The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com Septum-pierced hipsters since 1911 Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:05:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.2 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg The McGill Daily http://www.mcgilldaily.com 32 32 SSMU base fee increase question fails http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/ssmu-base-fee-increase-question-fails/ Fri, 05 Feb 2016 03:22:58 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45529 On February 3, the results of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter 2016 special referendum were announced. The referendum question to increase the SSMU membership base fee by $5.50 failed with 49.7 per cent, a margin of 18 votes, while the question regarding the restructuring of the executive portfolios passed with 72.1 per cent of all votes.

In an interview with The Daily, Erin Sobat, a member of the “yes” committee for the fee increase, said that the results of the referendum question are “disappointing.”

“Those who voted “no” with [the information we communicated] – we obviously respect that and we are glad that they had the opportunity to look through it and make an informed decision,” Sobat said.

“What is disappointing is knowing that with a 16 per cent turnout, [there are a] number of students out there that simply did not hear about the campaign, did not care enough to vote, or did not feel that they had the information or knowledge to see it as important or relevant,” Sobat continued.

Consequences of the “no” vote


SSMU VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston explained that the “no” vote will have immediate results. Houston said that he was in the middle of working on the February budget revision, and that all relevant departments had already submitted their preliminary drafts.

However, Houston told The Daily that he did not start reviewing these drafts, “Because I knew that I needed to know whether or not [the] base fee passed to really make these decisions.”

“For this year, we will want to reduce spending, but not necessarily need to cut things drastically, because we saved so much on salaries this year. For example, an already planned project of the VP University Affairs would not necessarily get cut, but if the VP University Affairs’ mental health budget has some extra money with no direct plan – [we’re] definitely trimming all that off now. Any unallocated money and budgets will get cut,” Houston said.

SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained to The Daily that the cuts would affect how much assistance her portfolio would be able to provide to help run student group events.

“In the context of my portfolio, the biggest issue that I have on the student group side of things is that we are wildly understaffed,” said Bialik. “A big part of the base fee increase [would have meant] being able to hire more staff – student support staff and eventually a full time student group support staff.”

Executive restructuring


According to the results of the executive restructuring question, the VP Clubs & Services position will be converted into VP Student Life, and the VP Finance and Operations position will be divided in two. The restructuring will also move some of the responsibilities of current positions to accommodate for the seventh executive.

Bialik was encouraged by the results of the referendum question and explained that the new VP Operations portfolio would require someone who is focused on planning for the “big picture, thinking long term, and coming up with a new vision for what we want our operations to be.”

“There are so many things that have a lot of potential in that portfolio, there’s a lot that can be done with Gerts, the Student Run Cafe […] and the building,” Bialik said. “We really need someone who is focused on consultation and figuring out what students want, and figuring out a long term plan for how to actualize that.”

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Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions action network launched at McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/boycott-divestment-sanctions-action-network-launched-at-mcgill/ Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:34:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45499 A group of McGill students and student organizations brought the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to campus today, by launching a campaign called the McGill BDS Action Network.

In an interview with The Daily, Laura Khoury, one of the organizers of today’s event, explained that the BDS campaign “particularly calls on university campuses to divest from companies that profit off of the occupation of Palestine.”

“That includes any businesses that allow these companies to profit off of anything that the State of Israel uses to continue to expand its occupation and its settlements on occupied territories, which is against international law,” Khoury said.

For its first action, the campaign held a demonstration at Y-intersection today, handing out flyers to passers-by with information regarding the campaign. In addition, the demonstrators held a sign that said, “Stand against oppression, stand for justice in Palestine.”

The demonstration was also accompanied by the launch of a website, detailing the goals of the campaign.

Currently, McGill has investments in four companies, which, the campaigners claim, directly profit from the occupation. These companies are the British private security systems corporation G4S, surveillance and reconnaissance provider L-3 Communications, Israel’s fourth largest commercial bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, and the real estate company Re/Max.

“That includes any businesses that allow these companies to profit off of anything that the State of Israel uses to continue to expand its occupation and its settlements on occupied territories, which is against international law.”

According to Khoury, the campaign is also attempting to bring these investments to the attention of the McGill Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which could consider recommending divestment if the McGill community proves that a certain investment constitutes “social injury.”

Members of the campus environmental justice group Divest McGill have been attempting to appeal to CAMSR in a similar fashion since 2013, asking that McGill divest its holdings in the tar sands and fossil fuel companies.

At this point, the campaign is officially endorsed by the McGill Syrian Students’ Association, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill, Cinema Political McGill, Midnight Kitchen, Black Students’ Network of McGill, Divest McGill, the Union for Gender Empowerment, and McGill Students for Feminisms.

Apart from appealing to CAMSR however, the campaigners are planning on bringing up a BDS motion to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter General Assembly (GA) on February 22. Last year, two motions regarding Palestine were brought up at two GAs last year. The motion brought up in Fall was tabled indefinitely, while the one in Winter was voted down.

Muhammad Anani, another organizer with the campaign, differentiated the upcoming motion from previous years’ motions regarding Palestine. The upcoming motion will explicitly call on SSMU to support BDS campaigns on campus, and to lobby the McGill Board of Governors to divest from corporations complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“These companies inflict social injury onto people in the West Bank – that’s why they deserve to be boycotted, divested from, and sanctioned until they comply with international law and the fourth Geneva convention.”

“The motion is quite simple, and our University is invested in these companies, they buy products from these companies. And these companies inflict social injury onto people in the West Bank – that’s why they deserve to be boycotted, divested from, and sanctioned until they comply with international law and the fourth Geneva convention,” Anani told The Daily.

Zahra Habib, another organizer with the campaign, explained that while the motion is one of the campaign’s concerns, it is not the only concern. Habib explained that the main purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness regarding Palestine on campus.

“We created this campaign to […] raise awareness on campus about the motion, for students to both get a background and to mobilize, and to come to the SSMU GA and vote – regardless of whatever side they’re on,” Habib told The Daily.

Between now and the Winter GA, the campaign will be holding various events, including a talk on BDS and anti-Semitism by Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis on February 18, a screening of Palestinian short films by Cinema Politica February 17, and a “Concert for Justice” on February 20.

Fuad Quaddoura, a U0 Science student and a Palestinian himself, expressed that he was glad to see students mobilizing around this issue.

