Highlights from the May 16, 2016, Board of Governors meeting

Dear members of the McGill community:

McGill’s Board of Governors convened on Monday, May 16, 2016, for its final meeting of 2015-16. I was not able to attend part of the meeting because I was participating in the inaugural meeting of the new Advisory Council on Economic Growth, a group that has been created to advise the federal Minister of Finance.  Thanks to the input of the Chair and the Secretary-General, I can share the important discussions, decisions and developments from the Board’s meeting.

In accordance with the University’s Procurement Policy, the University has issued a call for tenders for a three-year contract to supply natural gas to the downtown and Macdonald campuses. Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), reported that the University’s current contracts will expire in June 2017.

In concluding the year-long tenure process, the Board approved the grant of tenure to 44 individuals, along with promotion to the rank of Associate Professor or Associate Librarian. In addition, the Board approved the granting of tenure to two Associate Professors. Receiving tenure is an important academic milestone. Congratulations to everyone on this significant recognition of quality and excellence.

My remarks in the open session addressed the following topics:

  • Government Relations: McGill submitted applications for 13 projects to the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, a new federal initiative to improve, and make more sustainable, infrastructure at Canadian universities and colleges. Our proposals focus on upgrading research space and reducing our carbon footprint. We expect to hear the competition’s results in the next few months.
  • External Relations: I participated as a member of three councils over the last month:
    • Advisory Council on Economic Growth: Finance Minister Bill Morneau met with the new council. We discussed four key areas that will drive Canada’s growth prospects: innovation, capital investment and infrastructure, competitiveness and the market environment, and the labour market. 
    • U15: The executive heads spring meeting included discussions with the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Minister of Science, both of whom showed strong support for fundamental research, innovation and the central role of the university sector.
    • Science, Technology and Innovation Council held a meeting, which included discussions with the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
  • Principal’s Priorities: We have made substantial progress on these projects. The latest updates are available online.
  • Advisory Committees have been struck, in accordance with the University Statutes, to select successors for the outgoing Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) and Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). The committees will hold open consultations; dates and details are posted here.
  • Spring Convocation begins on May 31. We will be celebrating the achievements of more than 7,400 students, and welcoming 13 honorary doctorate recipients to our campuses.

I closed my remarks by offering kudos to some members of our community for recent outstanding achievements, including:

  • Professor Graham Bell (Department of Biology) has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in the U.K.
  • The fourth annual McGill Equity and Community Building Awards were held on May 3, 2016, recognizing outstanding students, faculty and staff members for their work fostering links with the local community and nurturing an environment of equity at McGill.
  • Daniel Jutras, outgoing Dean of the Faculty of Law, received the Barreau du Québec 2016 Mérite award, in recognition of his exceptional career as a jurist and academic.
  • The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund awarded $1.2 million to six McGill research projects.                                                                                                                                                               

Three of McGill’s top student athletes – Gabrielle Davidson (women’s hockey), Yasmeen Dawoodjee (women’s volleyball) and Liam Heelis (men’s hockey) – gave a presentation about how athletics enrich their student life and learning experiences. They were joined by Geoffrey Phillips, Assistant Director, Sport Programs and Student Athletes.

On the recommendation of Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), the Board approved the five-year renewals of the SSMU Day Care lease and the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society’s memorandum of agreement with the University.

The Board received reports from the following standing committees:

  • The Audit Committee updated the Board on its meeting of May 10, which included the preliminary report on the Tri-Agency’s findings from its site visit on February 15-18, 2016.
  • The Nominating, Governance and Ethics Committee reported on appointments to advisory committees and Board standing committees, as well as to non-Board internal and external committees. The Board also approved the following:
    • Proposed revisions to the terms of reference of the Audit Committee, concluding the tri-annual revision of the terms of reference of seven of the Board’s eight standing committees.
    • The formal adoption of rules of order and procedure, which codify existing procedures.
    • The renewal of Claude Généreux as Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors, for a further two-year term starting July 1, 2016.

Secretary-General Stephen Strople presented the Annual Report on Safe Disclosure (“Whistleblowing”) for the period November 1, 2014, to December 31, 2015. The report was presented to Senate on May 11.

One of the outcomes of its special meeting held on March 23, 2016, was the Board taking on the stewardship of sustainability, as part of the University’s commitment to making sustainability, and the advancement of the understanding of climate change, a governance priority. The University’s commitment to sustainability is already ingrained in the Academic Strategic Plan and the Strategic Research Plan, both endorsed by Senate and the Board.  As requested by the Board at its March meeting, I presented a preliminary overview of current sustainability and climate-related activities and proposed a number of related University projects that are planned to build on what we are already achieving.  This overview will form the basis for the Board and senior administration to move forward on collaborations that further integrate and expand initiatives, consistent with the University’s mission.

The Board approved several action items recommended by Senate, including:

On a final note, Chair Stuart “Kip” Cobbett thanked Vice-Principal Michael Di Grappa and Secretary-General Stephen Strople for their dedication and service to the University. Mr. Di Grappa’s term as Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) ends on June 13; Mr. Strople’s term as Secretary-General ends on June 30.

The Board will convene for its first meeting of 2016-2017 on October 6. Thank you for your comments and questions during the past year. I always welcome your input: suzanne.fortier [at] mcgill.ca. I hope you have a great summer, and I look forward to again sharing the Board’s activities with you in the fall.

Sincerely,

 

Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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