Statement Regarding the 2014-15 Joint Board-Senate Meeting

Statement Regarding the 2014-15 Joint Board-Senate Meeting

The background reading, questions, and panelist listing for the McGill 2014-15 Joint Board-Senate Meeting of Tuesday, November 4th were circulated to Senators on Friday, October 31st. The contents of these materials were heavily focused on industry partnerships and economic development. This was exemplified by the inclusion of panelists such as the director of research from HydroQuebec. This came as a surprise to the student Senators as the theme of this forum had been promoted as ‘community engagement’ for several months- an evidently misleading title.

Student Senators had prepared to discuss some of these concerns at the Meeting, however at the last minute the Question Period following the panel was struck from the agenda without adequate justification. It was inappropriate and disrespectful to prevent members of Senate and the Board of Governors from posing questions to the panelists, and gave the impression of a decision made to deliberately silence warranted but perhaps unwanted discussion. While Student Senators performed well in voicing their perspectives during the roundtable discussions of the Meeting, and found themselves in agreement on key issues with many faculty members present, the summary released to Senate in its current state fails to capture the values and proposals expressed at each table; this lack of representation may hinder efforts to bring ideas from this Meeting relating to community engagement into action in the future. Since the circulated report does not accurately represent the proceedings of the Meeting, our concerns will be publicly outlined here.

The approach to ‘community engagement’ expressed by the circulated documents and meeting contents indicates a limited, business-centred view of what it means to engage with community. While partnerships with industry are an important and valued part of community engagement, provide important opportunities for students, and benefit the McGill community, the student senators do not believe that this is the only way to engage with the community. The question of “how can external partnerships benefit students” has not been paired with the question of “how can students and their work benefit the community.” The work of organizations like the Social Equity and Diversity Education office (SEDE) to partner with grassroots community organizations to allow students to support community-defined needs is erased by this approach. This erasure places well-funded private partnerships in the spotlight while relegating partnerships less readily supported by industry and business interests to the margins.

Student Senators and representatives have continuously worked to support the funding of community engagement-focused organizations such as SEDE and Indigenous Access McGill, and would like to see the University echo this support and secure funding for these projects. The necessity of community-defined of needs taking precedence over other concerns in any engagement project was echoed by students and faculty alike at the recent Meeting, and grassroots approaches to engagement are essential to supporting this approach.

Student Senators and representatives have continuously worked to support the funding of community engagement-focused organizations such as SEDE and Indigenous Access McGill, and would like to see the University echo this support and secure funding for these projects. The necessity of community-defined of needs taking precedence over other concerns in any engagement project was echoed by students and faculty alike at the recent Meeting, and grassroots approaches to engagement are essential to supporting this approach.

Further, the choice to bring a representative of HydroQuebec to attend a meeting promoted as a step towards building positive community relationships reflects a failure to consider the full range of communities within Quebec. Past and current HydroQuebec projects have consistently faced strong Indigenous resistance, particularly by Algonquin and Innu communities. SSMU has long taken stances of solidarity with Indigenous communities facing development projects taking place on their territory without their free, prior, and informed consent. SSMU has also taken stances of opposition to companies operating without this consent (the most recent stance being adopted in October 2014 at the SSMU Fall General Assembly). Hence, the inclusion of a company currently facing active Indigenous resistance to their projects does not align with SSMU’s mandates from students, and does not reflect consideration of building relationships with Indigenous communities.

A more comprehensive concept of community engagement including mutually beneficial partnerships that are driven by the communities’ self-identified needs was echoed by both Senators and Governors alike. We strongly support that this serve as a primary consideration as McGill moves forward in pursuing future partnerships.

Submitted respectfully,

Senator Ibrahim
Senator Scebba
Senator Snyder
Senator Benrimoh
Senator Stewart-Kanigan
Senator Rourke
Senator Greenspon
Senator Ayukawa

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