Yep. November 23, I’ll be there. Not actually on campus, of course. November isn’t “lower field friendly,” so I’ll be over at Place des Arts. McGill was prescient enough to realize that re-sodding a field twice a year and housing thousands of people in over-heated wedding tents, and then renting out space every fall, was a much better long-term solution to accommodating grads ands and their families.
But, I mean, maybe I’m wrong: maybe it wasn’t a failure of vision. It’d be reasonable enough to blame it on administrative oversight, but we all know that the rulers inhabiting that ghastly Orwellian behemoth that is James Admin are very sincere –very judicious – in their “fuck you” attitude.
Perhaps, instead, it was realized that eventually there would be no need for an actual convocation hall. Over time, through calculated decisions at destabilizing campus life’s cohesion, vitality, and autonomy, perhaps it was understood that students would just stop caring.
This isn’t to say they would stop caring entirely. They would still attend classes –taught by a faculty that’s earnest and caring and excellent, but also beleaguered from their lack of administrative support. And they would still study diligently in the libraries, and conduct research in the laboratories. This is to say that they wouldn’t stop caring about learning. But they would stop caring about their role in the University as a whole. They would step back, and let the centralized machine churn out its awards and recognition – without dissent, without openness, without community.
And so the hope, potentially, would be that these able minds would run off, not glancing back, thankful for the quality of their education yet unaware that University life can be more than cold authoritarian institutionalism. And so the seats would go empty at future convocations, and eventually the tents wouldn’t need to be erected at all, and soon enough the fields could just be paved over with concrete.
Yes, Heather, I may be being a tad hyperbolic. Yet, I’ve been preparing myself for my return and, while I’m excited to see Montreal again, with all the news I’ve noticed through occasionally glances at the Gazette and Facebook, well, I just really don’t like the direction things are heading at McGill. I haven’t for some time, but now I have time to collect my thoughts and write a possibly unnecessary but definitely cathartic jeremiad.
My political views are not the motivation for this letter; I actually believe in the need for tuition to be set at national levels so that the University can operate effectively and, conjointly, so that added revenue can allow for greatly expanded financial aid for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. Likewise, my views on union demands are, to say the least, nuanced. (Though, let’s be real, the core demands of MUNACA now, and of the TAs in 2008 and again today, are and were perfectly reasonable).
But regardless of one’s specific views on these and countless other matters of concern to those that make university life possible, the fact remains that civic disagreement and dialogue are fundamental to the university, so scare tactics and arrogance on the part of the upper admin are not only insulting, they undermine the very conceptual underpinnings of university life.
This is all to say that, really, in the end, the reason I care is because I just don’t get why you guys don’t. At basically every juncture over my tenure at McGill wherein the administration could have worked to collaborate with students, faculty, and staff to create a vibrant, engaging community – to the mutual benefit of all, I might add – the admin appeared to shrug its shoulders, raise its middle finger, and look away.
Truly there is a myopia that pervades the highest level of administration that I just don’t understand. Is it really – seriously!? – that hard to grasp that, by enhancing the student experience, you will not only enhance McGill’s international reputation, but also reap dividends in the future from satisfied alums? I guess so.
So, like I said, Heather, I’m coming back, and I’m taking my degree. I’d like to thank my profs for a great education, and I’d also like to thank all the academic and non-academic support staff that assisted me over the course of four years. But while my frustration with certain administrative choices is clear, when I walk down that aisle don’t expect me to argue. I won’t say a peep. My time there is up.
Nonetheless, what I will do is protest with my future earnings. While I understand that the alumni donations do, in fact, do great things, I cannot with clear conscience contribute monetarily to a university which displays such a wanton disregard of its students, its faculty, and its staff. And so I’ve decided, for the foreseeable future, against making any donations, and I’ve requested that my parents (who started getting donation requests well before I’d even declared my major) cease immediately.
Cash is king, so maybe one day it’ll speak.
See you later, bro.
Signed by Nick Dillon, a BA & Sc Cognitive Science student graduating in 2011.
P.s. Why the hell is fall graduation on a Wednesday this year? That was super considerate.