The McGill Daily False twins since 1911 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In which the environment is a governmental issue Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:13:55 +0000 The Daily’s environment pullout lacks analysis

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Coming to the forefront of our imaginaries in Montreal is the fight for environmental justice, an intersectional issue that has been largely led by Indigenous resistance groups, since before the Idle No More movement, and during the ongoing Decolonize movement.

Divest McGill – called Decorporatize McGill in late 2012 – is a group on campus that picked up traction with their petition in fall 2012 that demanded the University’s divestment from fossil fuel firms directly involved with Plan Nord.

We saw candidates coordinating their platforms around environmental issues last year in student union elections at Concordia and McGill – although no political slates are allowed on our campus. It is no wonder that The Daily chose to pick at the issue of environmental degradation, or as I like to see it, the imminent apocalypse that will end the possible side-effects of contemporary neoliberalism.

To put it plainly and verbatim, this is the sentence the Environment Issue opened with: “We all inhabit the same planet, but we have gone too long ignoring the fact that our actions can have a profound impact on communities around the world.” I am unclear at what point the introduction for special issues became loaded with empty rhetoric found on the likes of Lululemon tote bags. And just forget about clarifying the totally nebulous use of the word “community” here.

Having previously sat on The Daily editorial board for two years, and the Daily Publications Society for one year, I am no stranger to the high level of organization and extra work it takes to pull off a strong special issue. That said, in terms of writing, this is one of the weakest special issues I have seen in the past three years. Although, I do commend The Daily on the Enbridge Line 9 centrefold and increased online content – in particular the panel discussion among environmental groups on campus.

Beyond that, the writing and so-called ‘analysis’ contained within the issue predominantly criticized government policy. “Harper’s War on the Environment” discusses the details of Harper’s lack of concern with the environment – which I would not readily call a war – with the sole focus of regurgitating the 2014 Climate Change Performance Index report.

“Who is Most Affected by Climate Change?” rolls through the facts and figures provided by the United Nations (UN), complete with quotations from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Even “Indigenous Resistance to Resource Extraction Around the World” shows no new reporting.

The only original reporting can be found in the “Science and Technology to Combat Climate Change” section, and the “Fighting for Climate Justice” article online. In addition, the purportedly online article regarding Indigenous activism in Canada, which was promoted in the print pullout, cannot be found on the environment microsite at all.

The Daily is upheld by its Statement of Principles and should use its pages to provide space for those voices, which are not readily represented in mainstream media. One only has to look at the nation’s major newspapers today, or any day, to hear the voice of Prime Minister Harper and the UN as funneled to us through the words of journalists. In addition, the weak intersectional approach to class and the environment underserves the community The Daily is written for.

We see no bottom-up movement analysis or hear from the real people and groups active in pushing forth environmental change. Analyzing environmental policy purely through high-power institutional data denotes the agent of change as that of the Harper government, of the UN. When did The Daily forget about the community and look to the government for change?

Readers’ Advocate is a twice-monthly column written by Hera Chan addressing the performance, relevance, and quality of The Daily. You can reach her at

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#BlackLivesMatter: Montreal stands with Ferguson Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:12:13 +0000 1,000 gather for vigil organized by McGill Black Students’ Network

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Members of the McGill community gathered on Tuesday evening at Lower Field to express their solidarity with the ongoing demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, and to mourn Michael Brown and other victims of police violence against racialized communities.

The event followed the November 24 announcement of a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. The news sparked a wave of popular outrage, and hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets and social media to protest the decision. Monday night’s demonstrations in Ferguson saw violent police repression, with heavily-armed police tear-gassing protesters.

The hour-long candlelit vigil, organized by the McGill Black Students’ Network (BSN), drew nearly 1,000 attendees from the McGill and Montreal community. Solidarity rallies took place in many other Canadian cities, with around 2,000 participating in Toronto and hundreds in Ottawa and Calgary.

