McGill, News

Senate expresses concern regarding immigration and French fluency for students and faculty

McGill’s Senate convened for their third session of 2023 on March 22 in the Robert Vogel Council Room of the Leacock Building. The meeting was Christopher Manfredi’s last as interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor; H. Deep Saini is set to assume the position by the following session in April.

Most of the meeting was devoted to discussion after Secretary-General Edyta Rogowska presented the Policy on the Use and Quality of the French Language, which had several amendments added following its presentation at the February Senate meeting. A working group comprised of Legal Services, the Secretary-General and the Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) amended the policy to focus on providing student-focused support for mastering French by the end of a degree and to mandate that all McGill communications amongst civil administration bodies and legal enterprises in Quebec be conducted in French. In spite of the prior feedback and changes, several members still questioned if the scope of the policy was inclusive enough.

“I was struck that there’s nothing in the policy about resources for faculty to acquire French,” professor and Faculty of Arts Senator Eran Shor said. “In particular, what is the university doing to support new faculty who do not speak French, given new hurdles for obtaining permanent residency?”

Shor also brought up the university’s recent efforts under the Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism to recruit new Black faculty members, referencing the large number of American hires who need more substantial support with learning French to confirm and maintain their legal residencies in Quebec. 

The Senate then passed motions to appeal the university’s 2004 edition of the same policy and adopt the 2023 iteration, both of which will be carried to the Board of Governors for secondary approval, before final ratification from the Ministry of Higher Education.

Josephine Nalbantoglu, Associate Provost of Graduate Education and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, presented the Annual Report on Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, noting that many international students faced legal struggles when entering Canada. 

“We have many international students and those students had great difficulty entering the country,” Nalbantoglu said. “No matter what we did as a university—through International Student Services, through the government relations office, through local MPs [Members of Parliament]—many of our students did not get a visa and could not join us, so that’s what really impacted our numbers.”

Senators participated in an open discussion about reinvigorating McGill’s PhD programs, with small-group conversations preceding an open-floor debate. Key points included ensuring that academic and professional skills could be flexibly incorporated into specific degree curricula so that students can integrate more easily into the workforce post-graduation. 

“How are we ensuring that our students understand how to translate the skills that they’re developing during their PhD for employers?” asked Darlene Hnatchuk, director of Career Planning Services (CaPS). “Those skills develop during the PhD—that does stand for a certain skill set that is valuable within [the] industry.”

Professor and Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies) Angela Campbell presented updates on both McGill’s Policy against Sexual Violence and Policy on Harassment and Discrimination

“The University has been devoting quite a lot of attention to these two different policies with a view to preventing these forms of harm rather than dealing with them after they arise,” Campbell said. 

Moment of the Meeting:

When presenting the Annual Report on Enrollment and Strategic Enrollment Management, Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Fabrice Labeau noted that while the Senate had agreed on a planned deficit of $9.4 million with a $20 million contingency, the expected deficit for the end of financial year 2023 is $4.9 million.


“The OSVRSE closure back in October seems to have caught a lot of people off guard, and I want to make sure that this never happens again.”

—Sam Baron, Arts Senator on the lack of attention paid to OSVRSE operations

Current News Editor Juliet Morrison is an upcoming Arts Senator for 2023-2024, but was not involved in the production of this article.

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