McGill, News

Board of Governors discuss preparations for in-person classes

McGill University’s Board of Governors (BoG) convened for its first meeting of the Winter 2021 semester on Feb. 11, where it discussed plans for the Fall 2021 semester and McGill’s key performance indicators in multiple areas, such as academics and sustainability. Notable topics of the meeting included the Building and Property Committee’s report on the New Vic Project, the Fiat Lux Library Project, the Stewart Biology West Wing Redevelopment project, as well as a report by the Finance Committee regarding the 2022 budget.

At the start of the meeting, members of the Board discussed whether vaccination would be mandatory for those hoping to return to campus after the summer. They also deliberated the ongoing preparations for the Fall 2021 semester, and how in-person activities will be held during the rest of the Winter 2021 session. Provost and Vice Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi raised concerns that international students may have for the return to in-person activities in the fall and shared the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal Academic (OPVPA)’s plans to facilitate a smooth transition.

“We are actively working on our scenarios for the fall,” Manfredi said. “We know that Fall 2021 won’t look like Fall 2019, but it also can’t look like Fall 2020. We are looking at what the thresholds would be for in-person teaching activities, and how we can reconfigure our course schedule and our use of classrooms to give us maximum flexibility. Our objective is to have as much happen in-person on campus in the fall as we can.”

The Board assessed the various ongoing construction and renovation projects at the university. After the Building and Property Committee provided a brief update on the New Vic and Fiat Lux Library projects, the Board approved a request to proceed with the Stewart Biology Building West Wing’s redevelopment, which includes a full interior renovation. 

Vice-Principal of Administration and Finance Yves Beauchamp addressed budgetary adjustments necessitated by COVID-19, such as ventilation upgrades.

“In all our new designs [for the project], we will need to consider all of those [COVID upgrades],” Beauchamp said. “This will be something [our team] will be discussing [….] There will be staff working on [amassing] all the knowledge we can gather, [including] the best practices regarding space, mechanics, and flex times. We will [collect] all of that information in order to advise on future projects.”

Provost Manfredi presented McGill’s planned budget for the 2021-2022 year. For the 2021 fiscal year, the committee found no red flags in the expenditure or revenue reports that suggest exceeding McGill’s predicted deficit of $13.1 million. The Finance Committee will move the 2022 budget for approval at the Board’s meeting on April 22. 

Moment of the Meeting: 

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier discussed the Faculty of Management’s new Couche-Tard store. Built as a retail innovation laboratory, the Couche-Tard at the Bensadoun School of Retail Management uses new technologies which allow students to visit and shop without having to stop by a cashier. The new store is located on the ground floor of the Bronfman Building.

Soundbite: 

“The process in building the fiscal [2022] budget is proceeding as planned. In fact, we have essentially finished the preliminary work of working with the faculties and the main administrative units to understand their needs for the [2022] fiscal year in their position. We’ve gathered all the data and done all the consultations we need to do to start putting together a budget for [2022] [….] We’ve developed pessimistic, realistic, and optimistic scenarios [for] each of the [key drivers of revenue] [….] We are using those scenarios [to help build the budget].”  – Provost Christopher Manfredi on the process of developing the 2022 budget in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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