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Faculty and student committee to review Student Life portfolio

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The position of Deputy Provost Student Life and Learning (DPSLL) will come under review as current DPSLL Ollivier Dyens’ plans to allow his contract to expire on July 31.

“Beginning in early 2018 I will undertake a comprehensive review of the scope and orientation of the Student Life and Learning (SLL) portfolio, with the support of a committee comprised of faculty, staff and students from across the University,” Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi wrote in a Dec. 31 email to the McGill community. “I am undertaking this review to ensure that McGill University has the best possible organizational structure with respect to our suite of student support services.”

The committee, to be chaired by Manfredi, will reassess the SLL mandate to provide services to the McGill community, including housing, recreational opportunities, and medical services.

Dyens will continue to serve as DPSLL while the committee’s review is underway. In an email to The McGill Tribune, Dyens reflected on his five-year tenure.

“[The] Deputy Provost position is both an exciting and challenging post and I found both immense satisfaction [in] the things we were able to accomplish and some frustration when things didn’t work so well,” Dyens wrote. “I fully support the Provost’s initiative to revisit the role, and I look forward to what changes come as a result.”

During his tenure as DPSLL, Dyens focused his efforts on improving safety during orientation week, securing financial aid, and developing various on-campus projects like Skills 21 and Building 21. However, Dyens has also drawn criticism from members of the McGill community for his office’s numerous efforts to restructure McGill’s Mental Health Services.

Athar Ejaz, U3 Engineering, who received psychiatric treatment during the reorganization of Mental Health Services toward a stepped-care model in Fall 2016, explained the difficulties patients faced with the new model.

“Institutionally, I would say somebody who didn’t know anything about mental health but knew a lot about accounting, efficiency, and pure performance […] was in charge of this policy,” Ejaz said. “It’s [the administration’s] dream. We have no waiting times, but we’re not seeing doctors any more.”

In an email to the Tribune, Director of Counselling Services Vera Romano expressed doubts over whether changes to the SLL portfolio would appease students who are dissatisfied with Counselling Services.

“Like other universities, we continue to face the challenge of insufficient resources to meet increasing demands,” Romano wrote. “These are less [of] a problem in terms of the administration of SLL than they are a matter of Québec government funding for mental health services. A change in the portfolio will not address this problem.

Romano says that it is important that the McGill community provide input in the DPSLL portfolio reassessment process in order to effectively improve Counselling Services.

“It will be important to follow the work of the working group that Provost Manfredi is assembling, and to listen to what members of the McGill community, especially students, have to say about any changes that ought to take place in the SLL portfolio,” Romano wrote. “We don’t want to get ahead of that important work, but we will have input into that process.”

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