“In light of the recent verdict not to indict Darren Wilson, and the death of Mike Brown, BSN is basically just creating a space […] to make an address and allow people to express their love for Ferguson and […] their support to the ongoing efforts [there],” said BSN VP External Maya Taylor.

Indeed, the atmosphere at the vigil was subdued, with people talking quietly or simply standing in contemplative silence.

“I have a 12-year-old nephew in Washington, D.C.. […] My mother is there, my siblings are there, my nephew is there, and there’s nothing telling me that they will still be there [when I get home].”

Speaking to The Daily anonymously, several of those present shared their frustration with the systematized racial inequality in American society, and spoke to an urgent need for positive change.

“I think that everyone feels wrong about this,” said one student. “This shows us that our justice system isn’t reflecting our moral values […] because if this is such a huge thing […] then obviously the laws aren’t reflecting what the public wants.”

“I’m from America,” said another. “We had 250 years of slavery, we had 60 years of Jim Crow in the South, our parents were born and there was segregation, and people in our country – people that I went to high school with – don’t believe that they have any privilege; [they believe] that they have equal opportunities with African Americans in our country. That’s pretty dumb.”

Shortly after the gathering began, executives from BSN, as well as other campus organizations such as the McGill African Students Society and the Caribbean Students Society addressed the crowd. In a series of emotional speeches, they expressed the groups’ profound grief and disappointment with the grand jury’s decision, and urged those assembled to remember that Michael Brown’s shooting was not simply an isolated incident.

“It is important for all of us here to realize that these instances of injustice are not isolated to Ferguson, Missouri, or to the U.S., but are seen and experienced by black people and other visible minorities within our geographical borders,” said one executive, prompting applause from the crowd. “We are here to declare that black lives matter […] and to pay our respects to all of our fallen brothers and sisters.”

Montrealers have drawn comparisons between Brown’s death and the 2008 shooting of 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva by Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) officer Jean-Loup Lapointe.

After the organizers’ speeches, a brief list of black victims of police violence was read aloud, followed by four minutes of silence.

Before the gathering dispersed, a number of other students addressed the group to share feelings of grief, messages of encouragement, and poetry. Many of those gathered joined in singing “Amazing Grace” in memory of Brown as well as North America’s countless other victims of racial oppression and violence.

“It is important for all of us here to realize that these instances of injustice are not isolated to Ferguson, Missouri, or to the U.S., but are seen and experienced by black people and other visible minorities within our geographical borders.”

One student, speaking anonymously to the crowd, stressed the importance of acknowledging the fear that the grand jury’s decision had awakened in many.

“Last night, while everyone was watching the live cast […] I just stood there in front of the screen and cried,” the student said. “I have a 12-year-old nephew in Washington, D.C.. That is one of the most concentrated populations of black people in the U.S.. I honestly don’t want to go home for Christmas. My mother is there, my siblings are there, my nephew is there, and there’s nothing telling me that they will still be there [when I get home].”

“I just want to say that this moment here is the proudest I’ve ever been to be a McGill student on this campus,” said another speaker. “To see people of different backgrounds, different colours, different beliefs, all gathered here to say that oppression is wrong wherever it exists is a very powerful message.”

The speaker continued, “This campus also fought oppression during the [South African] apartheid regime, Montreal also fought oppression during the civil rights movement, and so inasmuch as oppression still occurs today […] it’s so important for us, as university students, to have the courage and the strength to come together and continue to say ‘no.’”

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“Everything is problematic” Mon, 24 Nov 2014 21:17:24 +0000 My journey into the centre of a dark political world, and how I escaped

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I’ve been a queer activist since I was 17. I grew up in a socially conservative rural town where people would shout homophobic slurs at me from the windows of their pickup trucks. My brushes with anti-gay hatred intimidated me, but they also lit a fire in me. In my last year of high school, I resolved to do whatever I could to make a change before I graduated and left town for good. I felt like I had a duty to help other queer kids who were too scared to come out or who had feelings of self-hatred. I gave an impassioned speech about tolerance at a school assembly, flyered every hallway and classroom, and started a group for LGBTQ students and allies.

