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The first Senate session of the academic year fell on September 14. Principal Heather Munroe-Blum chaired the meeting, packed with senators and onlookers keen to meet after a summer's hiatus.
Before tackling the schedule, Munroe-Blum had a few announcements and updates. She was proud of McGill's quick work offering a helping hand to Tulane University in New Orleans, currently closed due to the terrible flood. Some of their students will attend McGill while the university gets back on its feet.
The Principal is delighted with the progress of public outreach projects from the office of communications, including a public report to be inserted in a national newspaper this winter, and the launch of a McGill research magazine.
The Master Plan for the physical future of McGill is moving along. Open session consultations will be held on both campuses this fall.
As well the Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning will accept suggestions and submissions until October 15.
"We're on a roll," Munroe-Blum said. "There's lots happening, lots to do, lots of opportunity."
Much of Senate was taken up by deliberating the motion put forth by librarians Sharon Rankin and Pat Riva concerning the adoption of revised tenure regulations for full-time library staff. The librarians want to match the spirit of the recent changes to the tenure regulations for full-time academic staff that Senate approved May 4.
Rankin, granted speaking rights, asked that Senate approve the proposed changes made to the current regulations relating to library staff, in a timeline matched to that of changes for the academic staff.
Senator Nicholas Kasirer was respectfully against the motion until the matter be given further consideration. "More deliberation would be helpful, this is not the forum for working on details. With great respect, this should move to the interim provost."
Rankin responded that this was a housekeeping matter, really just a technical issue.
Senator Patrick Glenn said that by not accepting the librarians' request, there was a risk that the university's coherent tenure-process package might fall into incoherence.
Senator Gary Pekeles agreed that this was a housekeeping matter of maintaining the librarians' status quo, and noted that reservations would best be discussed in the next phase of deliberations.
Senator Anthony Paré wanted clarification about how the document represents a serious change to the tenure process.
Interim Provost Tony Masi explained that the regulations' separation between professors and librarians doesn't reflect a committee process. He reminded Senators that the parallel tenure processes haven't actually been around that long. Librarians make a specific contribution to academic life, he agrees, but it is not parallel. He recommended the Senators vote against the document.
Senator Kohur GowriSankaran, in response, felt that two different sets of regulations could be a "nightmare" and urged Senate to vote for the amendments.
Senator Sam Noumoff believed Senate should continue the discussion, but that in the interim they must not deprive library staff of their rights. "Our librarians do have equivalency. They do good work, they do academic work, they publish. They are equivalent colleagues."
Senator Janine Schmidt, Trenholme Director of Libraries, rose to have her say. She's been here a scant seven months, and wished she had a magic wand in her office to solve all the problems. "There are significant issues in the way librarians are regarded in the university," she said. "I'm not much of a housekeeper, but this isn't housekeeping." She has huge concerns about the tenure documents and believes that you can't just bung in the word librarian for professor and be sure it will all work out. "Shall we refer it back to the librarians?" she posited.
Rankin allowed for this possibility, which elicited groans all round.
It was decided the Senate would vote on whether the motion be referred to Tony Masi's office for consideration by February.
A forest of hands went up for. A forest of hands went up against. All were closely counted.
The final tally revealed a tie.
Principal Munroe-Blum then said, "To refer to this matter as housekeeping sets a dangerous precedent." And with her tie-breaking vote, the matter went to Masi.
The rest of Senate was easy. They voted to approve the 373rd report of the Academic Policy and Planning Committee, which included the new minor in sexual diversity studies, a student exchange program with Renmin University of China, as well as the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, part of the Faculty of Law (see story on O'Brien Fellowships, p. 1).