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Board of Governors discusses McGillLeaks, asbestos

On March 13, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) convened for its fifth meeting of the academic year to discuss topics of interest to the community, including McGillLeaks, the possibility of a student strike, and the internal investigation launched on asbestos research.

Chair of the Board Stuart Cobbett began the open session of the meeting by congratulating the senior administration on “an exceptional job dealing with a number of different situations” this past year.

In her address to the board, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum described McGillLeaks as “a very serious breach of confidentiality.” Several weeks ago, a group called McGillLeaks published confidential documents from the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to the web. The university has organized a police investigation on the matter, and the website has since been taken down.

“We have taken immediate and aggressive measures to get to the bottom of [the issue],” Munroe-Blum said. “We have received many supportive calls from alumni friends and donors, expressing appreciation for [being informed of the situation] and reaffirming their confidence in the university.”

Dean of Medicine David Eidelman reported on the status of an  internal investigation looking into the effects of the Quebec asbestos industry on McGill research into the health effects of asbestos. The investigation was launched on Feb. 9 following a controversy that included a CBC documentary suggesting that the asbestos industry affected research conducted by Professor J. Corbett McDonald, and a concerned letter to sent to McGill University by anti-asbestos activists and doctors asking for an independent investigation.

Eidelman noted that the internal investigation was organized within 12 hours of the CBC documentary’s release. He added that Professor Rebecca Fuhrer, who is conducting the investigation, was expected to finish the inquiry by the end of last week.

“Once we have [her results], we will make a decision on [whether to call the] Research Integrity Officer,” Eidelman added. The Research Integrity Officer would then conduct further investigations on the matter.

Eidelman further noted that at the time that McDonald’s research started, the Canadian government was not funding asbestos research and investigations could only be funded through the industry.

Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson then gave his annual report on student life and learning. Mendelson’s term will end in 2013, and according to Provost Anthony Masi, the university is in the process of reviewing and redefining the portfolio. The process has included meetings with every organization that reports to the Deputy Provost and with individual student association executives.

“We’re reviewing the position [to] help in the search for the next Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning),” Masi said.

“We broke new ground at McGill by creating this portfolio,” Masi added.

The Quebec student movement was also addressed during the meeting. Munroe-Blum noted that the majority of McGill students had not yet voted on whether to stop attending classes as a form of protest to the province’s expected tuition fee increases. The BoG meeting occurred at the same time that the General Assembly held by the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) discussed whether or not to strike.

“The expectation is people will fulfill their responsibilities and obligations,” Munroe-Blum said. “With respect to preparedness to these demonstrations … we count on everybody to engage in peaceful and safe activities.”

“Our provisional protocol will be in place and remain in place during this period,” she added.

At the end of the meeting, Cobbett told the Tribune that the university is concerned with the actions taken by the Quebec student movement in the past few weeks.

“Any time there’s a disruption at the student level, it’s cause for concern,” Cobbett said.

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