The McGill University Senate convened for the first time in 2010 last week to discuss pertinent issues affecting the university.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, the senate’s chair, offered her remarks prior to the questions and motions period. Munroe-Blum first discussed McGill’s participation in an upcoming research relationship between Quebec and India. McGill previously collaborated with Indian institutions three years ago through a similar program.
Munroe-Blum also reflected upon her experience at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, stating that she was both moved by the initiative and struck by the prevalence of economic, financial, and power politics at play.
Munroe-Blum also took the opportunity to acknowledge the recent earthquakes in Haiti and to recognize McGill alumnus and CIDA worker Guillaume Siemienski, who was killed in the disaster.
The first of three questions discussed during senate – all of which were tabled by student senators – addressed on-campus snow removal procedures and information regarding snow removal. Arts Senator David Marshall raised the issue of staircases that are inaccessible during the winter, as well as safety concerns, and the lack of information available regarding snow removal.
“The response that it is just a situation that we have to live with in Montreal [is the] sort of approach that what we would generally like to get away from,” said Marshall. “I know that it is the general view of the administration that yes, we live in Montreal, and yes, there is snow, and that it’s just something we have to live with. I know that there has been a lot of progress on it in the last couple years but I would definitely think that because it is such a big issue, more resources should be invested in it.”
Marshall’s second question addressed a long-standing issue regarding the shuttle service between the Macdonald and downtown campuses.
According to a 2008-2009 survey of “shuttle-utilizing students” referenced by Marshall, “66 per cent of those surveyed had been denied access to a Macdonald-bound shuttle due to capacity at least once during the academic year, and 73 per cent of students had been denied access to a downtown-bound shuttle during the same period.” The survey, conducted by the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society, is being replicated for the current academic year.
“I think that there is a real disconnect at this point,” Marshall said. “The university does quite clearly advertise this service … as a free and easy way to get transportation between campuses, but for lots of students that very transportation service is what is prohibiting [them] from taking courses at both campuses. The service is not there to meet demand.”
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson responded that there are “no immediate plans to extend the service,” citing mainly budgetary reasons. However, Mendelson added that the university would be interested in both a more comprehensive study of which students are utilizing the shuttle, and the possibility of a user fee for the inter-campus service.
Because the concern has now been brought to Senate and the administration has shown more willingness to engage with students on it, Marshall expressed optimism on the transportation issue and feels that in this regard students are “looking ahead to better things.”
Finally, Student’s Society President Ivan Neilson brought forth concerns over when the first meeting of the Athletics Board and its Finance Subcommittee will take place.
The Senate also passed a motion prohibiting senators from recording sounds or images at senate. Senators will also be prohibited from “posting the deliberations” of Senate while the group is in session.