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McGill University Arts Building
(Hayley Mortin / McGill Tribune)

McGill 101: An introduction to campus governance

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With nearly 50,000 students, faculty members, and employees, McGill University has a comprehensive system of governance. Here's your introduction to the administrative structure at McGill, with a deeper look at SSMU, PGSS, McGill's Senate, and the McGill Board of Governors.

SSMU

Who they are

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) represents all undergraduate students on the downtown campus. It also advocates for students’ interests to the university at large, and at the provincial and federal levels for issues such as affordable and high-quality higher education.

What they do

SSMU provides many services to undergraduate students, including support and administration of student clubs, the Student-Run Cafeteria (SRC), mini courses, and Gerts Bar. SSMU is also a governing body for undergraduate students. Its Legislative Council is the legislative body for undergraduate students, and is comprised of six executives and councillors elected from various student constituencies. SSMU also sends 13 senators to the Senate to represent members in the university legislative process. At least once a semester, SSMU holds a General Assembly (GA) which allows its constituents to debate and vote on changes to the society.

Recent accomplishments

ation alongside The Nest. This new cafeteria will provide expanded food options as well as employment opportunities for students. Last year, the Legislative Council passed a motion to increase support of the Peer Support Network by assisting in the establishment of a permanent space for the group in order to increase mental health resource options for students. 

PGSS

Who they are

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) represents graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to the McGill administration and to various groups at the provincial and federal level. It is comprised of six executives, four commissioners, and eight staff members charged with various responsibilities.

What they do 

PGSS Council governs PGSS activities and sets policy. It is made up of representatives from various faculties, and meets monthly. PGSS also holds general meetings and social actvities for graduate students. They run the Thomson House, a restaurant and bar for members that also hosts many events. PGSS also provides various services, including health plans and family programs. It is a support organization for graduate students, and provides many resources for getting the most from a McGill education, while also advocating on behalf of students to external organizations.

Recent accomplishments

Last year, PGSS finished a three-year campaign lobbying the University to reduce international student health care plan prices. The campaign successfully successfully lowered healthcare costs for all international students at McGill.

Senate

Who they are

Senate is an administrative body with jurisdiction over academic policy, and serves as a forum for a broad representation of voices within the McGill community. Among  the Senate’s 107 voting members are faculty deans, representatives from the Board of Governors, professors, support staff, students, and representatives from McGill’s senior administration. Thirteen student senators are elected each spring to represent each academic faculty, while four members represent the PGSS.  

What they do

The Senate includes nine standing subcommittees; among them are the Joint Board-Senate Committee on Equity, the Committee on Student Services, and the Honourary Degree and Convocations Committee.  There are a number of additional committees  focused on university regulations, such as the Advisory Council on the Charter of Students’ Rights, and the Committee on Student Discipline. Senate meets monthly during the academic year on Wednesdays, beginning at 2:30 p.m. in room 232 of the Leacock Building. The meetings are usually open to the general public, as well as available to watch via a livestream on the Senate website.

Recent accomplishments

In January, 2015, the Senate passed a motion implementing a new policy allowing students in extreme situations, such as mental or physical illness, to withdraw from all courses they took in a semester without this action being marked on their transcript. This action, advocated for by student Senators, directly impacts those students experiencing extenuating circumstances.  In 2013, the Senate approved a resolution taking an official position against Bill 60, the Quebec charter of values. This action on their part would ensure that if the Bill were passed, McGill University would not take disciplinary measures against individuals in violation of it.

McGill Board of Governors

Who they are

McGill’s Board of Governors is the governing body of the University. It has final authority over all of McGill’s conduct and affairs. The Board is composed of two student observers and 25 voting members— including Principal Suzanne Fortier, Chancellor Michael Meighen, 12 members at large, three alumni representatives, two academic staff representatives, two administrative staff representatives, and two student representatives, one each from SSMU and PGSS. The two student observers, who come from the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society and the McGill Association of Continuing Studies, sit in on Board meetings but cannot vote.

What they do

The Board is the trustee of all university property, making them responsible for maintenance and administration. The Board also oversees the appointment of university personnel, including the principal, and determines their salaries and benefits. In addition to this, University finances, investments, ethics and human resources falls under their jurisdiction. The Board’s authority and extent of its power are outlined in McGill’s statues. With meetings generally held six times per year, all members of the McGill community are invited to attend open session Board meetings. The first board meeting of the 2015-2016 school year will be held on Oct. 8 at 4:00 p.m. 

Recent accomplishments

During the Board’s final meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year, the Declaration of Compliance to Quebec Treasury Board Pursuant to Loi 65.1 was passed.  This motion requires the University to make public any contract it enters into above $25,000. Students, staff, and the public can now access this information through the McGill website and see who the University has contracts with. 

This article is a part of our McGill 101 issue, which aims to ease your transition and answer questions you have about McGill and Montreal.

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