The McGill Board of Governors (BoG) convened on Feb. 15 to discuss the University’s report on allegations of anti-Semitism, the new Vision 2020 Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, the new Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) terms of reference, and budget affairs. Two hours of the BoG’s three-hour meeting were made open to the McGill community and press. Other topics discussed during the open community session included the national and international rankings of McGill’s schools and faculties and concerns regarding McGill’s rate of tenure and tenure-track hiring.
BoG affirms stance on report on anti-Semitism
Most of the BoG’s conversation regarding former ombudsperson Spencer Boudreau’s report on allegations of anti-Semitism at the Student Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Fall General Assembly occured during the board’s private session. However, during the community session, members of the BoG, including Principal Suzanne Fortier, reaffirmed their support for Boudreau’s conclusion that allegations of anti-Semitism were unfounded but understandable given the divisiveness of campus discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Derek Nystrom, associate professor of Cultural Studies and BoG member, said the events which preceded the investigation contributed to broader concerns about political discourse on campus.
“It is important to treat these allegations [of anti-Semitism] seriously,” Nystrom said. “I also believe that genuine political differences should be vented as freely as possible.”
Presentation on Vision 2020
François Miller, manager of the McGill Office of Sustainability, delivered a report on the Vision 2020 Climate and Sustainability Action Plan announced on Nov. 28, 2017. Under Vision 2020, McGill plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and earn a Platinum Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System Rating by 2030.
In his presentation, Miller outlined concrete steps McGill intends to take to reduce its carbon footprint in the coming decades. Among the most important of these is improving sustainability-related Key Performance Indicator (KPI) metrics and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
“In order to have increased accountability and transparency, we will report to the Board of Governors our sustainability ratings every three to four years,” Miller said. “Our greenhouse gas emissions will be provided on an annual basis to the board, and one of the KPIs is the level of implementation of the actions embedded in this action plan.”
CAMSR changes postponed
Representatives from Divest McGill, a student organization that advocates against McGill’s investment in fossil fuel companies, were present at the BoG meeting in anticipation of continued discussion on proposed changes to the CAMSR Terms of Reference that began in December 2017.
Divest McGill submitted two questions to be answered at the community session. The first concerned the definition of ‘social and political causes’ in which the proposed CAMSR terms of reference would prohibit university investment. The second concerned the extension of the period for reviewing the terms of reference from three to five years. According to Annabelle Couture-Guillet, U2 Environment student and member of Divest McGill, the extension of the review period threatens on-campus activism.
“The review of the terms of reference can affect processes that regulate not only divestment issues but anything related to social responsibility at McGill,” Couture-Guillet said. “The fact that we typically do our degrees in three to four years is a constraint. Reviewing the terms every five years would mean not [every student] is getting the chance to engage with the process.”
However, the BoG refused to answer any questions related to the CAMSR Terms of Reference, deferring them to the CAMSR meeting on Feb. 20. A Dec. 12 meeting of the BoG was adjourned early following protest by Divest McGill.
A vote on the proposed changes, initially scheduled for the Feb. 15 meeting, was postponed to the Board’s next meeting on April 26.