At their bi-weekly Legislative Council meeting on Thursday, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) councillors got into a heated debate over the only motion of the night, one that proposed banning the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke from the Shatner building, including Gerts.
The popular song has been widely banned for promoting rape and propagating misogyny, especially through the repetition of lines such as “I know you want it” and others more explicit. The motion is not without precedent, either – several universities across the UK have banned the song from their own student union buildings.
“[This song] violates the whole idea of safe space. It’s an example of exactly what we should not accept at McGill,” said Sarah Southey, Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) Representative and one of the movers. She continued, “It’s being played five times a night at Gerts.”
VP University Affairs Joey Shea brought up concerns that the song may act as a trigger for sexual assault survivors, especially given the proximity of Gerts to the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society in the Shatner building basement.
Opponents of the motion protested that a ban on the song would be a direct violation of free speech standards.
“This is as close to censorship as we can get,” claimed VP Internal Brian Farnan, a fervent opponent of the motion.
President Katie Larson also cautioned councillors against the dangers of embarking on the path of censorship, and the difficulties of drawing the line between banning the song “Blurred Lines” and banning all other popular songs with a misogynistic message, stating, “Do you really want to open this Pandora’s box of music banning?”
Farnan motioned to add a sarcastic amendment to the motion, which read, “Be it resolved that SSMU ban all songs that suggest rape culture, misogyny or sexual assault and/or abuse.”
“I just wanted to speak to the fact that I think the intention of this amendment is to prove a point, which I’m not sure is a valid reason to propose an amendment,” Southey responded, adding that the motion wasn’t censorship, but instead, “It’s the fact that SSMU has an obligation and a responsibility to its members to provide a space where everyone feels comfortable.”
After an hour and a half of fierce debate, the motion failed, with 7 votes in favour, 8 against, and 11 abstentions.
“I fully supported the content of the motion,” Farnan said after the vote. “[My arguments] were purely theoretical, surrounding the ability of a student society to ban a song in a building. I think it’s a slippery slope.”
Shea, however, was very disappointed by the motion’s failure. “[This motion] was an opportunity for the SSMU to take a strong stance against songs [that are apologetic for rape] and to educate those members who might not have thought twice about its content.”
Sustainability and Vision 2020 discussed
SSMU Sustainability Coordinator David Gray-Donald was present as a guest speaker to give a review of sustainability practices at SSMU. Gray-Donald highlighted the old heating and ventilation systems in Shatner, and sustainability training for executives, as problem areas to focus on this year.
Gray-Donald also presented on Vision 2020, a sustainability group on campus. He suggested several initiatives, such as holding periodic networking events to foster collaboration and raise the group’s profile, as well as offering more educational content on sustainability within and outside of classes.
Council resolved to go through the proposed initiatives at a further date.