senators also expressed optimism about McGill's present fiscal course. Dean of Law Nicholas Kasirer praised the university for choosing a vision that will allow it to be free from a "short-sighted audit mentality".
Following a lengthy discussion of the budget, the Senate examined other issues, including a paper policy and the creation of a new Graduate Certificate and a Masters program in Bioresource Engineering. The paper policy will help McGill ensure that nearly every one of the 75 million sheets it consumes each year is environmentally friendly.
The final business of Senate concerned a permanent policy to regulate outdoor campus events and activities. New rules were passed, representing the outcome of a series of deliberations that took place between students and the administration. They established protocols for small and large campus events, and set out procedures for hiring security detail. Particular attention was focused on the means of regulating the lower-campus west field. The meeting ended on a lighter note as Senator Mendelson observed that the popular field should receive a name during the capital campaign. "Mendelson meadow?" someone quipped.