Not long after, I was exposed to the ideas of Judith Butler, a bold and penetrating mix of third-wave feminism and queer theory. I saw truth in Butler’s radical perspective on gender, and it felt liberating. My lifelong discomfort with being put in a box — a binary gender category — was vindicated. This is when my passion for feminism began in earnest. I put a bumper sticker on my car that said “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History.” I bought a subscription to Bitch magazine. When it came time to graduate and move on to McGill, I eagerly enrolled in a class on feminist theory, as well as a class in Sexual Diversity Studies, the subject that would later become my minor.

My world only kept expanding from there. In Montreal, I was exposed to a greater diversity of people and perspectives than ever before. The same sort of transformation that had occurred in my mind about gender happened with race and disability. I learned about classism and capitalism. At Rad Frosh, a workshop by the high-profile activist Jaggi Singh gave me my first real introduction to anarchism. My first year at McGill was a whirlwind of new people and new revelations.

In my second year, I dove in. I became heavily involved with a variety of queer, feminist, generally anti-oppressive, and radical leftist groups and organizations, in every combination thereof (Mob Squad is one example of many). I read books like Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? and The Coming Insurrection. I shouted my lungs out at protests. So many protests. Marching down the street carrying a sign that said “Fuck Capitalism” became my main form of exercise. That was the year of the tuition protests. There was a lot of excitement in the air. I thought maybe, just maybe, there would be a revolution. A girl can dream.

2012 was the year I hit peak radicalism. Things I did that year included occupying a campus building (for the second time), bodychecking a security guard, getting rammed at low speed by a cop on a moped, sitting through an entire SSMU General Assembly, and running from flashbang grenades hurled by police. (I wasn’t nearly as hardcore as most of the people I knew. “I love how pepper spray clears out your sinuses,” one said. Some participated in black blocs. At one point, a few spent the night in jail.)

Since then, my political worldview has steadily grown and evolved and refined itself. I no longer pine for revolution. I don’t hate capitalism or the state as if those were the names of the people who killed my dog. My politics still lean to the left, just not quite so far, and now I view economic and political systems with an engineer’s eye, rather than in the stark colours of moral outrage. I am just as passionate about queer activism and feminism as I ever was, and aspire to be an ally to other anti-oppressive movements just as much as I ever did. I feel like I have a richer and more nuanced understanding of anti-oppressive politics and ethics than ever before. I’ve held onto all the lessons that I’ve learned. I am grateful to the many people who shared their insight with me.

There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics.

I’ll be graduating soon, and I’ve been thinking about my years in Montreal with both nostalgia and regret. Something has been nagging at me for a long time. There’s something I need to say out loud, to everyone before I leave. It’s something that I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but I’ve struggled to find the right words. I need to tell people what was wrong with the activism I was engaged in, and why I bailed out. I have many fond memories from that time, but all in all, it was the darkest chapter of my life.

I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path. Having been on both sides of the glass, I think I can bring some painful but necessary truth to light.

Important disclaimer: I passionately support anti-oppressive politics in general and have only good things to say about it. My current political worldview falls under the umbrella of leftism, although not radical leftism. I’m basically a social democrat who likes co-ops and believes in universal basic income, the so-called ‘capitalist road to communism.’ I agree with a lot of what the radical left has to say, but I disagree with a lot of what it has to say. I’m deeply against Marxism-Leninism and social anarchism, but I’m sympathetic to market socialism and direct democracy. I don’t have any criticism for radical leftism in general, at least not here, not today. What I feel compelled to criticize is only one very specific political phenomenon, one particular incarnation of radical leftist, anti-oppressive politics.

There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I’ll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.

First, dogmatism. One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs. If someone does question those beliefs, they’re not just being stupid or even depraved, they’re actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity. In this mindset, people who disagreed with my views weren’t just wrong, they were awful people. I watched what people said closely, scanning for objectionable content. Any infraction reflected badly on your character, and too many might put you on my blacklist. Calling them ‘sacred beliefs’ is a nice way to put it. What I mean to say is that they are dogmas.

