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Senate discusses funding for Office for Students with Disabilities

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Allocation of government funding for students with disabilities

Arts & Science Senator Chloe Rourke expressed concerns regarding funding for services for students with disabilities, including the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD), in conjunction with the uncertainty behind McGill’s budget cuts. 

In response, Provost Anthony Masi stated that although it is difficult to balance the needs of each aspect of McGill, every effort is being made to ensure a fair allocation is attained.

“We are not cutting full support because it is an important part of education,” Masi said. “For example, we had a $1.4 million grant marked for internships [from the government], which has completely disappeared [….] We cannot increase funding just because it’s an important service, a whole educational system has to be considered here.”  

Engineering Senator Morgan Grobin stated that there had been OSD workshops cut in favour of giving money to internship funding. However, numerous people, including Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens stated that they were unaware of such transactions. 

“I wasn’t made aware of the fact that the [OSD] wasn’t able to function,” Dyens said. “I take issue with this and and I will go back and discuss this with Student Services.”

Principal Suzanne Fortier added that McGill has the largest funding for students with disabilities in the province. 

“When I look at the figures, [the fact that] 40 per cent of students recieve [services] is not because we have more people in need, but because we offer more [services],” she said.

Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon requested increased transparency in all of McGill’s funding. 

“How are we going to ensure that this office is going to be supported at the same level it is now with future emerging needs?” he questioned. “Would it be possible to have all the different breakdowns of where the money is going?” 

Masi denied this request on the grounds that it would be impossible to accomplish.

“We can guarantee only what we can afford to guarantee,” he said. “I cannot guarantee to put more money into [the OSD] because of budget cuts. There are aspects of it that may need to be ‘redimensioned,’ but it is impossible to be [completely transparent].” 

Faculty advisors to student ratios

Greenspon also asked a question regarding the disparities in the ratio of faculty advisors to students, as well as how McGill planned to address them.

In their written response, Masi and Dyens pointed to a number of initiatives McGill has undertaken in previous years to address a shortage of advisors to students, including the online resource ‘Ask an Advisor,’ an interactive database of frequently asked questions; ‘AskMcGill,’ and the Staff-Student mentoring program. 

Dyens stated that were many factors contributing to student dissatifaction.

“There are many things that [students] are not satisfied with,” he said. “It can be an [administrative] thing or the fact that sometimes the wait on the phone is a bit too long [….] That’s why we have a number of initiatives to address these things.” 

Presentation of Royal Victoria Hospital plans

Fortier also discussed plans for the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital, which will become vacant next month. She announced that McGill has paired with the Quebec government in order to conduct a feasibility study on McGill ‘s expansion to the grounds to ensure that there is a clear sense of the problems that may be faced and the costs that would be incurred. 

“It would be a splendid addition to the campus, but we will only do it if we believe we can support it and we will progress with great care,” Fortier said.

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