September, 2012 – PQ Elected
On Sept. 4, 2012, the Parti Québécois (PQ) was elected into a minority government. The elections occurred after months of student protests against the former Liberal government’s proposed tuition increases.
As part of their platform, the PQ promised to cancel the tuition increases. The new premier, Pauline Marois, did so by decree during the provincial government’s first cabinet meeting on Sept. 29, 2012.
On Sept. 28, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson published a statement on the McGill Student Accounts website which confirmed that the university would return the increased tuition fees to students.
However, McGill had created its budget for the 2012-2013 school year with the tuition increases in mind. Provost Anthony Masi predicted that McGill would lose $90 million over the following five years due to the freeze.
November, 2012 – Arthur Porter
Arthur Porter, former McGill professor and director general and chief executive officer of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC), was involved in a financial scandal that received national attention.
McGill decided to pursue legal action against Porter in November 2012 after he failed to pay back over half of a $500,000 loan from the university and $30,131.63 in salary overpayment following his resignation in December 2011.
Despite receiving a second salary as a professor in the department of oncology on top of his $350,000 salary as head of the MUHC, Porter is alleged not to have taught in that department.
In the midst of this scandal, Porter’s whereabouts were unknown. He finally surfaced in the Bahamas, as reported by The Montreal Gazette, where he claims he was treating himself for cancer at his own medical facility.
Quebec’s anti-corruption squad was also looking for Porter in order to question him about the MUHC’s procurement of a $1.3 billion contract for his superhospital project.
The CBC also discovered that Porter had come to Montreal from Detroit—where he served as the CEO of the Detroit Medical Center—to work for the MUHC following the wake of similar scandals at his previous institution.
December, 2012 – Budget Cuts
In mid-December 2012, the PQ announced that it would impose extensive budget cuts to the operating budgets of all Quebec universities. McGill was told that it would need to cut $19.1 million from its operating budget by April 2013.
In February, the PQ announced that the cuts would continue into the next fiscal year and that McGill would be expected to cut an additional $19.1 million by April 2014.
After contesting this move for several weeks, the McGill administration released official plans for the cuts in late March 2013. To date, the administration has implemented salary and hiring freezes, introduced a voluntary retirement package to administrative and support staff aged 60 and above, and reduced the operating budgets of senior administrators’ portfolios. A second phase of plans—which, according to the administration, will likely include layoffs—is expected but has not yet been released.
January, 2013 – Flood
On the afternoon of Jan. 28, a 48-inch water main burst under Doctor Penfield Ave., flooding McGill’s downtown campus. That evening, several buildings were evacuated, and classes and activities were cancelled.
The water main broke just outside the McTavish Reservoir, which was undergoing a second phase of renovations. The City of Montreal started the project in October 2012, and predicts it should be completed in August 2013. The estimated cost of the renovations is $16.4 million. The City concluded that construction crews who were shifting the earth around by the pipe caused the break.
The water damage to certain buildings on campus was vast. The hardest hit was the James Annex, which required extensive repairs, according to Director of Internal Communications of McGill’s Media Relations Office Doug Sweet.
Classes in the Wong building were relocated in the following weeks, and classes in Wilson Hall and Birks Hall were cancelled. The James Administration Building and Service Point were also closed. Most buildings reopened that same week. The Students’ Society of McGill University’s [SSMU] Winter Activities Night was rescheduled, having been originally scheduled for the afternoon of Jan. 28.
February, 2013 – Protest protocol documents
On Feb. 4, McGill released two documents that detailed its procedure for dealing with protests and demonstrations. The Operating Procedures document stipulates the conditions under which the university will intervene in on-campus protests, including guidelines for when protests are considered peaceful, while the Statement of Values and Principles addresses students’ rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The Operating Procedures went into effect immediately, requiring approval from neither the Senate nor the Board of Governors (BoG).
The Statement of Values and Principles will eventually replace the provisional protocol released in Feb. 2012 in response to the five-day student occupation of the sixth floor of the James Administration Building. Senate passed the Statement of Values and Principles on Mar. 20. It will next go to the BoG on Apr. 26 for final approval.
February, 2013 – Tuition Indexation
On Feb. 25 and 26, the PQ held a two-day Summit on Higher Education, where it announced an annual 3 per cent tuition increase for students—whether they are Quebecois, out-of-province, or international students. The indexation of tuition intends to mirror the increase in the disposable income of Quebecers.
Throughout both days of the event, Montrealers expressed their dissatisfaction with the structure and results of the Summit through protests in the downtown area. 1,500 people demonstrated on Feb. 25, and 10,000 people took to the street on Feb. 26 in a protest organized by L’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ). On both occasions, the Montreal Police (SPVM) attempted to disperse the demonstrators after declaring the protests illegal.
March, 2013 – New Principal
On Mar. 5, McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) appointed Suzanne Fortier as McGill’s 17th principal. The Board’s Advisory Committee for Nomination of the Principal, consisting of representatives from the BoG, Senate, support staff, the faculty, and the student body, recommended Fortier’s appointment after a months-long search that began last spring.
Fortier, a two-time McGill graduate, will replace current Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and begin her five-year term in September. Fortier’s experience includes several positions in Queen’s University’s senior administration, as well as her most recent position as President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
March, 2013 – New SSMU exec elected
On Mar. 19, the 2013-2014 SSMU Executive was announced. Katie Larson was elected SSMU President, after defeating Chris Bangs for the position. Tyler Hofmeister was elected Vice-President (VP) Finance and Operations, Joey Shea will take on the position of VP University Affairs, and Brian Farnan will become VP Internal. Samuel Harris and Stefan Fong, the only two candidates who ran uncontested, were elected VP External and VP Clubs and Services, respectively. Nearly 30 per cent of the undergraduate student body voted in the elections—the same voter turnout as last year—even though fewer candidates ran this year.