McGill Senate discusses student discipline procedures; addresses plans for research funding

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The Nov. 14 McGill Senate meeting discussed the annual report of the Committee on Student Discipline (CSD). Senators also heard a presentation by Vice-Principal Research and International Relations Rose Goldstein on McGill’s research funding performance, which outlined how McGill can expand its funding for research.

Interim Dean of Students Linda Starkey presented the CSD’s annual report to Senate on the student disciplinary cases that were addressed and resolved during the 2011-2012 academic year.

The report notes that the total number of allegations was slightly higher this past year than in 2010-2011, with 427 cases compared to 408 in the previous year. The non-academic allegations made against students increased by 48 per cent, from 193 to 286.

“This increase can be attributed to improved reporting of e-mail harassment or inappropriate use of McGill posting sites; the growing number of residence spaces; and the campus atmosphere last year,” the report said.

Last year, several students faced disciplinary allegations after McGill Security Services videotaped students at rallies and protests on campus, including an occupation of the sixth floor of the James Administration Building. Science Senator Moe Nasr questioned the role of McGill Security Service within the disciplinary procedure at McGill.

According to Starkey, the mandate of Security Services is not to accuse a student of violating a specific protocol, but to report alleged violations to a disciplinary officer.

Catherine Lu, an associate professor of political science, expressed concern over whether the CSD displayed equity in sanctioning punishments.

“There were different penalties that came out of similar offenses,” Lu said. “What needs to be done institutionally to correct this for the future?”

In response, Starkey explained that CSD does not issue standard sanctions, and that every case is heard and assessed individually.

Several students attended the Senate meeting to observe Starkey’s presentation. Some held a large red sign that read ‘McGill’s Committee on Squashing Dissent.’

“We are here because the University’s rules and procedures related to student discipline are interpreted and applied inconsistently and with bias against known student activists,” read a flyer that the group distributed at Senate.

Senators also voted to endorse McGill’s new Strategic Research Plan (SRP) for 2013-2017. The plan guides how McGill will improve its research capabilities and is a required document for many external funding programs from which researchers at McGill receive funding—such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The previous plan was adopted in 2006.

Almost 75 per cent of McGill’s current research funding comes from the federal and Quebec governments. Presently, McGill places second in rankings of research universities conducted by the Tri-Council Agencies, federal agencies which provide a majority of research funding in Canada. Goldstein said the new plan aims to diversify research funding and to help McGill overtake the University of Toronto as the top-ranked University for research intensity.

“We need to reorganize funds if we are going to be competitive in the next few years,” Goldstein said. “Provincial and federal pools are not growing … we need to diversify.”

Several senators expressed concerns over the SRP’s logistics, including the source of the potential new funds. According to Goldstein, McGill plans to launch a Business Engagement Centre to reach out to new businesses for funding.

Brendan Gillon, associate professor of linguistics, expressed concern about how the growing role of external organizations might affect the topics chosen for research, and about the possibility that McGill might consequently see less curiosity-driven research.

Senate also passed a motion to broadcast their sessions on the Internet for a one-year trial period, starting in January 2013. These broadcasts will only be available to members of the McGill community, and will be accessible through a password-protected login.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Recording and Transmission of Senate Meetings brought this motion forward with the intention of making Senate meetings more accessible to the McGill community.

“We want to have engagement from the broad university community,” Chandra Madramootoo, chair of the committee and dean of agricultural and environmental sciences, said.