“I was headed to my math class, and seeing this was an eye-opener. I was really happy, pleased. The fact that so many people – Palestinian, non-Palestinian, white, all races – are signing up for the cause is just really heartwarming,” Quaddoura told The Daily.


Copy editor Chantelle Schultz was not involved in the editing of this article, as she is a member of the McGill BDS Action Network.

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Mission control! #1 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/mission-control-1/ Tue, 02 Feb 2016 00:35:31 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45399 compenium_comic_WEB

Vote here!

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CONSPIRACY! bends time and space http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/conspiracy-bends-time-and-space/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45385 Regarding the death of poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe in 1993, only three pieces of information are known. The inquest into his death, a reference to a bar brawl, and slanderous accusations of atheism. Thus begins Chocolate Moose Theatre’s CONSPIRACY!, a complex comedy that bends space, time, and truth. The play ended its four day run on January 24.

Playwright and co-director Martin Law knots the audience into the intrigue of Marlowe’s mysterious death. The play begins with a secret mission from the crown, in which Richard Bull (Dakota Wellman) and Jane Bull (Alexandra Petrachuk), a pair of sibling spies, are recruited to fake the death of playwright Christopher Marlowe (Kenny Struele). Richard and Jane must navigate the conspiracies around them as they run off into a tangled web of half-truths and historical inaccuracies. Writing with sharp and entertaining wit, Law weaves fact and fiction together. When asked what Christopher Marlowe would make of this work, Law told The Daily, “I think he would probably turn in his grave a bit, but he might have a chuckle.”

Playful and inventive, CONSPIRACY!’s actors never held back for a moment. The humour of Marlowe’s character was not lost in Struele’s acting. He had an enthusiastic stage presence as a foul, horny, hilarious drunk that could barely walk in a straight line. The events surrounding Marlowe may have involved serious matters of church and state, but Marlowe himself was riotously blunt and intoxicated throughout the play. To add to the ridiculous, Broomstick, a witch-fearing Scotswoman played by Katherine Turnbull, made the audience laugh until they cried. Turnbull turned the already comedic character into a truly excellent one, never failing to liven the absurdity of the show with unrestrained eccentricity.

Wellman and Petrachuk were a brilliant pair of leads. Their familial bickering and banter charmed the audience. Whether they were running from the crown, dragging a corpse across the stage, or arguing over an ex-husband, the two never left the audience bored. Wellman captured the quirkiness of Richard Bull perfectly, representing an unintelligent “intelligencer.” Petrachuk’s Jane Bull had a consistency that the shifting plot of CONSPIRACY! tended to lack. Her comedy was right on cue with moments of deep emotion that made the play even more intense. Leading into the climax of the play, everything began to unravel, but Petrachuk’s performance was consistently steadfast and brilliant throughout.

The acting and direction made for an animated show, but closer to the finale the plot became muddled. The overlapping conspiracies drawn throughout the play clashed in a messy, intense debate. This moment was sustained for one moment too long, and led to a lasting sense of confusion in the end. There was nothing subtle about the death-defying finale, with the playwright rising from the dead to rework history and live to be the Shakespeare we know.

Law told The Daily that “the only way I could explain how anything happened was that Christopher Marlowe’s spirit was reaching into my brain and forcing someone from the 21st century to resurrect him in place of Shakespeare.” Law found that the beauty of the comedy was realizing he knew nothing about Christopher Marlowe.

The playbill introducing the performance reades, “The play you are about to see may not be entirely historically accurate. Notwithstanding, it may not be entirely un-historically accurate. There are many ways to look at historical accuracy.” This single truth captures the creativity of CONSPIRACY! and, in Law’s own words, encourages “a sense of just how little we know.” A comedy with a penchant for disaster, this play likely kept audiences intrigued long after the final bow.

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Squeezed out of McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/squeezed-out-of-mcgill/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45383 Two weeks ago, Sophia Metcalf, a Psychology and Music major, started a petition entitled “Praxis Tactics: Making Space for McGill’s Performing Arts.” The petition Metcalf initiated supports her application requesting that available space in the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) building be designed to provide adequately equipped rehearsal rooms. After the University Health Centre’s move to the Glen site last April, the McGill administration in collaboration with the Quebec government have been considering the fate of RVH.

As part of the feasibility study that guides the decision regarding the RVH site, the Principal’s Task Force on the Academic Vision and Mission of the RVH has been accepting proposals and suggestions regarding the use of space to get a representative picture of students’ voices. Metcalf’s initiative, in turn, aims to respond to students’ needs by making sure that new performing arts spaces reflect an interaction of music, dance and theatre. In particular, the petition suggests using the space at RVH to create 18 rehearsal spaces of different sizes, all with large windows, which would be outfitted with upright pianos, plug points, and light dimmers. Metcalf is convinced that her idea to use the space for performing arts “will not go to waste,” as McGill students are “intellectual, driven, and diligent,” and all they need is an incentive to continue growing.

“Ultimately, the goal would be to create an incorporated, collaborative space for the performing arts to flourish here at McGill, and to encourage communication across our many [diverse] communities,” Metcalf told The Daily. She hopes to make it possible for students outside of performing arts to cultivate their talents further and continue growing artistically. “Having space that could be rented by any student, no matter what faculty, […] would change drastically the relationship between McGill and its students, allowing students to keep up with extracurriculars [that] they […] do not have a space for on their own,” she added.

According to the petition, the performing arts community at McGill often has difficulties finding rehearsed spaces on campus, leaving only inconvenient alternatives. “[This includes] praying [that] the English Room isn’t booked, grabbing any free SSMU [Students’ Society of McGill University] room you happen to get your hands on, […] or sometimes even sneaking into the proper rehearsal spaces at Concordia,” Anurag Choudhury, an English major who has been involved in many shows on campus, told The Daily.

Sophie van Bastelaer, the director of Players’ Theatre’s upcoming Dinner production told The Daily, “Trying to find rehearsal space for Dinner […] we […] would trudge to the Sherbrooke 688 [building] in the evenings, competing with hordes of other groups, prowling around the building looking for open, cramped, [and] loud rooms in which to rehearse.”

The university administration says that, although it is “keenly aware of McGill’s space deficit,” long-term planning is what is on the agenda for reconstructuring the RVH site. “The key with RVH is to develop an exciting long-term vision for this new campus that is seen as furthering our academic mission and other strategic priorities,” McGill’s Vice-Principal (Administration, and Finance) Michael Di Grappa told The Daily in an email. Notably, the first phase of the project is estimated to take no less than five to seven years.