Thinking this way quickly divides the world into an ingroup and an outgroup — believers and heathens, the righteous and the wrong-teous. “I hate being around un-rad people,” a friend once texted me, infuriated with their liberal roommates. Members of the ingroup are held to the same stringent standards. Every minor heresy inches you further away from the group. People are reluctant to say that anything is too radical for fear of being been seen as too un-radical. Conversely, showing your devotion to the cause earns you respect. Groupthink becomes the modus operandi. When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.

High on their own supply, activists in these organizing circles end up developing a crusader mentality: an extreme self-righteousness based on the conviction that they are doing the secular equivalent of God’s work. It isn’t about ego or elevating oneself. In fact, the activists I knew and I tended to denigrate ourselves more than anything. It wasn’t about us, it was about the desperately needed work we were doing, it was about the people we were trying to help. The danger of the crusader mentality is that it turns the world in a battle between good and evil. Actions that would otherwise seem extreme and crazy become natural and expected. I didn’t think twice about doing a lot of things I would never do today.

There is a lot to admire about the activists I befriended. They have only the best intentions. They are selfless and dedicated to doing what they think is right, even at great personal sacrifice. Sadly, in this case their conscience has betrayed them. My conscience betrayed me. It was only when I finally gave myself permission to be selfish, after months and months of grinding on despite being horribly burnt out, that I eventually achieved the critical distance to rethink my political beliefs.

Anti-intellectualism was the one facet of this worldview I could never fully stomach.

Anti-intellectualism is a pill I swallowed, but it got caught in my throat, and that would eventually save me. It comes in a few forms. Activists in these circles often express disdain for theory because they take theoretical issues to be idle sudoku puzzles far removed from the real issues on the ground. This is what led one friend of mine to say, in anger and disbelief, “People’s lives aren’t some theoretical issue!” That same person also declared allegiance to a large number of theories about people’s lives, which reveals something important. Almost everything we do depends on one theoretical belief or another, which range from simple to complex and from implicit to explicit. A theoretical issue is just a general or fundamental question about something that we find important enough to think about. Theoretical issues include ethical issues, issues of political philosophy, and issues about the ontological status of gender, race, and disability. Ultimately, it’s hard to draw a clear line between theorizing and thinking in general. Disdain for thinking is ludicrous, and no one would ever express it if they knew that’s what they were doing.

Specifically on the radical leftist side of things, one problem created by this anti-theoretical bent is a lot of rhetoric and bluster, a lot of passionate railing against the world or some aspect of it, without a clear, detailed, concrete alternative. There was a common excuse for this. As an activist friend wrote in an email, “The present organization of society fatally impairs our ability to imagine meaningful alternatives. As such, constructive proposals will simply end up reproducing present relations.” This claim is couched in theoretical language, but it is a rationale for not theorizing about political alternatives. For a long time I accepted this rationale. Then I realized that mere opposition to the status quo wasn’t enough to distinguish us from nihilists. In the software industry, a hyped-up piece of software that never actually gets released is called “vapourware.” We should be wary of political vapourware. If somebody’s alternative to the status quo is nothing, or at least nothing very specific, then what are they even talking about? They are hawking political vapourware, giving a “sales pitch” for something that doesn’t even exist.

Anti-intellectualism also comes out in full force on the anti-oppressive side of things. It manifests itself in the view that knowledge not just about what oppression, is like, but also knowledge about all the ethical questions pertaining to oppression is accessible only through personal experience. The answers to these ethical questions are treated as a matter of private revelation. In the academic field of ethics, ethical claims are judged on the strength of their arguments, a form of public revelation. Some activists find this approach intolerable.

Perhaps the most deeply held tenet of a certain version of anti-oppressive politics – which is by no means the only version – is that members of an oppressed group are infallible in what they say about the oppression faced by that group. This tenet stems from the wise rule of thumb that marginalized groups must be allowed to speak for themselves. But it takes that rule of thumb to an unwieldy extreme.

