Opposition to the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, as well as the effects of a new class scheduling system were the subjects of debate at McGill Senate’s Nov. 20 meeting.
Resolution on the Charter
Senate unanimously approved a resolution presented by Principal Suzanne Fortier to condemn Bill 60, the Parti Québécois’ recently tabled Quebec Charter of Values.
“While the McGill Senate supports the secular spirit of Bill 60, it strongly objects to the restrictions on the right to wear religious symbols, as described in Article 5 of the draft legislation, which run contrary to the university’s mission and values,” the resolution reads.
While senators expressed support for the spirit of the resolution, some senators called for the university to take a harsher stance.
“I agree with what the Principal said; however, I would encourage you to use stronger language,” Faculty of Medicine representative Daniel Bernard said. “As an educational institution it is our responsibility to educate the people [….] because this sort of bigotry comes from ignorance.”
Faculty of Arts Representative Catherine Lu proposed that McGill stipulate that the university would not enforce any disciplinary measures on those at McGill who did not abide by the law should Bill 60 pass in Quebec’s National Assembly.
The resolution passed in its original form.
Class Schedule Parameters
Senate also discussed a new system of class scheduling developed in Summer 2013 and to be implemented Fall 2014, which allows the university to control how class schedules are organized. The new system is organized based on scheduling requests by deparments and availability forms that professors would fill out for university approval—rather than giving professors the freedom to choose the hours when they are available to teach.
In the current system, faculty have more flexibility when scheduling their class time,which allows them to properly organize their research hours. However, this created a series of issues related to class scheduling, including increased constrants on student class choices, inequities in departmental schedules, and a misuse of class spaces.
According to Deputy Provost (Studen Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, the new scheduling system aims to create a fair system for using instructional time and space, to streamline course requirements by making these courses more available to students, and to enhance students’ accessibility for courses they need to graduate. The system takes into account class durations, weekly meeting patterns, and which faculty the course is in.
In a letter to faculty in October, Dyens explained the schedule’s priorities and the goals they aim to achieve.
“Instructors identified thousands of hours during which they were not available to teach,” Dyens wrote. “This, along with the intricacy of the scheduling process, creates a great strain on the system, especially on students’ ability to graduate on time and on the use of space for teaching, research, and other purposes.”
Some senators expressed concern that the new prioritization of class times over other professorial functions—would limit their ability to organize their own schedules and would ultimately affect their time to conduct research.
“Why has the university chosen to solve a classroom access problem by impinging on the freedom of faculty to organize their time around research, and will it not create a bigger problem among the professoriat than the one it is meant to solve?” asked Faculty of Science representative Timothy Moore.
Lu asked if the university was placing less importance on research.
“Are faculty expected now to do research only after the needs of teaching and service have been fulfilled?” She asked.
Dyens responded that the class scheduling system was organized to maximize time for other university-related activities, but explained that student access to courses had to be prioritized.