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A student’s guide to governance at McGill

For many incoming and returning students, making sense of McGill University’s large and bureaucratic system of governance may seem daunting. The Tribune is here to provide you with a simple guide to the school’s authoritative bodies.

The Board of Governors (BoG)

The Board of Governors is the governing body of McGill with final ruling authority on the actions of the university.

It is comprised of 25 voting members and two non-voting student observers. The voting members consist of a diverse group of representatives, including 12 members-at-large, the principal, and one representative each from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS). The two student observers are representatives from the McGill Association of Continuing Education Students (MACES) and the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) respectively.

The BoG is comprised of six main committees that oversee many aspects of the University’s function, from the Audit Committee to the Human Resources Committee. One of the duties of the Nominating, Governance and Ethics Committee  is creating  and reccommending members for ad-hoc committees, which have a term of one year and usually focus on specific issues on campus.

Many of the Board’s meetings are open to members of the public, although some are labelled as closed sessions.

Recent issues that the BoG has discussed include university financing and licensing agreements.


While the BoG exercises an overarching authority over McGill governance, the Senate has jurisdiction over academic affairs at the univerity.

The Senate has 107 voting members who represent the university’s constituencies, ranging from faculty, staff, students, administrators, Board members, and alumni. The Senate also has numerous subcommittees that make up an essential component of McGill’s administration. These include the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Charter of Students’ Rights and the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Composition of Senate.

Recent issues the Senate has debated include anonymous grading and exams weighed over 75 per cent.

PGSS Council

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) is an association consisting of all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at McGill. The PGSS Council is the governing body of PGSS, in charge of managing social activities within the society, and the long-term vision of the association.

The Council meets once per month in the Thomson House, where departmental representatives debate and vote on issues regarding PGSS. General members of the public can observe the proceedings in the gallery.

Recent issues that the PGSS Council has discussed include its divestment from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and development of a Mental Health Policy for its students.

SSMU Council

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is a student union consisting of all the undergraduate students at McGill. SSMU represents the student body to the McGill administration and runs a variety of student services such as the SSMU Daycare, the Midnight Kitchen,  and CKUT McGill, a campus community radio, amongst others. SSMU also oversees the operation of Gerts Bar.

SSMU’s governing body is the Legislative Council, which meets every other Thursday in the Lev Bukhman room in the SSMU building. The council has 36 voting members, including the SSMU executive team and 30 councillors who represent the various faculties and demographics of McGill’s undergraduate students. The Council is open to all members of SSMU.

Recent issues that the SSMU council has discussed include the SSMU Building Fee referendum question and drafting McGill’s Sexual Health Policy.

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