McGill Board of Governors discuss potential declining international student rate

At their Oct. 1 meeting, the McGill University Board of Governors’ (BoG) passed revisions to the university’s Gift Acceptance Policy, stating that accepting gifts does not mean the university endorses the donor’s positions. It also discussed the status of student enrollment, McGill’s anti-Black racism action plan, and heard reports from four committees, notably the Building and Property Committee, which outlined its request to proceed with the development of the Fiat Lux Library Project.  

During the open session of the meeting, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier remarked on concerns about the potential decrease in international student enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She and Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Programs) Christopher Buddle discussed complications posed by the closure of the Canadian border and its impact on student enrollment for the upcoming Winter semester.

“The decline in enrollment in international students does seem to be mostly in first-year students,” Buddle said. “As the principal said, many of these students enrolled […] with the hope that they would be able to come to Canada […] sometime during the fall or at least during the winter […] and the difficulties in getting coordination from the federal and provincial governments on that does raise a real danger that those students will […] decide that Canada isn’t a good place for them […] and they’ll go somewhere else.”

Following these remarks, Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal of University Advancement, presented his memorandum on a revised Gift Acceptance Policy. Weinstein explained that the policy, which has not been revised since 2014, needs to be updated to take into account the new technologies for donations.

“We’ve seen, over the last couple of years, an increased number of requests from donors to provide potential philanthropy through new giving vehicles, which we didn’t anticipate in the first gift acceptance policy,” Weinstein said. “[With] the fact that there’s more public scrutiny related to McGill’s individual corporate donors, we felt that we really had to revise McGill’s Gift Acceptance Policy.”

The revision to the Gift Acceptance Policy includes a definition of what constitutes a gift, what types of gifts McGill is willing to accept, and the clarification that a gift is irrevocable once given. 

“We’ve added mention that the acceptance of gifts does not mean the university endorses or approves of the donor’s views, opinions, or businesses or activities,” Weinstein said. “We clearly specify that endowments should be […] managed by the university.”

Moment of the Meeting:

Principal Suzanne Fortier announced a historic moment for McGill: The official opening of McGill’s medical campus in Outaouais. Fortier noted that the program is extensive, allowing those living in the region to complete their entire medical school track at the Outaouais campus, and the program is being delivered completely in French. 

Soundbite: 

“This week, the McGill’s action plan to address anti-Black racism was shared with the community [.…] It’s being implemented, and there’s been a lot of consultations with our community, particularly our Black community, on this plan [….] There are very important initiatives that are being put in place in response to what we see as continuing racism particularly against Black people.” — Principal Suzanne Fortier, on the status of McGill’s efforts to address anti-Black racism. 

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