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What makes a university great and how does McGill University rate? Those were the questions McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum hoped to tackle at the March 4 Town Hall meeting, held in the Student Society Ballroom of the University Centre.
Despite the venue, Prof. Munroe-Blum got her answers mainly from faculty and staff – a turn of events that Kelly Ebbels, co-ordinating news editor at the McGill Daily student newspaper, suggested during the session's Q&A might have been due to the fact many students were busy with midterms, attending classes and Students' Society of McGill University elections.
Still, the informal session touched on a number of issues Prof. Munroe-Blum said the administration is either already working on or will start to work on in the near future.
"Your suggestions inform our work as the administrators of McGill," she said toward the end of a preamble in which she lamented the lack of opportunities her schedule permits to receive such suggestions first-hand. She drove home the point during the Q&A.
"One of the advantages of the Town Halls is that I get to learn about things I didn't know about," she said in response to a question from architecture student Mehran Gharaati, who complained of a lack of space and funding for graduate students in architecture, an issue Prof. Munroe-Blum promised to investigate.
When biology student and McGill Sailing Team coach Tyler Hunt suggested the university could do a better job of engaging students in campus life by providing greater funding for "third-tier" sports teams, Prof. Munroe-Blum noted that, though "speaking as a complete non-athlete," she appreciates the team-building and camaraderie that come with participation in university sports and hopes to meet with McGill Athletics to determine priorities and discuss ways of using philanthropy as a means of boosting funding for sports.
Other questions prompted Prof. Munroe-Blum to tout McGill's efforts toward increasing the visibility and viability of the University's aboriginal community; its burgeoning training program for teaching assistants; its upcoming partnership-building mission to China to promote international research collaborations; and the decision to earmark revenues from a recent increase in on-campus parking fees to help fund environmental sustainability projects.
Town Hall moderator Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning, encouraged all members of the McGill community to submit further comments or questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.