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Senate discusses implementing recommendations of Mental Health Working Group

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McGill’s mission statement and principles

Senators raised concerns about the wording of McGill’s mission statement—specifically the linkage between  academic freedom and responsibility. 

“In fulfilling its mission, McGill University embraces the principles of academic freedom and responsibility, integrity, accountability, equity, inclusiveness, and respect for cultural and individual diversity,” the proposed statement of principles that has been under work currently reads.

Several Senators claimed that this phrasing could put forward the idea that McGill scholars are being directed and restricted by the administration.

University Libraries Senator Marc Richard stated that he was concerned with the use of the term “responsibility” in the mission statement because of its negative connotations. 

“Linking [academic freedom with responsibility] actually constrains what we mean by responsibility,” McGill University Principal Suzanne Fortier responded.

Fortier concluded the discussion of the mission statement by saying that the concerns would be forwarded to the Academic Planning Committee (APC), who will then submit motions to the Senate.  Fortier emphasized her hopes that the APC would bring back a strong mission statement that the Senate would later vote on, and which all Senators would feel is an accurate portrayal of the university’s values.

Budget Planning

Provost Anthony Masi discussed the Budget Planning 2015-2016 Report at the meeting, emphasizing that McGill has taken measures in 2014 that are allowing the university to mitigate current budget cuts. 

According to Masi, McGill went into the fiscal year projecting a $7 million deficit, which was then re-calculated after the Quebec government announced a $20 million budget cut. According to Masi, McGill was prepared for the additional reductions, and will still finish the year with a deficit of $7 million. 

Masi further emphasized that the budget cuts that McGill is facing should not affect any of the university’s actions central to its values.

“We can’t keep doing everything we’re doing,” Masi said. “Something has to give, [but] we just don’t want that ‘give’ to be core to our academic mission.”

Mental Health Working Group recommendations

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan posed a question to Senate regarding the implementation of recommendations published by the Mental Health Working Group (MHWG) on May 2014. The MHWG is a committee with a mandate to review the current state of mental health, counselling, and student services at McGill, and to make recommendations regarding improvement to Executive Director of services for students Jana Luker and Deputy Provost, (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens.. 

One recommendation was for McGill to create a position dedicated towards implementing the recommendations of the working group.

“[Will] the person who has been hired to implement this plan be empowered to task the university committees […] to look into specific university policies with a mandate of implementing the findings of the working group?” Stewart-Kanigan asked.

Dyens responded by stating that the revision of university policies is the responsibility of the university’s mutual governance structure, which includes the Enrolment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAC), the Academic Policy Committee (APC), the Committee on Enrolment and Student affairs (CESA), Senate, the Office of the Dean of Students, and several other governance bodies.

 “The actual revising of the policy is our responsibility, members of [the Senate], and others that are responsive to Senate,” Dyens explained.

Stewart-Kanigan posed a supplemental question, asking if the individual tasked with implementing these policies would be affiliated with academic staff, given that mental health issues at universities can be tied to academic practices.

In response, Dyens stated that the person hired for the position would work with academic staff although it remained unclear whether McGill would be hiring specifically for that position.    

“There would be a lot of horizontal discussion, and, if hired, the individual tasked with implementing the policies would work collaboratively and try to implement the most positive changes to regulations to impact students,” Dyens said. “There is a balance that we must keep in mind between helping students and the demanding nature of McGill [….] But there is transparency, there is collaboration; there’s no point in keeping these thing siloed.” 

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