About 50 people braved the ice and wind to attend an Open Forum on Campus Culture in Leacock 232 on Jan. 24. The Open Forum was the largest of six consultation events hosted by the Principal’s Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life in January. Between Jan. 17 and 29, there were also five smaller closed-door focus groups on specific areas of campus life, including teaching and learning, social spaces and residence life. This round of consultations follows on the heels of a University-wide survey conducted in December 2017.
This consultation process is intended to take the pulse of the McGill community on issues of freedom of expression, tolerance and diversity at McGill, as well as create opportunities for the free exchange of ideas on how to move forward.
“This kind of discussion about inclusion and diversity is happening on campuses around the world, so McGill is not alone. The various sources of tension we have seen are not unique to McGill or even to universities,” said Bruce Lennox, Dean of Science and Co-Chair of the Task Force, in his opening statement. “We’ve done a survey, and now we are doing five focus groups to allow as many people as possible to express their views. The members of the Task Force are here to listen and learn. We are not here to respond or defend. We are creating a framework for recommendations that will come from you and that we will make at the end of the process.”
Each person who spoke had about two minutes to present. The points raised ranged from arguments against censorship, to the need to ensure that historically marginalized people feel safe and respected on campus, and from complaints and concerns to concrete proposals.
Participants represented a microcosm of opinion on campus: from proponents of a no holds-barred approach to debating any and all ideas to a more measured approach barring some extreme views on the grounds that they threaten the safety and well-being of minorities. Students, staff and faculty were in attendance. People can watch the proceedings online.
Task Force Co-Chair Nandini Ramanujam closed the proceedings by saying it seemed that many people were interested in humanizing the issues, and being able to discuss them in a safe and civil environment.
“McGill is all of us – hopefully we’ll all do the things that will make McGill more open and diverse. And we will do it while upholding the mission statement of the University,” said Ramanujam.
The Principal’s Task Force on Respect and Inclusion in Campus Life will recommend a set of concrete measures to deliver on McGill’s commitment to create a respectful and inclusive environment for teaching, learning, and the creation and dissemination of knowledge, across all areas of campus life at McGill.
Whether or not they participated in the Open Forum or focus groups, members of the McGill community are invited to provide their input, in confidence, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Emails can be two lines or two pages and all will be read as part of the consultation. Given that the Task Force will report by mid-April, emails can be submitted until March 30. More information about the Task Force, including its mandate, is available on its website.