Last Friday, the Student Consultation and Communication Work Group held an open forum to encourage students to suggest ways of improving communication, and consultation between the McGill administration and student body.
The Work Group was created in October 2010 in response to controversies over such administrative decisions as the closing of the Architecture Café and the conversion of the campus into a pedestrian-only zone. Both issues frequently came up at Friday’s meeting, along with tuition fees and grading policies. Members include faculty, administrators, and student representatives from McGill Assocation of Continuing Education Students, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, the MacDonald Campus Students’ Society, and the Students’ Society of McGill University. They work together to fulfill the mandate to consider and make “recommendations about the methods used to consult and communicate with students,” and to improve trust and transparency throughout the McGill community.
“We can’t solve wrongs that have gone on in the past … ideas about solutions, alternatives [for the future], that’s what we’re looking for,” said co-moderator Finn Upham, of the PGSS.
While the turnout was low, those in attendance confidently voiced suggestions to improve administrative transparency. A common idea was the creation of a central website for the minutes of various university meetings, allowing students to follow their progress. However, others disagreed, saying that, “we need to communicate the narratives, not the bureaucratic trappings.” Committee Chairman Paul Weisman noted that this was under consideration.
Another student said “the problem really lies in [that] many do not know where to begin. You would need a Service Point[-type] structure, to pass on your concern.”
The discussion ended with a joke about the forming of “Complaint Point.”
Another student argued that students’ feeling that they are underrepresented can be traced to a lack of trust between the administration and students: “There is a patronizing parent-child culture and lack of accountability. We never elected these people … we don’t trust them because we don’t know who they are, and they don’t trust us because we are so ephemeral.”
Another noted that the administration seemed to be making decisions in the summer when students were not on campus.
But the focus shifted later on in the talks as one student noted that student representatives need to “do better at consulting our own student body.”
Michael Porritt, director of residences, noted that the student body was often equally split, using the issue of quiet hours in residences as an example.
Several members of the Work Group were absent at the start, including representatives from the Students’ Society. Some students noted the absence of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson as a sign of disinterest.
Dean of Students Jane Everett was in attendance but declined to comment.
McGill is also conducting a survey on consulation and communication, which is available to take online through Friday.