McGill, News

McGill Senate extends winter break by three days and sends proposed S/U policy back for revision

Winter break extension

After mounting pressure from the student body for a longer winter break, the McGill Senate approved a motion on Dec. 2 to extend the winter break by three days for all faculties except the Faculty of Dentistry and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The first day of classes for the Winter 2021 semester will officially begin on Thursday, Jan. 7, instead of Monday, Jan. 4, as was initially planned. The Senate also discussed at length the feasibility of retroactively implementing a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option for the Fall 2020 semester and reported on the university’s finances and provisional budgets.

To make up for the three lost days, McGill will shorten the spring 2021 Final Examination Period from 11 days to 10 days; extend the final exam period from April 29 to April 30; and eliminate the “study day” currently scheduled for April 14. Whereas classes were initially scheduled to have ended Tuesday, April 13, with the April 14 study day acting as a one-day buffer before the start of exams on Thursday, April 15, the adjusted exam schedule will see classes end Friday, April 16 and exams commence Monday, April 19.

Gillian Nycum, university registrar and executive director of Enrolment Services, presented the motion and explained that adjusting the Spring 2021 exam period was the most feasible way to make up for the delayed start of the Winter 2021 semester.

“We saw in the Fall 2020 term that there were 25 per cent fewer final examinations being scheduled as compared to 2019, and it is reasonable to assume that there will be a similar trend for Winter 2021,” Nycum said.

In accordance with the adjusted academic calendar, the add/drop deadline will move from Tuesday, Jan. 19 to Friday, Jan. 22, and the deadline for withdrawal with refund will move from Tuesday, Jan. 26 to Friday, Jan. 29, with no other changes in key academic dates for the Winter 2021 term.

Implementing a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory option

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Senators’ motion to implement an S/U policy, submitted minutes before the meeting, opened a lengthy and contentious discussion. Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier explained that the motion had not appeared on the Senate agenda because the Steering Committee, the governing body tasked with setting and proposing the Senate agenda, had rejected the motion.

“Part of why [the motion] was not accepted by [the Steering Committee] is that the due diligence that is required to bring the motion to the floor was not done,” Fortier said. “In particular, there was information that was simply not accurate, [because] the information that was shared was pertaining to March 2020, which was a very different situation than today. There is a lot of information that people do not have in order to consider the motion carefully.”

Without being listed as an agenda item, the motion would have to be referred back to the Steering Committee for further review in order for it to be presented at a future Senate meeting. Alternatively, if a Senator motions to suspend the Senate rules and the motion passes with a three-quarter majority vote, the Senate could review the S/U motion immediately. Music Senator Addy Parsons’ motion to suspend the rules of the Senate did not pass, effectively sending the motion back to the Steering Committee. Secretary-General Edyta Rogowska said that the Steering Committee will likely convene in the following days to discuss the S/U policy.


“I have received over 150 testimonies of students not asking, but begging us to implement an S/U option. I can say that for the past few weeks, I have received heart wrenching emails from students coming to me and begging for me to do something because they cannot imagine that the university would not support them. None of them can stomach the idea that this has been brought to the university, that this has been presented in September when it was shot down [and that] when efforts were made to do the proper consultations, that it has been continually and systematically shut down at every chance [….] That, honestly, is a difficult pill to swallow.” – Brooklyn Frizzle, VP University Affairs 

Moment of the Meeting

Arts Senator Darshan Daryanani took a moment to acknowledge the student labour involved in extending the winter break and invited the Senate to congratulate students’ work through virtual applause.


A previous version of this article stated that Arts Senator Mary Lynne Loftus submitted the motion to suspend the Senate rules. In fact, Music Senator Addy Parsons submitted the motion. The article has been updated. The Tribune regrets this error.

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