Highlights from the April 28, 2015, Board of Governors meeting

Dear members of the McGill community:

McGill’s Board of Governors convened on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, for their fourth meeting of 2014-15. Here are the important discussions, decisions and developments from that meeting.

During the closed session, the Board approved the recommendations of two Decanal Advisory Committees. Congratulations to Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, who has been named the next Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, and to Anja Geitmann, the next Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Associate Vice-Principal (Macdonald Campus). Professor Bajeux-Besnainou will be coming from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and begins her new appointment on January 1, 2016. Professor Geitmann is joining us from the Université de Montréal. She begins her term on September 1, 2015.

I am pleased to report that the Board approved the recommendations of the Statutory Selection Committee to promote 11 associate professors. Congratulations to these new full professors on this recognition of excellence in their teaching, research and scholarly activities.

My remarks in the open session addressed the following topics:

  • Government relations
    • Provincial budget: After the Quebec government tabled its 2015-2016 budget on March 26, Provost Tony Masi made a statement to the community outlining the foreseeable impact on McGill.
    • Royal Victoria Hospital: The RVH moved to the new Glen site last week. We are in discussion with the Quebec government regarding the terms of a feasibility study to explore ideas for using the vacated space.
    • Federal budget: On April 21, Finance Minister Joe Oliver tabled a budget that includes an investment of more than $1.5 billion in research and innovation, including $1.33 billion in research infrastructure support through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and an additional $46 million per year for the federal granting councils. The budget also includes a number of changes to the student loans program, for example eliminating the in-study student income needs assessment process, which penalizes post-secondary students who work. 
  • Advisory Search Committee: We have struck an eight-person committee to select a new Executive Director of Athletics and Recreation. Board member emeritus Michael Richards is chairing the committee.
  • Spring Convocation: We announced our 16 honorary doctorate recipients last week. Convocation will run from May 26 to 29 and June 1 to 3.
  • McGill Event on the Hill: On May 14, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Minister of Health, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) will host a breakfast on Parliament Hill to recognize the scientific achievements of five McGill researchers who recently won international prizes: Alan Evans, Brigitte Kieffer, Michael Meaney, Brenda Milner and Nahum Sonenberg.

I closed my remarks by applauding some particularly outstanding achievements by members of our community:

  • Professor Victoria Kaspi (astrophysics) and Professor Margaret Lock (social studies in medicine) have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Kaspi has also been awarded the 2015 Killam Prize for the Natural Sciences from the Canada Council for the Arts.
  • Nahum Sonenberg was one of 21 researchers, from 15 countries, elected to the National Academy of Sciences as a foreign associate.
  • Four McGill researchers were named new Canada Research Chairs: Jonathan Chevrier (epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health), Dr. Susan Kahn (medicine), Amine Kamen (bioengineering) and Vahab Soleimani (human genetics). Two other chairs were also renewed, representing a total of $6.6 million in new funding over the next five to seven years.
  • Sandy Stanutz, a postdoctoral fellow with the McGill Youth Study Team, and professors Jacob A. Burack and Ève-Marie Quintin received a GRAMMY Foundation Grant for their research on the links between music and autism. They are the only Canadian recipients this year.
  • Hockey centre Cedric McNicoll and basketball forward Mariam Sylla were named student athletes of the year at the 38th annual McGill varsity sports awards gala.

The Board approved the following items:

  • McGill’s FY2015-2016 Budget: Provost Tony Masi reported that measures taken in recent years have allowed the University to better absorb a series of provincial budget cuts. The Board approved the budget for FY2015-2016, which continues to focus on McGill academic priorities.  The budget projects a modest deficit through continuing to apply the constraint measures used in FY2014-2015. The Provost’s presentation is available here.
  • The reappointment of three Board members-at-large: On the recommendation of the Nominating, Governance and Ethics Committee, Gerald Butts, Peter Coughlin and Samuel Minzberg will each begin second terms on January 1, 2016.
  • Renovations to Otto Maass Chemistry and Pulp & Paper buildings: The Building and Property Committee recommended renovations to house the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Green Chemistry and Green Chemicals.

The Board received reports from the following standing committees:

  • The Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility has received a petition from Divest McGill. Since early February, CAMSR has met three times to discuss the submission, and will meet again on May 8.
  • The Executive Committee reported on the approval of four motions:
    • Contracts of affiliation with the Jewish General Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital: A memorandum of agreement for submission has been submitted to Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services for approval.
    • Renewal of the energy production and distribution infrastructure at Macdonald Campus
    • New software for the Human Resources Information System
    • Updating of the network and telephony infrastructure
  • The Joint Senate-Steering & Executive Committee announced the topic of the 2015-2016 Joint Board-Senate meeting: “Designing a Smart Campus for the 21st Century.”  The meeting will be held on November 3, 2015.

I reported on the April 22 Senate meeting, where the main item of business was the FY2015-2016 Budget. The Board approved revisions to the University’s mission statement, as put forward by Academic Policy Committee and Senate

The meeting concluded with a presentation on the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. The program’s manager, Andrew Biteen, and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens discussed the initiative, which brings academically talented scholars from economically disadvantaged Sub-Saharan African communities to study at McGill. One of the current scholars, Emefa Agbeshie, a physiology undergraduate student from Ghana, spoke about her experience at McGill and in the program.

I will share key actions and discussions from the Board’s final meeting of 2014-2015, which will be held on May 21, 2015. (The Board’s 2014-2015 schedule is here.) The minutes from the previous meeting's open session, held on February 2, 2015, plus a summary of items dealt with during that meeting’s closed session, are now available; the minutes from this week’s meeting will be available following approval by the Board in May.
I welcome your thoughts, ideas and questions. You can always contact me at suzanne.fortier [at] mcgill.ca.


Suzanne Fortier
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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