Let me give an example. A gay person is typically much better acquainted with homophobia than a straight person. Moreover, a gay person has a much greater stake in what society does about homophobia, so their view on the matter is more important. However, there is nothing about the experience of being gay in itself that enlightens a gay person about the ethics of sexual orientation.

To take a dead simple case, you don’t have to hear it from a gay person to know that homosexuality is ethically just fine. If you’re a straight person and a gay person tells you that homosexuality is wrong, you can be confident in your judgement that they are full of shit. In this situation, the straight person is right and the gay person is wrong about homosexuality and homophobia. Gay people have no special access to ethical knowledge, in general or about sexual orientation specifically. Gay people do tend to have better ethical knowledge about sexual orientation than straight people, but that is only because of how our life circumstances move us to reflect on it.

If I said the same thing about another context that isn’t so simple — when the correct opinion isn’t so obvious — I would be roundly condemned. But the example’s simplicity isn’t what makes it valid. People who belong to oppressed groups are just people, with thoughts ultimately as fallible as anyone else’s. They aren’t oracles who dispense eternal wisdom. Ironically, this principle of infallibility, designed to combat oppression, has allowed essentialism to creep in. The trait that defines a person’s group membership is treated as a source of innate ethical knowledge. This is to say nothing about the broader problem of how you’re supposed to decide who’s a source of innate knowledge. Certainly not someone who innately “knows” that homosexuality is disgusting and wrong, but why not, if you’re simply relying on private revelation rather than public criteria?

Consider otherkin, people who believe they are literally animals or magical creatures and who use the concepts and language of anti-oppressive politics to talk about themselves. I have no problem drawing my own conclusions about the lived experience of otherkin. Nobody is literally a honeybee or a dragon. We have to assess claims about oppression based on more than just what people say about themselves. If I took the idea of the infallibility of the oppressed seriously, I would have to trust that dragons exist. That is why it’s such an unreliable guide. (I half-expect the response, “Check your human privilege!”)

It is an ominous sign whenever a political movement dispenses with methods and approaches of gaining knowledge that are anchored to public revelation and, moreover, becomes openly hostile to them. Anti-intellectualism and a corresponding reliance on innate knowledge is one of the hallmarks of a cult or a totalitarian ideology.

Anti-intellectualism was the one facet of this worldview I could never fully stomach. I was dogmatic, I fell prey to groupthink, and I had a crusader mentality, but I was never completely anti-intellectual. Ever since I was a child, the pursuit of knowledge has felt like my calling. It’s part of who I am. I could never turn my back on it. At least not completely. And that was the crack through which the light came in. My love for deep reflection and systematic thinking never ceased. Almost by accident, I took time off from being an activist. I spent time just trying to be happy and at peace, far away from Montreal. It had been a long while since I had the time and the freedom to just think. At first, I pulled on a few threads, and then with that eventually the whole thing unravelled. Slowly, my political worldview collapsed in on itself.

The aftermath was wonderful. A world that seemed grey and hopeless filled with colour. I can’t convey to you how bleak my worldview was. An activist friend once said to me, with complete sincerity, “Everything is problematic.” That was the general consensus. Far bleaker was something I said during a phone call to an old friend who lived in another city, far outside my political world. I, like a disproportionate number of radical leftists, was depressed, and spent a lot of time sighing into the receiver. “I’m not worried about you killing yourself,” he said. “I know you want to live forever.” I let out a weak, sad laugh. “When I said that,” I replied, “I was a lot happier than I am now.” Losing my political ideology was extremely liberating. I became a happier person. I also believe that I became a better person.

I’ve just said a lot of negative things. But, of course, my goal here is to do something positive. I’m cursing the darkness in the hope of seeing the light of a new day. Still, I don’t want to just criticize without offering an alternative. So, let me give a few pieces of constructive advice to anyone interested in anti-oppressive and/or leftist activism.

First, embrace humility. You may find it refreshing. Others will find it refreshing too. Be forceful, be impassioned, just don’t get too high on your own supply. Don’t drink your own kool aid. Question yourself as fiercely as you question society.

