At 4 p.m. on Nov. 10, Chancellor John McCall MacBain kicked off the first in-person joint Board of Governors (BoG)-Senate meeting since 2019. The meeting, which took place at the Faculty Club at 3450 McTavish Street, centred on “experiential learning at the local, national and international levels.” Attendees worked to identify and resolve hurdles that prevent students from accessing internships and foreign exchanges through the university.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Fabrice Labeau set the tone for the evening by highlighting the importance of the university’s Enriched Education Opportunities (EEO) while also acknowledging that McGill has not done enough to promote them.
“[EEOs have] academic benefits for students, bringing them closer to the real working world, out of their comfort zone in the classroom,” Labeau said.
Citing the financial, academic, and administrative concerns of students considering EEOs, Labeau added that McGill hopes to provide better financial support to student interns. Labeau also said that the university would expand efforts to advertise foreign exchanges to the student body.
Three questions were laid out for small-group discussion amongst members: What types of EEOs McGill should fund and promote, what could be done to remove barriers to these new programs, and whether they should focus on local or global opportunities.
Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor Christopher Manfredi stated that against “the inevitability of rapid change,” McGill students should be prepared with skills suitable for both academic and practical environments. This was a general consensus among members, with McCall MacBain pointing to a need to “create and support bridges to industry.”
One member of the BoG suggested that the federal government’s recent increase of the number of working hours authorized on international study permits should be seen as a chance to expand opportunities for international students.
Members of the BoG and Senate also urged the university to take advantage of its network of successful alumni when pairing students with organizations for internships. In the same vein, attendees called for EEOs to count towards course and credit requirements.
One member of the Senate added that McGill should require all students to submit a resume to the university so as to best pair students with opportunities.
One of the most consistent contributors to the meeting was Students’ Society of McGill University vice-president (VP) University Affairs Kerry Yang.
Yang believes that both financial costs and the “bureaucratic red tape [surrounding] EEOs” are “putting off students” from taking the opportunities available to them. Not only do internships and exchanges rack up costs in travel and rent, but opportunities outside of Canada are often unpaid, leaving students without an income for an entire summer. He also called for opportunities that were “more than just research in science.”
Yang added that these opportunities should not only be available and affordable, but easily accessible, too—McGill should actively pair opportunities in specific fields with students interested in those fields.
“It is often the responsibility for students to search for internships themselves rather than have McGill actively work to bring internships to McGill itself for students to choose from,” Yang wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune following the meeting. “I believe there needs to be more resources dedicated towards bringing these opportunities inward rather than having students search outwards.”
Moment of the meeting: While discussing the financial burdens placed on students doing unpaid internships and exchanges, Chancellor John McCall MacBain fielded suggestions from the floor. Following heckling from the tables of Senators and Governors, jokes began on the size of his microphone, with him declaring “mine’s bigger” than the microphones prepared at each table. This was met with laughter from the floor.
Soundbite: “We must begin humbling ourselves and recognizing that other universities have more and better co-op schemes.” —Chancellor John McCall MacBain on McGill’s shortcomings in offering student learning and work opportunities