In her proposal, Metcalf gives examples of students who had to give up practicing artistic hobbies in their free time because there was no space for them to self-improve. Oscar Lecuyer, an English Department Drama and Theatre representative, told The Daily, “I have heard of countless amazing ambitious projects pitched by my fellow colleagues and peers that have slowly shrivelled and died under the organisational pressure that this lack of spaces is forcing students to undertake.”

Metcalf’s petition aims to collect 500 signatures by tonight. In mid-February, Metcalf will send her proposal and petition to the University. If it approves the proposal, it will then be compared with other suggestions for RVH’s space redistribution. Metcalf is worried, however, that the University’s focus on sciences and research will skew the perspective and result in the RVH space being turned exclusively into labs. “RVH is a huge facility, it could hold fifty groups. I just want to be sure that the performing arts are a part of it,” she said.

Groups such as Seeing Voices Montreal and Players’ Theatre have been very supportive of the project. “There are professors willing to support this initiative as well, so even if you don’t take it from us, take it from them,” added Metcalf.

Metcalf, and all of the students backing her proposal, are convinced that these spaces are an essential interdisciplinary resource to facilitate learning, sharing, and creating. According to van Bastelaer, “Vague citations about money and spatial concerns should no longer be an excuse for the physically and artistically cramped environments McGill performers are told they have no choice but to deal with.”

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POC artists to watch: Jef Barbara http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/poc-artists-to-watch-jef-barbara/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:34:36 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45359 I have fallen into a deep infatuation with the 1980s. From the goth, post-punk sound of The Cure to the androgyny and tight-fit neons that ruled the fashion world, I am seriously thinking of changing my name to Molly Ringwald II. Okay, maybe that’s taking it a little bit too far, especially because the 1980s aren’t exactly beloved in contemporary society in the first place. It’s as if every mention of the era stabs people deep in the gut like the memory of an extremely embarrassing moment. Maybe it has to do with the bad hair perms? Who knows. All I know is that I’m digging it at the moment, and so it should come as no surprise that this week’s POC artist to watch has more than a little something to do with it.

Jef Barbara is like the breath of 1980s air that every plaid-wearing, modern-day stuck-in-the-nineties hipster needs. Montreal born and raised, Barbara has been doing their thing since around 2009, and has shown little to no signs of slowing down. Signed to Fixture Records and releasing new material almost yearly, including 2012’s daydream treasure LP Soft to the Touch, Barbara has become somewhat of a local pioneer in the revival and redefinition of the notorious era that was very much dominated by whiteness, especially when it came to musical movements like post-punk or new wave. In essence, having a POC artist like Barbara reinvent those movements by developing their own take on them in 2016 serves as nothing less than history in the making.

Last week saw the premiere of Barbara’s new music video for their cover of Rexy’s “A Perfect Day” off the 1981 album Running Out of Time. The video exudes a retro feel, featuring Barbara and some of their friends strolling through parks, eating pizza, and generally having a good time. While the original can be described as a typical new wave classic, Barbara’s take on it pushes things past their limits and tears through to an entirely new dimension, while still keeping with the spirit of the traditional synth sound of the 1980s. Barbara’s version brings in a unique sound by slowing down the overall tempo of the song, supporting their soothing signature dream pop vocals. Coupled with brief interludes of Barbara whispering over a psychedelic electric guitar, the resulting combination is what really distinguishes it from the original.

Barbara blends together rock and new wave pop, two genres that coexisted throughout the Golden Years, but made it a point to remain distinct and separate from each other, perhaps as an act of rivalry. Even today, very few artists choose to explore combinations of sounds like this, even though they are more than available to them. They feel constrained by the implicit rule that in order to be successful, artists must remain categorized and focused on the musical needs of one specific demographic. It’s refreshing to see an artist who doesn’t limit themselves artistically but instead chooses to develop their creativity by dipping into all the waters.

Barbara’s music isn’t only breaking barriers on an artistic level, it’s doing so on a social level. Locally speaking, Barbara’s music is making it much more possible for POC musicians to transcend and explore music genres that aren’t stereotypically assigned to them by society. By stepping and cementing themselves into a historically white and exclusive musical territory, Barbara has managed to combat some of the harmful alienation that POC have experienced within that environment, making it easier for POC fans and artists to partake and ultimately feel welcome.

All of this, and they still manage to keep up with all the cuteness and the glam, damn.


Talk Black is a column that seeks to engage in anti-racist culture writing, addressing art, music, and events. Jedidah Nabwangu can be reached at talk-black@mcgilldaily.com

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Participatory meaning-making http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/participatory-meaning-making/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:34:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45363 The modern museum is anything but neutral. Many of us focus on the beauty of art, forgetting that it is always produced within specific material circumstances. The decision of institutionalizing some forms of art over others, within the walls of the “white cube,” is governed by economic and political choices which determine the value of works of art. These limitations of envisioning museum space have been continuously questioned since the early 20th century, and by the 1960s many artists started to take an active stance in deconstructing the exhibition space in which their art was shown. If the museum could no longer be said to have authority on what constitutes as art, then who does?

do it toys with this question. Curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and urrently stationed at Galerie de l’UQAM the travelling exhibition involves a display of instructions given by specific artists, that the viewer can choose to follow or ignore. Many of the instructions were produced by local artists, and some instructions designed elsewhere were interpreted by participating artists in Montreal. The installation’s at once global and site-specific nature situates it at a very distinct place in the spectrum of contemporary art exhibitions.

The display is a product of collaboration, arguing that works of art can and should be participatory. Obrist began the project in mid-1990s, when numerous instructions for creating art were disseminated internationally, in nine different languages. Since then, hundreds of artists have offered their interpretations of artistic vision; and the meaning-making of instructions is ongoing. In addition to artists generating new contexts, the moments of encounter between the viewers and the art area is crucial to participatory art. do it facilitates these encounters by inviting viewers to occupy the exhibition spaces and asking them to complete tasks that physically transform it. Viewers are invited to draw on the walls, to make noise, and to take notice of each other while they do all of these things.

For one piece, photographer Vincent Lafrance was assigned to walk the streets of Montreal and follow local artist Chih-Chien Wang. Mario García Torres, the instructor, wrote the directions a decade ago, and now they are being completed by an artist in Montreal. The oddities of the actual mission aside, it enables a spatial and temporal connection between the artist who gave the instructions, the artist who interpreted it, and the viewer. Notably, the meaning of “artist” is slippery, as it rests unclear who produced the final product: the instructor, the performer, or the artist who was being followed. Lafrance filmed the process of materializing García Torres’s instructions, producing a documentary for the exhibit. In this way, the do it appears to be self-referential, based on the specific instructions propagated by Obrist two decades ago.

