Grad­u­ate stu­dents’ is­sues at Se­nate

Sen­a­tors talk Trump’s ‘Mus­lim ban,’ Black His­tory Month

The McGill Daily - - News - Ellen Cools

On Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 15, the Mcgill Se­nate con­vened for its sixth meet­ing of the 2016-2017 aca­demic year.

Sen­a­tors dis­cussed a ques­tion re­gard­ing grad­u­ate stu­dent teach­ing at Mcgill, a mo­tion re­gard­ing the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of Black His­tory Month, had a lengthy dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing the “Mcgill Univer­sity Strate­gic Aca­demic Plan 2017-2020,” and heard re­ports from a num­ber of com­mit­tees.

Open­ing re­marks

In her open­ing ad­dress, Prin­ci­pal Suzanne Fortier men­tioned her meet­ing with other heads of Que­bec uni­ver­si­ties and the Min­is­ters of Fi­nance and Ed­u­ca­tion in De­cem­ber, largely to dis­cuss what is needed for the gov­ern­ment to bet­ter sup­port its uni­ver­si­ties.

Fortier noted that the Que­bec gov­ern­ment had in­sti­tuted aus­ter­ity mea­sures which hurt uni­ver­si­ties, but said, “now that we’ve passed this pe­riod, we made the case to the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance that it is time now to rein­vest in uni­ver­si­ties.”

The Prin­ci­pal fur­ther noted that the min­is­ters seemed to un­der­stand this re­quest.

Fol­low­ing Fortier’s re­marks, one sen­a­tor asked what the Univer­sity has done and will do for refugees, in light of the re­cent ex­ec­u­tive or­der from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, which banned refugees, and im­mi­grants from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

In re­sponse, Provost and VP Aca­demic Christo­pher Man­fredi said that “some of the mea­sures we put in place for stu­dents af­fected by the ex­ec­u­tive or­der were al­ready in place for refugees.”

Kath­leen Massey, univer­sity reg­is­trar and ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of en­rol­ment ser­vices, added that “refugees of­ten en­counter some unique prob­lems […]. There are of­ten chal- lenges re­lated to just en­sur­ing of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion which may have been de­stroyed through war or other se­ri­ous mat­ters. So we prac­tice a level of flex­i­bil­ity around doc­u­men­ta­tion for ex­am­ple.”

Massey noted that these mea­sures were al­ready in place prior to the ex­ec­u­tive or­der. She fur­ther added that for those stu­dents who may have dire fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, the Univer­sity ei­ther waives or re­funds their ap­pli­ca­tion fee.

Man­fredi also added that the Univer­sity “re­cently en­tered into a part­ner­ship with the Al Ghu­rair Foun­da­tion based in the United Arab Emi­rates. That foun­da­tion has a mis­sion […] to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents from the GCC [Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil] re­gion mostly, from un­der­priv­i­leged back­grounds as well as from refugee ar­eas, pro­vide them ac­cess to high qual­ity sec­ondary as well as post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.”

Man­fredi elab­o­rated that fol­low­ing Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der, the Univer­sity reached out to the foun­da­tion to see if “they needed [Mcgill’s] as­sis­tance ei­ther to place stu­dents from those seven coun­tries or to place stu­dents from other coun­tries in the re­gion who might find it dif­fi­cult go­ing to the United States, whether be­cause of their coun­try of ori­gin or refugee status.”

Grad­u­ate stu­dents teach­ing

Post- Grad­u­ate Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety (PGSS) Aca­demic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer Ni­cholas Dunn brought a ques­tion to Se­nate ask­ing what the Univer­sity is do­ing to en­sure a bet­ter dis­tri­bu­tion of cour­ses that grad­u­ate stu­dents can teach, and if the Univer­sity is will­ing to guar­an­tee at least one teach­ing op­por­tu­nity for all in­com­ing PHD stu­dents.

The ques­tion largely con­cerned the Col­lec­tive Agreement between Mcgill and the Course Lec­tur­ers and In­struc­tors Union (MCLIU), which al­lows the Univer­sity to re­serve up to fif­teen per cent of cour­ses not al­lo­cated to ranked aca­demic staff for grad­u­ate stu­dents. How­ever, there is a wide­spread be­lief that grad­u­ate stu­dents still lack teach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to Dunn.

Man­fredi had pro­vided a writ­ten an­swer to the ques­tion prior to the Se­nate meet­ing.

