Reflections on the AUS GA
An open letter to Arts Students
I sit writing this late Tuesday night. This evening, I watched the Faculty of Arts vote against a student strike. I have two important thoughts that I, rather selfishly, would like to share:
1. I often worry that because of the privileged reputation that McGill is associated with, many (but by no means all) forget the hours of work that go into paying for an education. It’s easy to get caught up in a flurry of due dates, midterms, hung-over weekends, thin winter sun, and the recent nearness of summer. It’s much harder to consider making serious decisions – such as that to vote to strike, when the end of the semester is only a few weeks away. Failing to vote in favor of a strike – failing to even discuss voting for the acceptance of an accessible education mandate (as the Faculty of Science did, a few weeks ago) continues to plague McGill with the reputation of a hyper-privileged university, filled with students who do not respect the Quebec student movement. This has the power to lead to a further severing of ties between McGill and other Quebec universities, including Concordia (historically, our english-speaking comrade) since they are now on strike.
2. My other concern – and this is a much more grounded one – is that in voting against the strike, we are essentially enabling – if not supporting – tuition increases of hundreds (eventually thousands) of dollars. Is this not the university that was in throws regarding opt-in / opt-out fees? Is this not the university where students campaigned on the rhetoric of, ‘OPT-OUT! SAVE $3.75! BUY YOURSELF A BEER!’? Is it really that important to treasure (what is for many) pocket-change money, but then not protest tuition hikes? I could be misreading things, I could be out of line here, but to me this presents a serious double standard.
This year has seen both CKUT and QPIRG run referendums to take their fees offline. It seems extremely troubling to me that organizations that are local to McGill, that do influential and important work here, have to ask students to pay these menial fees and yet we do not object to paying the government hundreds more for our education.
McGill students, I beg of you, think things through. Look in the long-term. Question everything.
Thanks for reading.
U1 Faculty of Arts
Don’t cherry pick students
Re : McGill begins disciplinary action against BoG Disruptors (News, Page 6, March 8)
I write in response to the recent Daily article, « McGill begins disciplinary against BoG disruptors » (News, Page 6, March 8), detailing disciplinary proceedings filed against a number of students for allegedly disrupting an open meeting of the McGill Board of Governors on January 31, 2012. Over the course of my tenure at McGill, I have had the opportunity to work with several of these students in various capacities across campus. I have been consistently impressed with their level of analysis, political literacy, and dialogue, and can say, without a doubt, that they are among the brightest and most committed students I have encountered as a TA, tutor, or student both at McGill and at leading institutions in the U.S. and U.K.
I bring this up because I am concerned that in their quest to suppress all student dissent on campus, the University Administration is squandering our institution’s intellectual capital and future reputation. These students have acted not out of wanton disregard for order, but out of principled objection to what they see as the administration’s failure to engage in meaningful dialogue with the student body. An objection, I might add, which is echoed throughout the students, staff, and faculty at McGill. As demonstrated by the long list of distinguished alumni who signed a letter in support of the #6party occupiers, the many letters of support from faculty members, and the signatories around the world who endorsed the Open Letter to the Fifth Floor Occupiers in November 2011, many of McGill’s best and brightest recognize the legitimacy of direct action as part of a principled expression of views. One cannot recruit intelligent and informed students, educate them well, and then expect them to remain silent. I hope that the administration will come to recognize the positive contribution that these students are making to a climate of intellectual debate and putting principle into practice at our university.
I am particularly concerned about the way that the cherry-picking of students to prosecute resembles not a concern for discipline and order, but an exercise in political profiling. If the administration succeeds in a mission to silence or expel the “radical” voices on this campus, it will also have succeeded in suppressing intellectual curiosity, freedom of speech, debate, and academic integrity, leaving McGill’s reputation as a university in shambles. As an academic, and a future alumna, I sincerely hope that will not come to pass.
In conclusion, I urge the administration to reconsider the prosecution of students alleged to have disrupted the Board of Governors meeting and, more broadly, to reconsider its strategy for dealing with incidents of dissent on campus.
Mona Luxion, B.A, M.A.
PhD3 Student, School of Urban Planning
President, Urban Planning PhD Students
Urban Planning Delegate, AGSEM
2010 Schulich Fellow; 2011 Graduate Excellence Fellow
Thinking under the stars
Re : Homeless on purpose (Features, Pages 8-9, March 1)
I found the recent article “Homeless on purpose” to be quite stirring – I initially scoffed at the headline and the cover photo, thinking this was another article a la five days for the homeless which merely appropriated the complexities of homelessness for an image of badassery or misled charity. Instead, I found the article was nuanced and subtle, and did a lot of showing rather than telling. There are, of course, many reasons why people live on the streets – or on the mountain, or even on campus – and not all of them are as fortunate as Dussault, which I think was well addressed in the article. That’s not to say that one cannot have a positive and fulfilling life, as Dussault seems to have, by living outside. Though the article mostly romanticizes Dussault’s daily life, which must be difficult in ways I can’t even imagine, I’m glad that overall the feature seems to be informed by his own words and experiences, and points to a lifestyle that is perhaps more grounded in a sense of place and self than the average McGill student’s experience. That is perhaps what spoke to me most profoundly – I hope that I can learn from Dussault’s independence, perserverance, and self-sufficiency, even while sleeping under a roof most days of the year.
U3 German and East Asian Studies
SSMU VP clubs and services 2011-2012, the views expressed here are her own
Don’t operate in a vacuum
Hello Prof Masi,
As I hope you are aware, a large percentage of the student population in Quebec is already on strike and has been for two weeks. Those amongst my friends have received good support from their respective faculties, including professors not crossing picket lines and cancelling classes.
While I understand that the official stance of McGill is pro-hike, there was no point in trying to break the student movement by invoking academic regulations. Your total dismissal of student protests is insulting. You should remember first and foremost that McGill is not an American university parachuted in Ville-Marie, but a Quebecois public university. It is grossly inappropriate at this point in the protests to pretend the university works in a political vacuum.
If I took anything home from the MUNACA strike is that you and the administration are probably going to plant your feet in the ground and keep your stance. I hope you reconsider your decision. The atmosphere at McGill does not have to be this way.