Second, treat people as individuals. For instance, don’t treat every person who belongs to an oppressed group as an authoritative mouthpiece of that group as a whole. People aren’t plugged into some kind of hive mind. Treating them like they are, besides being essentialist, also leads to contradictions since, obviously, not all people agree on all things. There is no shortcut that allows you to avoid thinking for yourself about oppression simply by deferring to the judgements of others. You have to decide whose judgements you are going to trust, and that comes to the same thing as judging for yourself. This drops a huge responsibility on your lap. Grasp the nettle firmly. Accept the responsibility and hone your thinking. Notice contradictions and logical fallacies. When you hear an opinion about a kind of oppression from a member of the group that experiences it, seek out countervailing opinions from members of the same group and weigh them against each other. Don’t be afraid to have original insights.

Third, learn to be diplomatic. Not everything is a war of good versus evil. Reasonable, informed, conscientious people often disagree about important ethical issues. People are going to have different conceptions of what being anti-oppressive entails, so get used to disagreement. When it comes to moral disagreements, disbelief, anger, and a sense of urgency are to be expected. They are inherent parts of moral disagreement. That’s what makes a diplomatic touch so necessary. Otherwise, everything turns into a shouting match.

Fourth, take a systems approach to the political spectrum. Treat the pursuit of the best kind of society as an engineering problem. Think about specific, concrete proposals. Would they actually work? Deconflate desirability and feasibility. Refine your categories beyond simple dichotomies like capitalism/socialism or statism/anarchism.

I am not going to let my disillusionment with my past activism discourage me from trying to do good in the future. If you find yourself similarly disillusioned, take heart. As long as you learn from your mistakes, no one can blame you for trying to be a good person. Don’t worry. We all get to come back.

The author has chosen to use a pseudonym for this article.

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Short and sweet Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:00:00 +0000 On the North American obsession with the playoffs

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There is a tradition in the NHL unlike any other league. When a team wins the Presidents’ Trophy, an award given to the team that accrues the most points over the course of the regular season, nobody on the team touches the trophy – it’s considered bad luck. The ceremony usually involves an awkward photoshoot in which everyone stands around the big trophy in front of them, without anyone so much as laying a finger on it If they do touch it, much of the media wonders if this team will fall victim to the “Presidents’ Trophy curse” – that the team that was the best during the regular season won’t eventually go on to win the Stanley Cup.

There’s probably no ceremony more indicative of the weird way that North Americans value sports, in which the playoffs’ value outweighs the previous four or five months of the regular season. To touch the Presidents’ Trophy is to value the wrong type of success; everything achieved during a regular season means nothing without victory in the playoffs. It is an obsession foisted on players and teams as a whole: to win in the playoffs is the most important thing – the only thing.

The genealogy makes sense, if you go back far enough. Back in the early 1900s, there were two separate professional baseball leagues of the same prestige – the National League and the American League – and it made sense for the champions of each league to play each other. The teams didn’t play each other at all during the regular season, and only the best team from each league played in the (presumptuously named) World Series, a system that persisted until 1969. Same thing with the NFL’s Super Bowl, which took the champion of the National Football League and the American Football League and pit them in an inter-league championship game. Before that, the leagues determined their own champion by vote or by tie-breaking playoff games. But when both these leagues merged, and the playoffs slowly expanded into what they are now: a collection of the 12 to 16 best teams in a league thrown together. As such, the results may vary. Why the expansion? More playoff teams creates more teams in playoff position throughout the season. This creates sustained interest across the country, as well as more constructively important playoff games, which means more money.

