For some, who's not at McGill is as important as who is. For the past three years, McGill has surveyed first year students to grasp the character of the student body. While the education equity study is voluntary and not without some problems -- the inclusion of continuing education students, for instance, skews upward the percentage of francophone students and those with children -- it does give an important glimpse into the mix on campus. Recommen-dations include recruiting non-traditional students and even asking scholarship students to turn down money in favour of more needy students.
The latest results are from the 1996 survey (Fall 1997 wasn't available). They show that the majority of the student body is Canadian, English-speaking, Christian, and of European origin. But just.
Some 56.8 percent of the incoming students were from North America. Just over 50 percent of the first-year students spoke English as a first language and were Christian while 55 percent were of European origin. The other half of the student body showed great di-versity. (This was in contrast to their professors. "There is a striking disjuncture between the composition of the academic staff and McGill students. There is a significantly higher proportion of women, aboriginal peoples and visible minorities among students," says the report.)
Next to English, the most commonly spoken languages on campus were: French (22.6 percent), Chinese (17.8 percent), Arabic (10.6 percent), Spanish (9.3 percent) and Italian (6.9 percent). After Christianity, the next largest group of students, 24.1 percent, cited "None" as their religion followed by Jewish (9.1 percent), then Muslim at 5.7 percent. Many students chose not to answer the question on racial or ethnic origin -- 17 percent -- cited "No Answer." Pending that, after European, the most common racial origin was East Asia (9.6 percent) and West Asian/Arab (5.7 percent).
The chair of the educational equity committee, Richard Janda, said the committee was satisfied there was considerable student diversity. But it remained concerned about under-representation of certain groups, for instance, the "troublesome drop-off rate from master's to doctoral levels" of women. (Women represented 57.2 percent of the bachelor degree students, but 47.1 percent of the master's students and 39.7 percent of the PhDs.)
Economic status was a concern. The vast majority of McGill students, 73.8 percent, don't depend on loans or bursaries.
But the dependency varied greatly across disciplines, by country of origin, and with ethnic background. If Religious Studies and Management students were at a party, the latter would be buying the beer. Religious Studies students had the greatest dependence on loans and bursaries (64.7 percent) while Management students were the least dependent (18.4 percent).
With regard to ethnicity, students from an African background were the most likely to depend on loans and bursaries, and East Asians, the least likely. In terms of country of origin, Eastern Europeans and Central Americans were the most financially dependent with Western Europeans, the least dependent.
Within Canada, students from outside urban centres were the most needy. Quebec students from outside the Montreal region and students from the Maritimes, Prairies, the North-West Territories and the Yukon were twice as likely to depend on loans and bursaries (44.4 percent) as those from British Col-umbia (22.2 percent). Only 1.5 percent of the incoming student body was dependent on welfare (this number jumps to 2.5 percent for doctoral students). Most wel-fare recipients were studying arts, followed by continuing education.
After reviewing the data, the educational equity committee offered 17 recommendations. Its members included law professor Richard Janda, dean of students Rosalie Jukier, continuing education instructor Robin Eley, education professor James Hanrahan, admissions director Mariela Johansen, medicine professor Harvey Sigman, English professor Sarah Westphal, equity coordinator Jackie Fee-Owen and student Lara Leigh-Wood.)
They recommended that McGill continue to survey the incoming class, and that each Faculty and School make special recruitment efforts for underrepresented applicants. Daycare and special provisions for women students should be implemented. Scholarship students should be encouraged to take the honour, but not the prize money, in favour of less well-off students. Meanwhile, the faculties of Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Law, Management and Medicine should attempt to attract students, not through financial incentives, but through academic incentives such as research assistantships.
As the report winds its way through university committees, it acknowledges that disagreement is expected. "The zone of educational equity itself creates a zone of contestation, and rightly so."