Ironically, there is only one name consistently attached to do it, and it is that of Obrist. More and more often, curators interpret the spatial and temporal conditions of the contemporary art exhibition in such a way that they themselves become artists. Ultimately, do it can be read as an artwork in its own right, with Obrist being its curator-as-artist.

While Obrist’s attachment to the exhibition ironically undermines some of what the exhibition is trying to do, namely, reworking the traditionally hierarchical artist-viewer dynamic, do it, still enables the viewer to experience aspects of artistry in an exhibition setting, in a fun and engaging way.

The exhibit demonstrates that neither the “final product” nor the identity of the “artist” is the point of the project. This idea is visualized in many of the installations, such as Michelle Lacombe’s piece “Please strike through my name wherever it appears in relation to this exhibition.” Instead, the viewer gets to decide whether a set of instructions should be followed through and to what end. Artists no longer have the final word on the real effect of the work. The meaning-making role has been transferred to the viewer.


do it runs until February 20 at Galerie de l’UQAM.

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Prisoner Correspondence Project raises awareness for incarcerated trans people http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/prisoner-correspondence-project-raises-awareness-for-incarcerated-trans-people/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:12:51 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45432 On January 22, the Prisoner Correspondence Project (PCP) raised awareness as part of the Trans Prisoners Day of Action and Solidarity.

Later that week, on January 26, PCP held an event at Café Ouvert which included screening a movie and reading from a zine written by a prisoner. This was the first year the day of solidarity has been held. The PCP aims to raise awareness around and give a voice to the challenges faced by trans prisoners, adopting an intersectional approach to incarceration and LGBTQ issues as a whole.

The PCP is a non-hierarchical, volunteer-run collective operating as a working group of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Concordia. The PCP’s main initiative is a pen pal program between LGBTQ prisoners and the broader community. It also provides a resource library which includes reading materials that address questions regarding coming out while in prison, gender transitioning, and legal aid concerns.

While some support programs do exist, the PCP aims to give voice to those who fall through the cracks. Its initiatives, such as the pen pal program, aim to connect the queer and trans community outside to those in prison, specifically connecting those imprisoned in the U.S. and Canada with people outside of prisons. The majority of pen-pal correspondents are from outside of the U.S..

Day of action and movie screening

In an interview with The Daily, Parker Benley, who is a member of the PCP, said that the purpose of the day of action and the movie screening was two-fold.

First, it served as a call for more pen pal program participants. Benley explained that currently there remains roughly 700 trans prisoners on the PCP’s waitlist looking to establish a correspondence. Secondly, the day of action aims to raise awareness on the issue and garner further donations to the cause.

As a result of finance issues – mainly due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar and their purchases of U.S. postage for their pen pals based in the U.S. – Benley said that the PCP will be launching a campaign for monthly donors in the next few weeks.

Benley was optimistic about the event’s impact, and was pleased to see a full house during the movie screening and reading of PCP inside member Catherine Lynn Quick’s zine, A Caged Bird Sings. The day ended with a collection of contributions and many new pen pal sign-ups.

Benley expressed hope that the movement will grow and continue to raise awareness of the harsh realities of imprisonment.

According to Benley the day of action sought to “raise awareness of the things that we can change to alleviate the harm [experienced by trans prisoners].” Concretely, this would focus on the currently lacking healthcare provisions. Benley expressed hope that the event would amplify the discussion around prisons themselves, remarking, “prisons aren’t safe for anyone.”

The PCP garners its main contributions from McGill’s and Concordia’s branches of QPIRG, as well as McGill’s Union for Gender Empowerment. While pleased with the level of campus support, Benley said that “more would be better.”

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What’s hair got to do with it? http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/whatshairgottodowithit/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:10:35 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45344 features-03Dana Ryachy | The McGill Daily
features-02Daniele Zedda | The McGill Daily
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A step forward for ALS research http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/a-step-forward-for-als-research/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:09:40 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45387 We live in the 21st century: while we go about our everyday lives, twin robot geologists launched by NASA go over Mars’s surface, providing 360-degree, stereoscopic, humanlike views of the terrain. The internet has become the first global knowledge network connecting billions of people with an unlimited number of channels, and we are able to access most of them through small devices that we carry everywhere, namely smartphones. With all of the outstanding advances in science and technology, it seems surprising how many neurological diseases still remain unexplained.

What is ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was first described by Jean-Martin Charcot – considered the founder of neurology – in a series of studies conducted between 1865 and 1869. ALS is a neurological disease that consists of progressive degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Upper motor neurons reside in the cerebral cortexand brain stem, and use axons (the wires of the nervous system) to transmit signals to the spinal cord, where the lower motor neurons reside. From the spinal cord, the axons of lower motor neurons send electric impulses to different muscles in the body, allowing some muscular groups to contract and release for movement. ALS affects both upper and lower motor neurons, causing damage and neural death. When these neurons die, they leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. We use these types of muscles not only to move, but also to speak, eat, and breathe – thus patients with ALS suffer a loss of mobility, loss of speech and eventually loss of breathing  ability.

Even though there is pharmacological treatment to slow the diseaseís progression, there is still no known cure to this illness, almost 250 years since its first description. According to the ALS society of Canada, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people in Canada are living with ALS; 1,000 will succumb to the disease and 1,000 will be newly diagnosed each year. It is a terminal disease with a lifespan after diagnosis of two to five years on average.

ALS awareness

ALS is commonly associated with Lou Gehrig – the deceased baseball player from whom the disease took its name – and the physicist, cosmologist, and science writer Stephen Hawking, who has shown an atypical course of his disease, surviving more than fifty years since the diagnosis. Last summer, millions of people started talking about ALS thanks to the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which encouraged participants to film themselves while they had a bucket of ice water poured on their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS research. The phenomenon quickly went viral on the internet, leading to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating Facebook, thrusting the disease into the foreground of public knowledge. In August, the ALS Association announced that their total donations since July 29 had exceeded $100 million. The ALS Association is just one of several ALS-related charities that have benefited from this awareness.

