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It was a sunny Friday, but Principal Heather Munroe-Blum drew a near-capacity crowd of students, staff and faculty members to a Raymond Building classroom for the third Town Hall this academic year. Tough questions and concerns about the future of the campus, accessible buildings and office space downtown for the night-line of the student-run sexual assault centre were the order of the day.
The Macdonald Campus is flush with plans for their centenary celebrations next year, and the development of the campus was one of the first concerns raised. McGill's 650 hectares of Lac Saint Louis prime real estate hold unique opportunities and potential for the University and various ideas have been put forth on the mission of the campus and whether and how to further develop the area.
"We want to keep the distinctive character of the Macdonald Campus… and a process is underway to explore possibilities," said Munroe-Blum. "It will be up to the Macdonald community to explore other aspects of growth as the biggest green space on the island."
One student raised the issue of finding alternate space for the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill's Student Society (SACOMSS), which was informed last year that office space in an academic building that it has been using would no longer be available for use by the student organization as of June 1. The space was lent to SACOMSS as part of an agreement between the University and the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU), which expires on May 31.
Morton Mendelson, Associate Provost Academic Programs and Services, who was master of ceremonies at the Town Hall, took the question.
"We're negotiating with SSMU and we're optimistic we're going to have some kind of resolution," Mendelson said. Professor Mendelson is representing the University in discussions to renew its agreement with McGill.
Money was at the source of many of the concerns and questions raised at the Town Hall. McGill is underfunded and must make difficult decision about how to use the resources that are available to the University, said Munroe-Blum.
"There's no private treasury at McGill (that we can dip into)" she said. "In fact, we're in a deficit situation. We need more money and a better funding framework with government. We will be taking a more aggressive approach to increase our sources of revenue and to encourage philanthropy and acquire more available grant money."
The aging Mac facilities came under the microscope with some hard questions posed on behalf of disabled students. Many of the campus's older buildings require better facilities for disabled students. The Principal stayed behind after the meeting concluded to discuss the issue further with the students who had raised concerns.
Peter Knox, Supervisor, Property Maintenance Department of Facilities Management, said between $2 to 3 million is needed to bring buildings up to acceptable standards.