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That great body known as the McGill Senate convened once more on February 1 to discuss hiring practices, plagiarism software and room bookings. On this occasion, the always dignified meetings took on an even greater solemnity as Secretary General Johanne Pelletier let it be known that the hummings of recorders, phones and CrackBerries shall henceforth be heard at Senate no more.
The session formally opened with Principal Munroe-Blum apprising the gathering of a McGill delegation's recent doings in India. She recounted how McGill leaders joined Premier Charest, industry leaders and their academic homologues to outline Quebec's research strengths to an international group that included British PM Tony Blair. The university was also accorded red carpet treatment by the Prime Minister of India, whose daughter and son-in-law studied at McGill.
The principal then noted that a new government in Ottawa has implications for graduate and research funding, and that she and VP (Research) Therien will be working with various granting agencies to explain why research funding is pivotal to Canada's well-being and international competitiveness.
Question period opened with Senator Gowri Sankaran asking whether the administration had any policies, customs or norms that informed the practice of spousal hiring at the university. Provost Masi responded by noting that, though a policy is in place to prevent institutional conflict-of-interest situations, spousal hiring practices are informed by a set of controls and incentives that encourage flexibility. Senator Whitesides followed up by asking whether some departments have been burdened more than others in assuming part of the cost of spousal hires. Masi said he believed that such costs were evenly dispersed and that it would be possible to obtain the exact statistics.
Senator Reed then asked why a policy on text-matching software had yet to be applied despite it having already been approved. Masi replied that the university is waiting until it signs a license with a company whose software is capable of accommodating provisions of McGill policies related to privacy and intellectual property. He added that such a contract will likely be finalized with turnitin.com in the coming weeks and that the upshot of the deal will be better protections than those at any other university.
VP (Finance) Yalovsky then fielded a question from Senator Krajewska about whether convoluted room-booking policies at McGill had resulted in the alleged snubbing of a former prime minister. He told the Senate that his own inquiry into the matter refuted what has been reported in the student press, saying that a Liberal staffer had explained to him that a change in venue had occurred due to security concerns by the RCMP. Finally, he added that the administration is looking into ways to reduce the costs of booking rooms, as well as setting up a web-based booking system.
Discipline was the final order of business as the good Senators were presented with an annual report of McGill miscreants that revealed that there was an overall downward trend in disciplinary matters. Senator Hourani then followed by noting that future reports could be improved by providing a statistical breakdown between graduate and non-graduate students.
And with that, the Senators bid each other adieu, to reconvene on February 15.