A breakthrough

In September 2015, a group of researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) published an article in Science Translational Medicine titled “Human endogenous retrovirus-K contributes to motor neuron disease”, the findings indicate that a retrovirus could be implicated in the course of this mysterious disease.

In order to understand this, we must remember what viruses are: tiny infectious agents that are everywhere around us and inside us. They are considered “at the edge of life” because, despite having genes and evolving by natural selection, they cannot replicate on their own. They need the cell machinery of other species to replicate their genes and assemble their protective coats made of proteins, called capsids.

After infecting the cells of a bigger organism, viruses use cell organelles to build other viruses. Some types of viruses, such as retroviruses, will actually insert their genes in the host’s DNA in order to reproduce. Retroviruses are characterized by the presence of reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that allows them to insert copies of their genes into host chromosomes. Retroviruses are more prone to mutation than most viruses: one of the most common of these is the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is the infectious cause of AIDS, which is treated with antiretroviral drugs that target reverse transcriptase enzymes. This is an example of an exogenous retrovirus, which means for infection to occur, transmision between humans must occur.

In contrast, endogenous retroviruses are remnants of ancient viruses that inserted their genes into human DNA long ago and persist through inheritance, generation to generation. This might sound surprising, but up to five per cent of the human genome consists of endogenous retrovirus genes. One of such viral gene sequences in our DNA is called human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K), which  is the virus that scientists from  the NIH recently found to be related to ALS.

Retroviruses and ALS

Avindra Nath, the main investigator of the NIH group, started suspecting a link between a retrovirus and ALS after seeing a patient with AIDS and ALS whose neurological symptoms improved with antiretroviral drugs. This led Nath to look in the medical literature about ALS, where it was found that reverse transcriptase – the enzyme that characterizes retroviruses – had been found in the blood of ALS patients in various reports.

No exogenous retrovirus had been linked to ALS, so the researchers began looking into possible endogenous retroviral genes. When, in 2011, they finally found elevated levels of HERV-K in the brain tissue of 11 ALS deceased patients, they decided to test their hypothesis through more experiments. They found that the gene was present in cortical and spinal neurons of ALS patients,  but not in healthy controls. They also inserted these genes into cultured human neurons, causing damage and death. Furthermore, they found a way for mice to express HERV-K. These mice developed classic symptoms of ALS: muscle atrophy, progressive paralysis, and death. The strength of this evidence finally convinced the scientific community of a link between these viral genes and the development of ALS, although the exact link remains unclear.

The future of ALS

What does all this mean in terms of treatment or detection of the illness? There are two steps after this discovery. The first one focuses on  treatment: antiretroviral drugs similar to those used to treat HIV may be used in addition to the usual drug to slow the diseases progression. The second implication regards early diagnosis. If these sequences can be detected in patients’ DNA or blood, the retrovirus DNA could serve as a biomarker – a measurable indicator of the severity or presence of this disease – which could then lead to earlier intervention.

Although the “Ice Bucket Challenge” may have seemed silly, raising awareness for this disease and increasing funding for ALS research will surely continue to be fruitful in the future, guided by the light of this provocative discovery. However, we should never cast skepticism aside:  Nath admits that the increase of HERV-K in ALS patients could be the result of something else that’s causing the disease. As Raymond Roos, a neurologist at the University of Chicago, has pointed out, “a link does not imply causality.” Finding these associations doesn’t mean that the genes cause the disease, but rather that they can be implicated in the development of the disease, accelerating ALS.

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Nomenclature normalities http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/nomenclature-normalities/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:08:35 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45347 In mid-November, scientists conducting research in Minas Gerais caves in Brazil discovered a new species of harvestman. Often mistaken for spiders, they are commonly referred to as daddy longlegs. The scientists named the new species Iandumoema smeagol, after the cave-dwelling character Smeagol from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. This kind of creativity shows that there is a human element to everything, even in scientific areas people see as “objective.” Tis room for creativity allows researchers to leave their mark on the world through nomenclature.

Although it may seem odd to name a species after a fictional character, Iandumoema smeagol’s name is actually quite fitting. In the history of Middle Earth, Smeagol, a hobbit, finds the coveted ring of power and becomes corrupted by it, going into hiding in a cave and turning into the pale creature known as Gollum. Similarly – according to an article published in National Geographic – the golden Iandumoema smeagol “lost most of its pigmentation after generations of living in moist, dark caves,” what little pigment it does have seems reminiscent of the one ring in its golden colour.

While Iandumoema smeagol sounds like a name odd enough for Tolkien himself to have come up with, there are other scientific names that are more recognizable, like homo sapiens, canis lupus, and orcinus orca – humans, wolves, and killer whales, respectively. These names get thrown around frequently, but we hardly think about what goes into the creation of an organism’s scientific name.

In biology, scientists use the binomial nomenclature (also known as scientific name) system to identify unique organisms. This assigns a unique two-part name to species. The first part is called the generic epithet, and the second part is called the specific epithet. In other words, the first part refers to the genus of the organism, and the second part refers to its species. This binomial naming system was developed in the mid-18th century by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. Linnaeus sought to create a universal system for identifying species, and is often referred to as the “father of taxonomy”. Later in the 19th century, over a long period of time, Georges Cuvier and other scientists advanced the taxonomical classification system by adding the categories of domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, and family, but Linnaeus’s methods remain the naming conventions of taxonomy today.

When scientists discover a new species, they must pick a name that adheres to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. These are very detailed documents that outline the conventions for naming a species, such as latinizing names or what to do in cases of incorrect spelling. Such agreements ensure that the name given to a species is universally recognizable. However, this system is not perfect – because the taxonomic classification system is created by humans – its accuracy depends on what we are able to observe in the organism. For instance, biologists initially placed fungi in the plant kingdom because they didn’t move; however, once scientists learned about photosynthesis and that fungi don’t photosynthesize, they placed fungi in their own category.

So how exactly do scientists pick names? The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature provides rules that scientists must follow once they’ve chosen a name, yet there are no guidelines on how to name a species. As it turns out, scientists are free to choose any name they want for their newly discovered organism. They can choose a name based on the species’ physical characteristics, or its behaviour, or even name it after a person.

For instance, in 2012, Yale scientists discovered a fossil in eastern Montana of an extinct species of lizard. They decided to name it obamadon gracilis because its teeth reminded them of Obama’s toothy grin – obamadon is Latin for “Obama’s teeth.” To avoid sending a negative message about the president, they announced the name of the lizard after Obama was re-elected for his second term. Rostropria garbo, a species of wasp described as a “solitary female,” was named after Greta Garbo, who famously said, “I want to be left alone.”

