By McGill Reporter staff
The MUNACA strike loomed large at Senate’s first meeting of the academic year on Thursday, Sept. 22.
As a small but noisy group of students protested outside the meeting room in support of the 1,700 striking staff workers, several Senators inside the chamber raised concerns about the potential effects of the labour disruption.
In her opening remarks, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum emphasized the administration’s desire to reach a negotiated settlement as early as possible.
Strikes “are never easy or comfortable,” she said, especially “in an academic community – and at McGill in particular.” The striking employees “are our colleagues,” and “we are proud of all members of all our employee groups,” she said. While the University “will get through” the strike, “it’s clear it’s not business as usual” for now.
A number of senators, including faculty members and students, raised a range of issues stemming from the strike – from reduced access to academic resources and services, to the risk of lingering tensions between employee groups.
Prof. Richard Janda expressed concern that the University’s decision to forbid professors from moving classes off campus had created a “polarizing moment in the life of the community.” While off-campus classes may complicate class schedules and raise liability concerns, he noted, asking whether it would be possible to explore “other solutions” to defuse the controversy.
Prof. Darin Barney, Canada Research Chair in Technology & Citizenship, said he has heard from professors who feel demoralized by the situation, and from students who dislike crossing picket lines.
Student Senator Emily Yee Clare asked about the strike’s potential effects on students “in light of critically reduced access to vital services.”
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson replied that the vast majority of services have not been “critically reduced,” and noted that priority is being given to sustaining frontline student services.
Among other matters, Munroe-Blum briefed Senators on the decision last month by the Quebec Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sport to allow the Desautels Faculty of Management to continue offering its MBA program on a self-financing basis. The decision reflects certain modifications that will further enhance the program’s already strong international character, she said.