Principal's Task Force sets stage for change

Principal's Task Force sets stage for change McGill University

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McGill Reporter
August 24, 2006 - Volume 39 Number 01
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 39: 2006-2007 > August 24, 2006 > Principal's Task Force sets stage for change

Principal's Task Force sets stage for change

With one of its three preliminary recommendations already in place — the appointment of a deputy provost who will lead the charge for change — the Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning is winding down its mission.

A representative body of students, faculty and staff, the task force has met, discussed and debated some 160 submissions over the past year, a process that will culminate in a final report to the administration and to the McGill community by the end of the year.

Though illuminating, it seems it's been no small task for task force members.

"It was a lot more time-consuming than I expected," said Phil Oxhorn, a professor of political science and chair of the Working Group on Diversity at McGill and the Internationalization of Education, one of the five sub-groups of the task force.

During the "non-stop meetings" of the past year, the members weighed a broad range of comments and concerns from students, faculty and staff, Oxhorn said, all with the goal of enhancing the student experience at McGill.

"The good news is that we didn't uncover any major problems, which is not to say that we couldn't do better," he said, adding the task force was told, and the university is aware, that there exists a need to create a stronger sense of community at McGill.

Roshan Gulrajani, a law student and chair of the Working Group on the Place of Students in the McGill Community, concurs.

"I see McGill as a place for students; I do not see students as place holders at McGill," he said. Many students get frustrated by the red tape of university life and that issue has been pushed front and centre by the task force. Until changes are put into place, though, it helps for students to keep their eyes on the bigger picture, suggests Gulrajani.

"I suppose many of us have had the experience of having to travel from office to office or of not being able to cross-register or some such. I try not to remember too many details of negative instances, though. Perhaps it's a coping strategy, but I believe the perception of a problem is the most significant obstacle to its solution."

To fulfil its mission of being a student-centred, research-intensive university, McGill will have to overcome the perception - and reality — of dichotomy, according to Gulrajani. "How does one eliminate the perceived tension between becoming a student-centred university and remaining a research-intensive one. How does one remove the real tensions between those two characterizations?"

Another concern for Gulrajani is the fact that Quebec universities remain underfunded compared to their counterparts in the rest of Canada, leaving a shallow pool of resources to dip into. The answer to both issues, he suggests, is to apply "creative and reasonable solutions."

That's precisely what the task force has in mind and will recommend to the university, says its chair, Morton Mendelson, recently appointed Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning.

"The task force has elicited engagement from students and gathered people around the table who might otherwise not have talked about these issues," said Mendelson.

"The fact that I've been appointed is an indication that the administration is listening."

The Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning welcomes feedback on its progress report, which can be found at www.mcgill.ca/studentlife/progressreport.

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"How does one eliminate the perceived tension between becoming a student-centred university and remaining a research-intensive one. How does one remove the real tensions between those two characterizations?"
Roshan Gulrajani, a law student and chair of the Working Group on the Place of Students in the McGill Community