There are also some cases where species have been named after people not due to resemblance, but due to personal preference. For instance, phialella zappai is a species of jellyfish named after music icon Frank Zappa. Marine biologist Ferdinando Boero, who discovered the jellyfish, named it after the musician hoping to get a chance to meet him by doing so, which worked. Zappa even responded to Boero. Writing a short humorous song he called “Lonesome Cowboy Nando.”

The binomial nomenclature system has been in use for over 250 years and is considered to be an objective and logical way of naming new species, but it is important to remember that constant human element. Not necessarily a bad thing, freedom in choosing a species’ name allows for creativity (and sometimes humour), and it is a way for people to leave their mark on the world. Cases like Iandumoema smeagol show us the profound impact that some parts of popular culture have on us – be it a musician, actor, political leader, or fictional world.

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Race Project’s first semester sees issues of execution http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/race-projects-first-semester-sees-issues-of-execution/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:07:01 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45415 Race Project, a mandatory workshop for first-year students in McGill residences that addresses racism and colonialism, is in its first semester of full implementation. The workshop discusses white privilege and microaggressions, debunks the myth of reverse racism, and educates students on Canada’s colonial history.

Race Project is modelled on Rez Project, a similarly structured workshop about consent, gender, and sexuality that has been in effect since 2005. Rez Project has recently come under scrutiny for its white-centric focus, and Race Project was designed to complement the anti-oppression training by introducing discussion of issues of racism and colonialism.

In an interview with The Daily, Jenny Zhang, a second-year student and Race Project facilitator, explained that “since first-years come from a lot of different backgrounds, we’re trying to give everyone a base level of knowledge on these anti-oppression topics in order to hopefully make rez a safer space.”

Race Project workshops are approximately three hours long, and are led by two trained facilitators: one Black, Indigenous, or Person of Colour (BIPOC) facilitator, and one white facilitator.

“We’re trying to give everyone a base level of knowledge on these anti-oppression topics in order to hopefully make rez a safer space.”

Tristan*, a facilitator, told The Daily that students in certain faculties could complete their academic career at McGill without ever having a single conversation about race. As a result, he said, students may never address their own prejudice or lack of knowledge.

Issues with implementation

Tristan told The Daily that a floor fellow, who did not undergo Race Project training, shut down a Race Project workshop early because they thought that the facilitators were being “too aggressive.”

According to Tristan, the floor fellow felt that the content was being delivered in a “non-neutral” manner. This has led to accusations that certain floor fellows are too involved during the course of the workshop, hence not allowing students to honestly and safely discuss the topics.

“If you had attended the Race Project training, you would know that the content is not neutral. It’s explicitly expressed that the project is anti-colonialism, anti-racism,” Malika*, an Upper Rez floor fellow, told The Daily.

“The floor fellow shutting [the workshop] down is not a reflection on the project,” Malika continued, but rather reflects the different perspectives and levels of training of floor fellows.

“If you had attended the Race Project training, you would know that the content is not neutral.”

But the missteps were not solely on the part of some floor fellows. Another floor fellow, Rayna*, said that in another workshop students had used racial slurs as examples during the workshop, making other participants highly uncomfortable.

“There’s a part of the workshop where you’re supposed to use a diagram to show a visible outcome of racism, how racism occurs, and its systemic roots. You’re just supposed to write ‘racial slur’ as a visible outcome. People were writing actual racial slurs on the board,” Rayna explained.

Identities inform inquiry

Because Race Project is mandatory, facilitators must work with a wide variety of students with differing backgrounds, experiences, and levels of knowledge.

“You’ve got some students who can be really quiet and unwilling to participate, some who can be rather aggressively combative when they don’t agree with the things you’re saying, and some who really appreciate the workshop and learn a lot from it,” said Zhang.

“These are pretty emotionally intense subjects,” Zhang continued. “We talk about [the] history of residential schools [and] white privilege, so it’s pretty expected for students to express strong feelings. It’s our job as facilitators to keep discussions from getting too off track and/or becoming really triggering for those involved or in the group.”

“Racial diversity is as important as gender [and sexuality] diversity in the context of a university, as your questions can only come from your identity.”

“A huge red flag topic for us was the section that dealt with reverse racism and how it’s really not a thing,” said Zhang. “Even previously quieter students, who are generally white, would often start to argue that people can be racist against any race, including white people. It can be hard to get students to understand on the first try why historical power relations are still so deeply ingrained and relevant in the modern world and our current cultural context.”

In an interview with The Daily, Charmaine Nelson, a McGill Art History professor and currently the only female Black art history professor in Canada, also emphasized that it is essential to engage students in discussions of race and colonialism. Nelson said, “Racial diversity is as important as gender [and sexuality] diversity in the context of a university, as your questions can only come from your identity.”

“So the fact that I’m asking different questions than people who came before me is because I’m a Black woman of a certain identity group, who’s interested in getting certain answers,” Nelson continued.

“There’s been generations of white male scholars before me who haven’t asked certain questions because they’re not interested, for example, in the humanization of the American slave. It should be made clear to students that [having these discussions] should be a given. This is not an issue for only the Black, Indigenous students. White students can’t sit outside and think, ‘this isn’t about me,’” she concluded.

Mandatory attendance

When asked what could be done to improve Race Project in the future, one common concern from floor fellows and facilitators alike was attendance.

“I think there should be a more rigorous attendance system, as not all floor fellows get 100 per cent attendance,” Rayna said. “Because Race Project is not technically part of a resident’s lease, we can’t force them to come, and yet the project is sold as mandatory. So maybe it should be incorporated into residency leases.”

“We have to get the conversation started somehow, and hopefully at least a handful of the students we teach Race Project to will be interested in learning more about these topics on their own,” Zhang said.

The Daily reached out to McGill Rez Life office but did not receive a response in time for publication.

*Names have been changed.

An earlier version of this article stated that Rez Project has been in effect since September 2013. In fact, Rez Project has been running since 2005. The Daily regrets the error.

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SNAX to see return of the sandwiches http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/snax-to-see-return-of-the-sandwiches/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:06:16 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45427 At the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council meeting on January 27, documents were approved that could allow SNAX, the student-run shop on the ground floor of the Leacock building, to recommence selling sandwiches as early as this week. Councillors also approved a set of new electoral bylaws concerning the VP Finance position, and voted to endorse a “yes” vote in the referendum to increase the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) non-opt-outable membership fee.

