Last Wednesday’s McGill Senate meeting saw discussions on the role of McGill in providing higher education to refugees, McGill’s strategy for internationalization, as well as a presentation on the current state of research misconduct within the university.
Access to education for refugees
During the previous Senate meeting, a question was brought forward by Law Senator Benjamin Brunot regarding McGill’s plans to facilitate access to higher education for students fleeing war or persecution. In a written response, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens cited massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a current initiative that will provide refugees with education opportunities.
“University [and] MOOC-provider partnerships are being designed to allow asylum seekers, without regard to their status or place of stay, to attend free online courses before settlement and then transfer to traditional university setting, obtaining an official degree at the end of their curriculum,” Dyens wrote in his response.
Brunot, however, raised concerns over the impact that MOOCs will have on international refugees.
“I was just worried about how McGill can actually reach refugees through MOOCs,” he said. “Maybe [the refugees] might not have easy access to either reliable internet connections or just basic technology where they are.”
Dyens acknowledged Brunot’s concerns, but stated that MOOCs are the most feasible option to offer education to refugees.
“As long as a person is a refugee, any access to McGill education will be a difficult thing to do,” he said. “I think what we’re trying to do is have a better presence online. [We want to] give as many as people as possible access to a McGill education and to do it as cheaply as possible [….] Access to internet and smartphones is better than having people come all the way here, take a plane, and pay all of these expensive costs.”
Report on research misconduct
Research Integrity Officer, Abraham Fuks, presented the annual report concerning the investigation of research misconduct at McGill.
“There were six [allegations] received this past academic year,” Fuks said. “Three dealt with issues of plagiarism and authorship, one dealt with falsification of data, and two were a more global category of issues of misconduct.”
Fuks additionally underlined a lack of attention to detail on the part of graduate research supervisors, specifically in regards to authorship attribution.
“A number of cases over the years have involved allegations from students who feel that they have not been treated fairly and acknowledged properly in publications,” he said.
During a discussion of the report, Education Senator Alenoush Saroyan asked what could be done to diminish the number of allegations even further. According to Fuks, both post-graduates and faculty members will need to put more emphasis on regulations.
“Encourage faculties […] to engage more resources and more time and energy into education of both faculty members and graduate students,” he responded. “[There are] many individuals who work very hard and […] don’t always have time to familiarize themselves with the regulations and demands of authorship, [which are] become more technical [and] more specific. The second [step] is to encourage graduate supervisors to pay attention to the mentorship of students.”
McGill’s international strategy
Saroyan raised questions regarding the distinction between international and internationalization, and asked for clarity on the motives behind the intended internationalization of McGill. Internationalization includes bringing in students and professionals from around the world to McGill.
“They’re two different things,” Saroyan said. “Internationalization has a lot to do with student mobility, equivalencies, and the motive behind it is revenue generating.”
McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier disagreed with Saroyan’s understanding, citing enhancement of research and learning opportunities as the prime motivation for internationalization.
“I believe that the motivation in this university for internationalization, for bringing people from outside of our country as students, as professors, as colleagues in the research partnership area has not been financial money,” Fortier said. “In fact, as you probably know, Quebec is such that we don’t retain those dollars for the most part, […] so it’s not a prime motivation.”
Fortier, went on to explain that the primary motivation for internationalization is in fact the potential for exposure to a wider range of minds and viewpoints that the university will gain.
“I think it’s been a belief within the university that for a long time a richer learning environment is created when you can bring together different perspectives, which comes from having people of different cultures, ethics backgrounds and so on,” she explained. “The motivation is very much linked to excellence in learning, teaching and research.”