Commentary | McGill’s school spirit: out to pasture?

Hyde Park

As a returning student just trying to finally get “out from under” my undergraduate degree, I read your first fall issue with a mix of delight, nostalgia, and bitter curiosity.  As I read, I happily recalled my own adventures exploring Montreal.  I got excited when cafés and record shops that I’d explored got lip-service in your guide to the island, and got even more excited when they remained unmentioned, safely hidden away as rewards for more intrepid new explorers. 

I felt the flash of those first stings of frustration and bitterness, remembering past battles with the McGill Administration, where it was always unclear whether their tactics would’ve worked against a less apathetic, fragmented student body. Caught up in my own revery, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of a place our construction-torn, beer-stained, ever-more corporate, and yet somehow still picturesque campus would become for the next batch of freshmen. 

As soon as I finished reading, I walked outside the Arts building to stand in the sun and take a long, thoughtful sweeping glance across McGill’s campus.  It was then that I was almost run over by a herd of cows. To be precise, a band of pillaging students, many dressed in a cow spot motif, and all waving a large banner that said “UQAM” [Université de Quebec à Montréal], who were barrelling up the front steps of our campus.

The air rang with “Olé’s” as the troop celebrated their victory above the silent tomb of James McGill.  The most frightening thing about this attack – and perhaps the most disappointing for those UQAM students who waged the affront – was that it garnered absolutely no response.  The hoard of students packed into Open Air Pub paid no heed, and the only pedestrians nearby wore the pained and dazed expression of individuals being sent from one bout of waterboarding to the next – no doubt en route from the student affairs office to the James Administration building. 

Although victorious, the UQAM assault failed, in a way, because when they got to McGill, the castle turned out to be empty.  UQAM’s victory was as vacuous as is our faith in the little red Martlett which perches above those steps. Does this foretell the future of a university whose school spirit has been drawn and quartered by the vagrancies of private interests?  Is there anyone left at McGill who could have mobilized a response?  Our school’s pride can only be said to have suffered injury if she hasn’t already been sent to the coroner.  Does she still breath?  Will anyone defend her?

Liz Cody is a U3 Cognitive Science student.


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