Commentary | Illuminating power

Why The Daily must support the student movement

McGill en grève générale illimitée – these words have been floating around on campus this past month. Sometimes, they’ve been a hopeful chant coming from a crowd. At other times, they’ve been a concrete reality – a proclamation of what departments such as Art History, Women’s Studies, and Philosophy, and faculties such as Social Work, have achieved.

The fact of a strike at McGill – only a miniscule part of a province-wide action against the upcoming tuition hikes – is in many ways a hopeful sign: McGill students are engaging in the Quebec student movement in a new way – no student at McGill had ever been on unlimited general strike before this year.

However, the administration’s reaction to the strike is a sign of an entirely less-hopeful nature. The strike has brought out some of the administration’s worst tendencies over the past few weeks. Whether intimidating students and professors on picket lines, sending out MROs that demonize student demonstrators, or even going so far as to ban four students from campus, this administration has abused its power in an unjustifiable way in order to shut down the strike.

This repressive posture is not, unfortunately, a new one for this administration. Since the beginning of this year they have been actively trying to stifle dissent on campus. They tried to silence MUNACA while the union was on strike by getting an injunction that prevented workers from picketing near campus. They’ve targeted students for political reasons, taking (in some cases unfounded) disciplinary actions against outspoken activists. They’ve also released a protocol that borders on fascist: the administration can now shut down any demonstration that “impedes the conduct of University activities” (when the very purpose of a demonstration is to disrupt), and call the police (euphemistically described as “civil authorities”) on demonstrators whenever they wish.

Through actions such as these, the administration has continually shown that they have and are willing to use their power to coerce the students and workers that make up McGill University. But, as actions such as the strike and the occupations that have taken place this year have shown, students are fighting back.

The Daily must recognize this power struggle and the uneven ground on which it is taking place: our Statement of Principles (SOP) states that “we recognize that at present power is unevenly distributed.” At McGill, right now, this uneven distribution is extreme. While administrators have the ability to punish and harass students, students simply have the power of their voices, actions, and solidarity.

As such, The Daily must stand with student movement struggles. Our SOP mandates us to give voice to those who are marginalized in some way, while still fighting for change and trying to critique the power structures around us. Right now, that is – among others – the students taking concrete actions against the McGill administration.

There has been much of that action at McGill this year – I can only hope this will continue next year. Presuming it does, it will be the job of this newspaper to look critically at how the administration deals with activists on campus, and the job of this editorial board to stand in solidarity with those who are fighting against an oppressive McGill administration.

Joan Moses is a U3 Political Science and English Literature student and was one of The Daily’s Design and Production editors in 2010-2011, and the Coordinating editor in 2011-2012. The opinions expressed here are her own. She can be reached at joan.e.moses@gmail.com


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