In the rest of the world, playoffs aren’t nearly as much of a thing as they are in the U.S. and Canada. Domestic soccer leagues everywhere else in the world simply anoint the champion of the league after each team has played each other twice. The winner is the team that won the most games over the course of the season. The best team is the most consistent over the entire season – no one game is ever more important than the other. Consistency is a virtue. Over here, the regular season is merely the means of reaching the playoffs, where everything suddenly becomes important. A Players careers is evaluated based on how they perform in a tiny percentage of it – whether they’re able to win ‘the big one.’ When someone doesn’t produce in the playoffs, they’re apt to be labeled a ‘choker’ or ‘soft,’ even if it was simply a stretch of bad luck, or, really, not entirely their fault. Professional leagues with playoff systems are team sports, yet often only one player is blamed for not living up to expectations.

Why the obsession with the playoffs here, then? They are, to many, a way to easily decide the ‘objectively’ best team in a certain sport – whichever team beats the other good teams theoretically must be the best. Of course, the easiest way does not always mean the best way. Playoffs are necessarily a small sample size, and luck often plays a larger role than talent.
A baseball season is 162 games over six months, but only one month of, at most, twenty games for one team decides the championship. Just last month, MLB Kansas City Royals advanced to the World Series after a string of miraculous wins; they were exceptionally lucky and rode that luck all the way to the precipice of a championship. But it would be hard to argue that they were even the second – best team in the MLB – they were just on a hot streak.

The media’s treatment of the playoffs is reductive and lazy, and basically propagates the idea that the team that wins is always better, that the result is always more important than the process. The playoffs have become an artificially constructed marker of importance, a stage in which to judge players or teams under entirely constructed ‘pressure.’ Sure, athletes want to win championships, perhaps more than anything – but this stage has become the means of truly defining an athlete, based off their ability in very specific circumstances, as opposed to the larger picture.

For some reason, there is a distinct dislike for teams or players that perform well over the course of the regular season. Every player seems to have something to prove until they win a championship – there’s almost nothing someone can do to escape the ‘choker’ or ‘soft’ narrative. Roberto Luongo, one of the best goalies in the NHL, is still known as a ‘choker’ because of his performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup final; nevermind the fact that he won a gold medal for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics a year prior after defeating their biggest rival. The playoffs signify, to the media, the time when the games really matter – as opposed to the months before, when the games that needed to be won to even get to the playoffs were somehow slightly less important – and the best teams or players will ‘raise’ their play.

Forget the day-to-day or week-to-week consistency of the regular season; the media (and, by influence, the fans) want the short streak of luck or brilliance during the playoffs. Only the best players or teams can do this, apparently, which leads the media to fawn over average players who got hot at the right time (such as hockey’s Danny Briere and football’s Joe Flacco, to name a few) and castigate the unlucky ones (basketball’s Chris Paul, football’s Matt Ryan, the entire roster of hockey’s San Jose Sharks). A player is questioned and questioned until they win a championship; after that, the player is forever given the benefit of the doubt. The old narrative is completely erased from the discourse. For instance, Peyton Manning was widely derided as a regular season stat-stuffer who choked in the playoffs; however, after a 2006 Super Bowl victory against an overmatched Chicago Bears team, he was suddenly given the media cachet of one of the all-time greats.

This is not to say that the playoffs are bad or not fun to watch, but merely that they are imperfect ways to decide a best team. They are given entirely too much precedent, and this leads to lazy, unfair media narratives. Any playoff system must be appreciated for its variability – over such a small time, unexpected things are bound to happen. Playoffs do not always point out the ‘best,’ as it is often mistaken for, but instead just the luckiest. The playoffs are fun, unpredictable, exciting, wild, stupendous, amazing, dramatic, what have you but they’re often not the best way to actually decide upon a best team in a given year. Perhaps the obsession with playoffs can only be described as a regional thing: it seems distinctly North American to shun consistency and instead reward short, incandescent flashes of brilliance.

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Cuts to services worry student senators Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:09:25 +0000 Challenges to come for research institute’s transition to new Glen site

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The University Senate convened for its third meeting of the year on November 19, discussing potential cuts to student services, community engagement and out-of-classroom learning, and the effect on graduate students of the planned move of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) to the Glen site superhospital in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Cuts to student services

In her opening remarks, Principal Suzanne Fortier informed Senate that McGill’s share of the second round of mid-year cuts to the Quebec university system, announced by Provost Anthony Masi last month, will be $4.8 million.

