A passion for Senate

A passion for Senate McGill University

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McGill Reporter
May 4, 2006 - Volume 38 Number 16
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 38: 2005-2006 > May 4, 2006 > A passion for Senate

A passion for Senate

Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of Senate. On April 19, the Senators did not disappoint, celebrating the fine weather with a rhetorical tour de force of budgets and student fees that left their back-row fans squirming with delight.

Provost Masi presented the proposed budget for the 2007 fiscal year, noting that McGill is continuing its rolling five-year forecasts. He explained that the third year of the cycle has brought about a recalibration of previous assumptions, resulting in a higher than anticipated deficit that is now pegged at $12 to $14 million. The new figure is driven by, in particular, increased expenses related to recruitment, staffing and libraries. At the same time, certain hoped-for revenues from the provincial government and other sources have not materialized. The school continues to receive less than its deserved share of funding for infrastructure while also being penalized by the fact that the government has decided to pay back the "McGill adjustment" (a funding restatement) in an incremental manner over several years. The proposed budget forecasts, which still have to be approved by the Board of Governors, anticipate an accumulated debt of $73 million by 2010.

The nimble-minded Senators were ready with questions. Senator Henderson asked the Provost to elucidate to what degree of McGill's internal budget was being used to fund the school's partner hospitals. Masi noted that teaching hospitals and clinics were continuing to draw on the school's financial and library resources.

Senator Reed inquired as to how McGill's deficit compared to those of other Quebec universities. Masi noted that it was about comparable to that of the Université de Montréal, and that is considerably lower than both Laval and the University of Toronto.

Senators Harris and Robaire asked whether faculty compacts (forward-looking spending plans created between deans and the administration) will be made public. Masi explained that transparency is important and that deans are currently sharing compact information with each other.

The Principal then took the floor, calling attention to a spate of positive news for the school, such as the governmental go-ahead for construction of the MUHC and the awarding of eight Supreme Court clerkships to law students from McGill.

Question period was next, with Senator Matthews asking whether a proposed new $1,000 ancillary fee for music students will be accompanied by an increase in need-based student aid. Dean McLean noted that private performance costs have risen while the music faculty has incurred numerous costs related to the Schulich opening and centennial events. He added that the faculty is looking into ways to offset any increase with more student aid.

Senator Campeau then called attention to large class sizes in the management faculty. Dean Todd responded by noting that the faculty is in the process of redressing the issue, while also working to increase the ratio of tenure-track professors to sessional lecturers.

The indefatigable Senators pressed on with their questions, inquiring on the progress of files related to reappointment procedures and non-tenure academic personnel. The Secretary-General noted that the steering committee tracks such processes and that its calendar will soon be available on the web.

Never flagging, the intrepid Senators moved to address student fees. The administration stated that, to ensure transparency, these fees will now be presented as separate categories representing athletics and students services. A $9 increase is slated for next year for the services portion of the fee.

Naming policy was next as Masi explained the creation of a new rule (awaiting board approval) that will require a period of two years after the passing of a member of the university community before a tangible asset can be named in their honour. The ever-alert Senator Paré said that such a policy may result in administrative tangles, and suggested that the committee revise it so that it may distinguish between large assets and smaller ones like books. Lori Yersh, making a guest appearance from Development and Alumni Relations, explained that the policy would only apply to large entities like atriums, and not to small ones nor to intangible gifts like fellowships. Senator Upham concluded the discussion by proposing that Senate reconstitute a permanent toponymy committee.

Senate—Take two

On May 3, the tireless Senators were at it again, deftly debating a range of issues from daycare to research, while also finding time to swap bon mots and polish off a full tray of the chamber's famous cookies. In the Principal's absence, the meeting was chaired by the ever able Dean Kasirer.

Deputy-Provost Hurtubise opened by describing McGill's efforts to assist colleagues in finding daycare space. He noted that the school is subject to a provincially-mandated cap on childcare slots in the downtown area, and that other Montreal universities are facing the same constraints. Creating a private daycare service appears unrealistic as such a service does not fall into McGill's obvious purview, especially as the cost to replicate a subsidize slot would amount to $5000.

VP Yalovsky noted that initial projections for implementing parts of the master plan (available on the web) have proved too aggressive, and that the administration will wait until the fall before proceeding. This will allow the plan to better dovetail with other elements of the school's strategic priorities.

Senators were then apprised that the Principal's Office has decided that the Provost, in addition to the VP Finance, was now to be charged with responsibility for budget discussions

On the perpetual question of tenure regulations for librarians, Senator Smith and Provost Masi offered competing administrative histories of the file. Masi said the process may be resolved in time for the year's final Senate meeting.

The floor was then granted to VP Therien, who unfurled his debut PowerPoint show. It revealed that the figure for so-called research intensity has declined but only because last year's stat had been mistaken as a result of a miscalculation by the province. Though NSERC and SSHRC figures have risen, CIHR funding has dropped slightly, producing a concomitant dip in CRC's. Funding from Quebec is strong, though the school still must master the political dimensions of certain granting agencies.

After the usual housekeeping items and a report from the student ombudsman, the good Senators then sallied forth to return one last time on May 24.

Jeff Roberts

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