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Kip Cobbett McGill University

McGill Board of Governors considers Divest McGill’s proposal

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On May 21 the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) held its last meeting of the school year.

  • The Federal budget

    McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier discussed aspects of the recently announced Federal budget in her opening remarks. Fortier highlighted that the Canadian government allocated $1.3 billion towards the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and $105 billion over five years towards Canada's high speed innovation and research network, CANARIE. She also expanded on the research community's reaction to the budget.

    "Overall I think it's a fairly good budget for universities but I should tell you the research community didn't react in a very positive way," Fortier said. "The budget did not include additional commitments to research led by individuals [….] The investments made [in the budget] are for larger types of research programs."

  • Compliance with Quebec Treasury Board Loi 65.1

    Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa spoke to the BoG about the Quebec Treasury Board's Loi 65.1, which calls for McGill to declare its procurement of certain goods and services.

    "The act aims at ensuring the accountability for the use of public funds through reporting," Di Grappa explained.

    Within McGill's report to the Quebec Treasury Board, Di Grappa stated that McGill had declared a list of all building project contracts worth more than $25,000 that it had entered into between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

    Kip Cobbett, chair of the BoG, also underscored that McGill had amended its procedure for estimating the costs of projects.

    "Until recently, the administration was coming and seeking approval [for projects] before they had really scoped out the cost of a project,” Cobbett said. “Now we’ve authorized them to spend money upfront to get that […] so we hope we’ll have a better picture [of the cost] going forth."

  • Report from CAMSR on divestment

    Cobbett, who is currently serving as interim chair of McGill's Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), spoke to the board about a petition from Divest McGill, a campus organisation that is requesting that McGill withdraw its investments in certain companies such as Shell Oil Corporation. Cobbett began by lauding the efforts of Divest McGill.

    "Let me just remind the Board that we received […] a very well-put together, […] documented petition from Divest McGill,” he said. “Divest petitions are under consideration at many universities, and many universities have reached a decision. We are still in the consideration phase. We will continue to review the submission from Divest McGill and we will invite other members of the McGill community to come to CAMSR and give us the benefit of their views and their input. It’s an extraordinarily important matter […] and it's not an easy decision."

    Stephen Strople, BoG secretary-general, stated that McGill would undertake its own research on the issue with the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), a national collective of Canadian scholars in the arts and sciences.

    "We submitted a stage one draft proposal—essentially we're looking at questions of energy systems transformations," he said. "We're also posing some applied question in the context of the petition relating to how we might best understand the efficacy and the impact and implications of the action of divestment. What are the potential goals of universities to contributing to understanding of systems changes?"

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