SNAX is regulated through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between McGill and AUS. The previous MOA expired on May 1, 2015, but the sale of sandwiches had been banned since November 2014, as it technically contravened the MOA.

The administration had agreed informally to allow sandwiches to be sold, but reneged on its agreement for reasons that remain unclear. This sparked considerable backlash from students, who staged a sit-in in March 2015 to protest the sandwich ban and highlight the increasing lack of affordable food options on campus.

AUS has been negotiating with McGill since November 2014, hoping to renew the MOA and get sandwiches back on the menu at SNAX.

“Some plans in [the] past, which were to add [around] twenty seats to SNAX […] aren’t really possible anymore.”

Now, more than a year later, the negotiations have yielded results: two documents have been produced that could allow sandwich sales to resume as early as this week. The first, an updated MOA, will expire in April 2020. Except for a few minor adjustments, it is essentially the same as the previous one.

The second is a letter of permission from Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, which would allow SNAX to sell pre-packaged food items, such as sandwiches, as long as their suppliers are legally registered and follow appropriate labelling procedure. It also stipulates that SNAX must be subject to random health and safety inspections, and may not create a seating area of any kind.

“This is a pretty thorny topic which we did have to compromise on,” President Jacob Greenspon said of the seating issue. “I don’t see why [the administration] would see that as a threat, but apparently they do. […] Some plans in [the] past, which were to add [around] twenty seats to SNAX […] aren’t really possible anymore.”

However, Greenspon also explained that the AUS negotiating team had obtained a number of concessions from the administration.

“The Deputy Provost won’t be able to come down and say ‘Oh, that looks a little dirty, SNAX has to shut down.’”

“Something we’ve got them to compromise [on] was that the only people that can be performing inspections for health and safety […] are inspectors who are […] legally registered, and qualified to be able to do those inspections, so the Deputy Provost won’t be able to come down and say ‘Oh, that looks a little dirty, SNAX has to shut down.’”

The letter of permission for food sales is strictly temporary, expiring in December 2016. If SNAX complies with its various conditions, however, the letter explains that it “may be extended at the University’s discretion on similar or modified conditions until the end of the MOA”.

A number of councillors expressed concern at the vague nature of this statement.

“It sounds like it’s at the University’s discretion, which means even if we do everything they say, they could hypothetically be like ‘just kidding, we’re not going to incorporate this into the MOA,’” said VP External Becky Goldberg.

“Legally, yes,” said Greenspon. “But […] if [we comply] with [these] conditions, after negotiating with us for 18 months, I think politically it would be very difficult for them to be restricting sandwich sales again, especially given the […] demonstrations […] that happened last year.”

After a substantial discussion, councillors voted unanimously to approve the MOA and the letter of permission. In an email to The Daily, Greenspon explained that he and VP Finance Mirza Ali Shakir will be meeting with Dyens and Dean of Arts Hudson Meadwell this week to officially ratify the documents, after which sandwich sales will resume as soon as possible.

Other business discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included a motion to amend electoral bylaws for VP Finance screening, which has been discussed for several months and approved by an AUS referendum, and a motion to endorse a “yes” vote in last week’s referendum concerning an increase in SSMU’s membership fee. The first was approved unanimously, while the second passed by an extremely narrow margin, with 13 votes for, 11 against, and 12 abstaining.

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When disconnect turns deadly http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/when-disconnect-turns-deadly/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:03:50 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45406 As Canadians, we are as proud of our healthcare as we are of our hockey. Any display of Canadian nationalism is hardly complete without allusion to our “free,” “universal” system, especially when making comparisons to our neighbour south of the border. Unfortunately, the clear reality is that our healthcare isn’t as good as we’d like to believe. Lapses in patient care do occur – and they have terrifying consequences.

On November 2, Mark Blandford died of a ruptured aneurysm after the administration at St. Mary’s Hospital unilaterally decided to transfer him to another facility, despite having the means to perform potentially life-saving surgery.

As Quebec is swept by austerity measures, many cite budget cuts as the underlying reason for Blandford’s death. It is true that the hospital has been ordered to slash $11.1 million in expenses since last May, and this trend has echoed across the country. In Ontario, the government is moving to cut costs by extending hospital budget freezes and lowering physician fees. In Nova Scotia, 19 community groups that receive financial support from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness have seen their funding reduced by almost a quarter.

However, though decreases in funding undeniably exacerbate issues in the system, the problem isn’t really that we don’t spend enough money on healthcare: a 2014 study by the Commonwealth Fund ranked Canada’s healthcare system second-last overall out of 11 nations, even though we shell out almost $1,000 more per capita than the UK, which had the highest ranked healthcare system. In Quebec, a 2010 estimate put the ratio of administrators and primary care staff at 1 to 1.

This apparent inefficiency has not been far from the provincial government’s mind. Last year, Bill 10, a piece of healthcare reform legislation, was passed and implemented. The bill – largely introduced as a cost-saving measure for the austere government – reorganized hospital groupings and centralized decision-making powers in each regional administrative unit. Yet, Blandford’s death suggests that the healthcare system remains both poorly structured and poorly managed, leading to the kinds of inefficiencies that cost lives.

As a result of Bill 10, the province is currently divided up into sectors, each of which falls under the umbrella of a regional administrative organization. St. Mary’s, for example, falls under the West Island Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre, known as the CIUSSS de l’Ouest de l’Île de Montréal in French.

Unfortunately, the new structure has brought its own host of problems. The increasingly centralized nature of the healthcare system, while perhaps removing some middlemen, still has a substantial bureaucracy in which administrators are often too far removed from the medical practioners to be able to make effective decisions, allowing circumstances like those at St. Mary’s to arise. François Béland, an associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, predicted in the Huffington Post that Bill 10 would create a bureaucracy-ridden healthcare system in Quebec, where administrative micromanagement would undermine local decision-making structures. It appears that Béland was not far off the mark.

In fact, a surgeon capable of performing the necessary surgery was present at the hospital at the time Blandford’s condition was discovered. However, the doctor was powerless to help because his privileges to do so had been revoked under the new administration, which had deemed this type of vascular surgery “eccentric to the mission” of the hospital. A system in which the doctors themselves aren’t making the calls about what happens to patients is, undoubtedly, a poor one.