Dunn re­ferred to this an­swer ini­tially: “I take your point in­so­far as there’s a tech­ni­cal point to be made which is that these [po­si­tions] can be re­served for a range of in­di­vid­u­als, of which grad­u­ate stu­dents are a part. But I hope that you can un­der­stand the spirit of the ques­tion, which is that many peo­ple are con­cerned about the way in which the al­lo­ca­tion of course ex­clu­sions will af­fect their grad­u­ate pro­grams.”

“You say that grad stu­dents are free to ap­ply to the cour­ses that are posted, and this is of course true,” Dunn con­tin­ued, “how­ever, if they ar­rived af­ter the col­lec­tive agreement, they have zero points and so there’s no way for them to [en­ter] into the sys­tem, and even those who were here be­fore but don’t have as many points as those who have been course lec­tur­ers for longer will never get any cour­ses.”

In re­sponse, Man­fredi said “the an­nual dis­tri­bu­tion of [teach­ing po­si­tions for grad­u­ate stu­dents is] re­cal­i­brated on an an­nual ba­sis, and it’s re­cal­i­brated first of all on the ba­sis of con­sul­ta­tion with fac­ul­ties to de­ter­mine their needs, and I think we’re in a learn­ing process.”

“I think the fac­ul­ties are get­ting bet­ter at de­ter­min­ing their needs […] so I think that’s part of the learn­ing process, and at the provos­tial level, we’re in a learn­ing process and get­ting bet­ter at how we do those al­lo­ca­tions,” Man­fredi con­tin­ued.

Ref­er­enc­ing the re­serve clause in the col­lec­tive agreement, Man­fredi added that “to ne­go­ti­ate an agreement like this, there are many dif­fer­ent fac­ul­ties, with many dif­fer­ent types of teach­ing needs and teach­ing pro­gram de­liv­ery styles, and you have to have a clause that ac­com­mo­dates all those dif­fer­ent needs.”

Sen­a­tor Tetyana Krupiy, a post­doc­toral scholar, then asked if it would be pos­si­ble to re­ceive the dis­tri­bu­tion of these po­si­tions by fac­ulty and ex­pla­na­tion for the dis­tri­bu­tion.

She fur­ther ref­er­enced Fortier’s dis­cus­sion about the Busi­ness Higher Ed­u­ca­tion round ta­ble, where the Univer­sity dis­cussed with lo­cal busi­nesses how to fur­ther in­crease en­gage­ment and work op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents.

“This is a real ex­am­ple of how [the Univer­sity’s] not do­ing that, and where we can, we should. I speak as a grad­u­ate pro­gram direc­tor of a depart­ment that has 120 doc­toral stu­dents but only five po­si­tions, so I urge you to re­con­sider these kinds of op­por­tu­ni­ties and make them avail­able to our doc­toral stu­dents,” Krupiy said.

An­other sen­a­tor asked if there was room in ne­go­ti­a­tions to rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ent struc­ture of fac­ul­ties, as “some fac­ul­ties clearly have per­ma­nent lec­tur­ers who re­quire job pro­tec­tion and in whose in­ter­est the union ex­ists, and other fac­ul­ties may have an over­ar­ch­ing need to give train­ing to their stu­dents, and it seems to me the prob­lem is that it’s not cap­tur­ing that di­ver­sity.”

Man­fredi noted that the Univer­sity will honor the agreement it signed with MCLIU, but when the agreement comes up for rene­go­ti­a­tions “those are things we can take into ac­count.”

Black His­tory Month mo­tion

Arts Sen­a­tor Charles Keita brought a mo­tion to Se­nate that asked “that Mcgill of­fi­cially cel­e­brates Black His­tory Month,” in his words.

“Un­til this year there was no of­fi­cial body on the cam­pus that cel­e­brated it. This year that man­tle was taken up by [the So­cial Eq­uity and Di­ver­sity Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fice] and I have to say that they did a great job for the events that I’ve gone to and the com­mu­nity def­i­nitely seems to have en­joyed them. To keep it go­ing, I pro­pose this mo­tion so that it is fol­lowed through that we do this ev­ery year and it doesn’t be­come a rare oc­cur­rence that Mcgill cel­e­brates Black His­tory Month,” Keita elab­o­rated.

The mo­tion passed unan­i­mously.

“There are of­ten chal­lenges re­lated to just en­sur­ing of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion which may have been de­stroyed through war or other se­ri­ous mat­ters. –Kath­leen Massey, Univer­sity Reg­is­trar and Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of En­roll­ment Ser­vices “If they ar­rived af­ter the col­lec­tive, they have zero points and so there’s no way for them to en­ter the sys­tem.” –Ni­cholas Dunn, PGSS Aca­demic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer

So­nia Ionescu & Rahma Wiry­omartono | The Mcgill Daily

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