Commentary | Hyde Park: Talk to me, we’ll get beyond polarizing questions

What exactly did we accomplish at the General Assembly (GA) Thursday night? Perhaps if we hadn’t been dealing with a motion designed to polarize students, we could have walked away feeling proud of our part in the democratic process. Instead, I’m feeling a bit confused.

Don’t get me wrong – I am proud that the motion was defeated. It didn’t come as a huge shock to me that a majority of students at the GA didn’t feel like having the night’s atmosphere spill over into our classrooms, creating a toxic campus environment. Had the author of the motion asked me to co-author a less inflammatory draft that was truly committed to upholding human rights for students everywhere, I believe we could have presented a unified student response. But now I am left with a certain lingering feeling, and I can’t help but ask myself what happened.

Let’s examine Thursday’s events in more detail. My only real issue up until this point is that nobody seemed to have a problem with the fact that we were voting on Star Wars characters in the same breath as the Middle East conflict.

And it was only after voting on house parties and No Pants Fridays that we entered into truly contentious territory. I can hardly believe it, but somehow we managed to make it through the water bottle vote without splitting the room down the middle into two angry mobs.

For two hours, we managed to sit side-by-side in harmony, merely divided by whether we believed poor people should have the right to smoke weed out of bottles sold in Shatner. Together, we witnessed the triumphant return of the women’s liberation movement, and a heartwarming call for solidarity with other Trekkies. But then, Jordan Owens changed everything.

Really, Jordan? We go to McGill. You couldn’t have figured out something just a tad bit more subtle than creating a physical division in the student population? Metaphors are not lost on us. Instead, our happy democratic proceedings somehow degenerated into a groaning and glaring contest. Insults were hurled, and tears were shed.

So what do I think about how it turned out? Well, the motion to postpone indefinitely rendered precisely the same outcome as if the motion had been voted down outright. Furthermore, it just proved that the vast majority of students didn’t think a motion of that nature even deserved to be entertained in that forum. And since it was abundantly clear after the first split in numbers that it was inevitably going to be defeated, another four hours of debate would only have served to further the already overwhelming tension in that room, and enrage the 95 per cent of GA-goers who had come with their minds made up. What would we have accomplished by having each side hurl epithets at one another, interspersed with occasional chanting and booing? Wasn’t everyone already frustrated enough?

I have a very wise friend who, at the end of the GA, said that she wished everyone would hug someone on the other side of the room. Maybe the least we can hope for is that the supporters of this motion will accept the outcome of the democratic avenue they freely chose to pursue. And maybe instead of a hug we can harness our emotions from last night and have a real inter-group dialogue somewhere more productive than a GA.

Hartlee Zucker is a U2 Humanistic Studies and the President of Hillel McGill. Hug it on out at hartlee.zucker@mail.mcgill.ca.


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