Commentary | McGill administration ignoring the student vote again

Yet another example of McGill’s iron fist

SACOMSS. Architecture Cafe. MSA. MUNACA. November 10. And the McGill administration is at it again. With the announcement that the they are refusing to respect the fall referendum results, we are witnessing yet another example of McGill’s top-down decision making when it comes to students and workers at McGill.

The fall referendum had the second highest voter turnout in SSMU’s history (24.7 per cent, or 5245 undergraduate students). After students voted 72.3 per cent in favour of continuing to support CKUT and 65.6 per cent in favour of continuing to support QPIRG McGill, it is astounding to witness McGill’s flagrant disregard for student democracy, autonomy, and due process. While McGill has repeatedly stated that the results were “unclear,” they have failed to provide any substantial arguments to back up this assessment. The referendum question asked if students wanted to continue to support CKUT and QPIRG’s existence with opt-outs no longer on Minerva. And students voted yes. How, exactly, could this have been clearer? It is insulting to the intelligence of McGill students to insinuate that this question was beyond their comprehension.

Mendelson’s arguments are flimsy, inconsistent, and bizarrely self-referential – he even cites opinion articles as supporting evidence, articles that quote himself on the topic of the referendum.  Furthermore, the very idea of an “existence referendum,” term coined by the McGill administration is one that lacks any clear rules or parameters. QPIRG sent several e-mails to the Administration prior to the referendum period asking to see public rules and regulations governing such a question, to which we never received a clear response. Why is it that our organizations are being held up to an unattainable, unclear standard (with no public rules or regulations) while the administration can make up the rules as they go?

In The Daily article “Admin invalidates referendum results” (January 19, 2012), Mendelson is quoted saying that QPIRG and CKUT “can …ask a separate question on whether the fee should be non opt-outable, on the understanding that the administration cannot be bound by a referendum on the method of opting out.” Given this statement, how can we ever be confident that any democratic process we undertake will be accepted by the McGill administration? The administration is repeatedly telling us through their actions that the voting process, and therefore the voices and interests of McGill students, are irrelevant.

To give this all a bit of context, the system of online opt-outs was imposed unilaterally by the McGill administration in 2007, ignoring objections from campus groups regarding this violation of student autonomy. That same year, a SSMU General Assembly motion and subsequent student referendum called upon the administration to put an end to the online opt-out system. Both the motion and the referendum passed, but the McGill Administration chose to ignore these results.

This most recent move on the part of the McGill administration illustrates a serious lack of respect for the autonomy of student-funded and student-run organizations on campus. From the shutting down of Architecture Café, to SACOMSS’s space being threatened, to the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) being denied a prayer space, to the actions the administration took on November 10 (as well as their response in the aftermath), to the privatization of food services on campus, to their history of ignoring student votes in past referenda, McGill administration rules with an iron fist. Not only does this affect students, it affects workers too. We have seen most recently with non-academic staff on campus (MUNACA).

As this goes to print, QPIRG and CKUT are continuing to negotiate with McGill to have the student vote heard, and are exploring all options available to each of our respective organizations. It’s time we stop allowing the McGill administration to push us around on campus; enough is enough.

Tyler Lawson is a U2 Joint-Honours student in Philosophy and Environment Studies, a QPIRG Board Member and a CKUT Member. He can be reached at tyler.lawson@mail.mcgill.ca. Simone Lucas is a U4 Honours student in Women’s Studies with a minor in Communication Studies, a QPIRG Board Member, and a CKUT Member. She can be reached at simone.lucas@mail.mcgill.ca.


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