Rally highlights issues ranging from proposed tuition hikes to new protest protocol
By Jim Hynes and Neale McDevitt
One day after police escorted student protesters from the James Administration Building following their five-day occupation, the building was the rallying point for another demonstration.
On Monday, a peaceful crowd of approximately 100 students, faculty and staff assembled in front of James to voice their displeasure on a host of topics, including the status of CKUT and QPIRG, proposed tuition hikes, wage disparity for the University’s female employees and the newly minted provisional protocol governing future demonstrations.
“The struggle last week [involving students who occupied the lobby and sixth floor of the James Building] isn’t anything new,” said Kevin Whitaker, president of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) in addressing the assembled crowd. “This is an authoritarian administration that doesn’t listen to us – staff, students or faculty… it says it knows what’s best for all 40,000 of us.”
Like many of the half-dozen speakers, Greg Mikkelson, a professor in at the School of the Environment and in the Department of Philosophy, was critical of the way officials dealt with last week’s occupation of the James Building. “The decision to shut down this huge chunk of real estate was [the Administration’s]. I don’t see why the operations had to be disrupted.”
Mikkelson got a roar from the crowd when he called for increased power in the decision-making processes for all members of the McGill community. “We have to start demanding that all groups here have a final say in who their leaders are by majority vote,” he said.
While the demonstration moved inside the Leacock Building, a group of students were setting up for a get-together of a different kind across the street.
Our McGill: It’s Time to Come Together brought approximately 100 McGillians, mostly students, to the University Centre ballroom for a series of open discussions about recent events on campus.
“We’ve been planning something like this for a while,” said third-year Sociology Honours student Ariel Prado, one of the event’s organizers. “There are a lot of issues relevant to the future of McGill, the future of Montreal, and the future of this world that we were worried were not being addressed by students.
“Often, those who are engaged around political issues are so passionate that they can scare others away, Prado added. “We mean to create a space where those who might otherwise be intimidated by important political and social discussions can feel comfortable to listen, ask questions, and contribute their own views.”
The Our McGill participants, who included students who took part in the last week’s occupation, were each given a sticker at the door and asked to vote for a potential discussion theme, or propose one of their own.
Discussion subjects included, among others, Institutionalized Systemic Marginalization, the #6Party, Student Democracy, and Silent Majority, which received the most votes.
“I don’t want to project my hopes on this too much, because the idea is that it is a collective process,” said Prado, a Boston native who was one of two McGill students arrested after the student tuition protest of Nov. 10 spilled onto campus (charges against him were quickly dropped). “But I do believe that the more people engage with one another, and with strangers, the more we learn to feel empathy for strangers, and the more we realize that our lives are interconnected. I think that that often leads somewhere very positive. Hopefully we’ll continue seeing new faces at these discussions.”
The group, which now aims to organize discussions on a regular basis, has set up its own Facebook Group. As of Feb. 15, the Our McGill group had 138 members.