The short-sighted attempt to remove bureaucratic inefficiencies through budget cuts has given rise to new, easily avoidable inefficiencies due to the disconnect between administrators and practitioners. Because of the way that the regions are split up, and the poor communication between them, Blandford was to be sent to a West Island Hospital thirty minutes away from St. Mary’s – even though the Jewish General Hospital was only half a kilometre away, a stone’s throw in comparison. In the case of a ruptured aneurysm, where every minute counts, this type of inefficiency is both unacceptable and unsustainable.

The financial cost for a broken system is no small one, either. While the Quebec Medical Association estimated that inefficiencies in the provincial healthcare system cost taxpayers upwards of $5 billion in 2013, studies have shown that mergers and consolidation in the healthcare sector do not necessarily save money and often come with large, unanticipated costs. The evidence is simply not on Bill 10’s side in terms of the cost or effectiveness of the reforms it has brought.

Evidently, massive reform is required in order to prevent situations like that at St. Mary’s from arising again in the future. Reform, of course, starts with the acknowledgement that the healthcare system is flawed – not necessarily because we don’t pour enough money into it, but rather, because each dollar gets tangled in bureaucracy and administration, serving only to harm the very patients the system is meant to help.


Jeeventh Kaur is a U0 Management student. To contact her, email jeeventh.kaur@mail.mcgill.ca.

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Continuing Studies student group under scrutiny http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2016/02/continuing-studies-student-group-under-scrutiny/ Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:03:24 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=45422 In 2012, The Daily investigated severe governance issues at the McGill Association of Continuing Education Students (MACES). The Daily has recently received information from inside sources alleging that these problems were never fully addressed, and that transparency remains a major point of contention within the association.

Recently, two MACES board members, VP Finance Ghassan Berro, and senator and non-voting member of McGill Board of Governors Nely Gaulea, resigned from their duties. As a result, MACES has called for early elections, the nomination period for which started on January 25, to fill these vacant positions.

In an email to The Daily, Zaher Agha, MACES VP Internal, speaking on behalf of the MACES board of directors, stated that Berro resigned because he felt he could no longer commit his time to MACES and Gaulea resigned “due to personal reasons that [the board was] not made aware of.”

When asked about the potential of continuing governance problems at MACES, Agha said, “MACES has been working hard to introduce a real change to the organization in order to improve services and increase transparency, therefore we had a plan that included major initiatives and reversals of previous decisions.”

Lack of transparency

In an interview with The Daily, a MACES insider, Leah*, emphasized that lack of transparency remains the major issue at MACES. According to her, the governance problems of 2012 have not been adequately addressed.

Leah provided an example of decision-making problems among the board members. According to her, in a meeting to decide whether to offer a Microsoft Excel course to students in the Fall or Winter semester, a majority of the board voted not to offer the course in the Fall semester.

However, MACES President Sean Murphy, who still holds the position, “was pushing for it, […] wanting to impress the school [and show] that he’s doing great stuff for students. [He was implying that] everyone on the board needs to vote for this, because the president will look bad if not,” Leah said.

“[He was implying that] everyone on the board needs to vote for this, because the president will look bad if not.”

Ultimately the board came to a compromise that the course would be offered in the Fall semester on the condition that sufficient students signed up for it within a week.

After a week, Murray was to inform the other members of the result, in accordance with MACES bylaws, but Leah said this did not happen.

“To this day, I don’t know […] if we had the number of registrations needed,” she said.

The Daily reached out to Murphy for a comment, but was not able to acquire one.

Trouble with reviewing bylaws

A MACES Bylaw Review Committee was formed in September. According to Jack*, a member of the committee who wished to remain anonymous, “As a group, I think we realized that the bylaws weren’t […] up to date, and they weren’t really comparable to [those of] other student associations.”

Leah brought up another problem with the bylaws, regarding the VP Internal’s mandate to “take, prepare, and circulate minutes of all such meetings.”

The MACES website has a section to post meeting minutes but it has not yet been set up. According to Agha, “minutes are being taken at every meeting and are held in the office as per the bylaws […and] are presented to the audit firm at every financial year.”

While the MACES bylaws do not stipulate how these minutes should be circulated, Leah maintains that as long as the meeting minutes are not posted on the website, students will be kept unaware of decisions that are being made.

“As a group, I think we realized that the bylaws weren’t […] up to date, and they weren’t really comparable to [those of] other student associations.”

Julia*, another MACES insider who wished to remain anonymous, added that MACES was “trying to increase the awareness among students,” but it is still the case that not all students are aware of the association, as communication remains a problem.

While Jack believes that the establishment of a committee to review the bylaws is a step in the right direction, he said that, so far, they have not rewritten the bylaws because of conflicts of interest with board members on the committee, as there were more board members than non-members on the committee.

Jack continued to explain that the conflict of interest was not an isolated instance, pointing to similar conflicts of interest. He gave an example of a committee meeting at which one member proposed auditing a document and hiring someone with special certifications to do so.

The member added that it made sense and “it was a great way to show that we are transparent. But he proposed right after that he be the one to do that, since he’s certified,” said Jack, noting the obvious conflict of interest.

Improvements and future of MACES

With the upcoming elections, there is hope that MACES will increase its transparency and solve these issues. Agha believes that MACES has greatly improved since 2012, especially now that there is a plan in place, reversing previous decisions with major initiatives.

Such initiatives include re-launching the MACES website, creating a MACES Facebook page, revising the bylaws, creating Standard Operating Procedures documents, recreating the MACES Council, and initiating several new programs for students, including a MACES scholarship and bursary program.

In an email to The Daily, SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim said, “[MACES has] been great to work with and is making huge strides to improve. […] They’ve been trying to run a referendum to opt-in to Student Services for a while now and are making plans to do it this semester.” Unlike in 2012, MACES now has representatives at Senate and other committee meetings, as well.

“I really hope that there will be a change, but I don’t know how feasible that is.”

Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) also told The Daily in an email, “We meet with MACES on a regular basis […] to address issues, challenges and projects.”

Leah said, “We cannot deny that there is always room for improvement, and as [with] any other entity there [are] always some challenges that arise, but […] we are genuinely concerned and are working hard to best represent those who have trusted us and elected us as representatives.”

With the recent resignations and three more board members finishing their terms this semester, elections will be very important for the association to move forward.

But Leah and Mark*, another inside source, both expressed concern for the future board members. “I really hope that there will be a change, but I don’t know how feasible that is,” Mark said.

*Names have been changed.

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