In a written response to a question from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan and Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Masi indicated that “some programs requiring matching funds from the University’s operating budget will have to be postponed, reduced, or cut in light of cuts to our funding.”

Because Masi was not present at the meeting, Fortier responded on his behalf to a follow-up question from Greenspon regarding student consultation.

“There will be consultation with the students on any of the services currently offered that might be affected by the cuts,” she said.

However, Fortier was unable to answer more specific questions from student senators regarding which services are likely to be cut.

“We’re not yet at this level of details in our analysis of the impact of these cuts that we can say precisely what would be the level of any reduction,” she said.

Fortier also touched on the issue of sexual assault in her remarks, noting “the importance […] to provide a respectful and safe environment for members of our community.”

Community engagement and out-of-classroom learning

Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rose Goldstein presented the report of the November 4 Joint Board-Senate meeting on community engagement through research and innovation.

Stewart-Kanigan noted that many student senators took issue with the event’s focus on industry despite its promotion as community engagement-centred, and with the elimination of the question period.

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh also criticized the fact that “the most important thing echoed at every single table […] the importance of community agenda-setting” was not reflected accurately in the report.

A statement detailing student senators’ concerns has been published on SSMU’s website.

Senate also held an open discussion on out-of-classroom learning and research internships.

Many student senators brought up the importance of both remunerating and crediting out-of-classroom research internships to ensure their accessibility. “It’s really important to allow these opportunities for students who may not be able to access them due to financial needs,” said Arts Senator Kareem Ibrahim.

Arts Faculty Senator Catherine Lu disagreed, arguing that it is unclear whether students deserve credit for what they learn in an internship, and that out-of-classroom learning is valuable for students even if it is not credited.

Dean of Students André Costopoulos countered that, in arguing for formal acknowledgement of out-of-classroom learning,  “[students] are responding to real-world pressure” from graduate schools and employers.

Concerns with MUHC transition to Glen site

Seeking to address graduate students’ concerns about office and lab space at the MUHC’s new Glen sitew, Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) senators submitted a question about plans to ensure that graduate students have appropriate working space, and on whether student support staff would also be moved to the new site. The RI-MUHC is set to move to the Glen site in February 2015.

In his written response, Dean of Medicine David Eidelman stated that “it is the responsibility of each PI [principal investigator] to ensure that [their] graduate students […] are allocated appropriate working spaces.”

PGSS Senator Rui Hao Wang noted that, according to an internal MUHC memo, not all PIs will be eligible for working space, and further noted that support staff are supposed to move to a section of the site that has not yet been built.

Eidelman said that the University is working to resolve the issues, and instructed students to direct concerns to their graduate program supervisors. He explained that less space was secured than had been planned, and that the government has retroactively imposed restrictions on its use.

Student discipline

Costopoulos presented the 2013-14 report of the Committee on Student Discipline, which contains the data on disciplinary offences for the year.

“An indicator that our system actually works as a pedagogical system is that the number of second offences is extremely low,” said Costopoulos in response to a question on support resources from SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa. “We follow students afterwards […] we extend support as an outcome of the disciplinary process.”

Senate also approved a set of guidelines to harmonize definitions of academic entities (such as “Insitute” or “Group”) and a set of clarifications to regulations on sabbaticals and leaves of absence for academic staff.

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Confronting misogynoir in popular media Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:07:13 +0000 Panelists discuss stereotypes, hypersexualization of black women

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On November 14, the Black Students’ Network (BSN) hosted a discussion titled “My Anaconda Don’t: Misogynoir, Hypersexualization, and Black Feminism.” Attended by about 200 students, many of whom were people of colour, the event featured the screening of music videos as well as a discussion focused on black feminism and “misogynoir,” a term coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey that refers to anti-black misogyny. Misogynoir is based on the inter-workings of race and gender in the oppression of black women.

“We want to tackle the issue [of misogynoir and the perception of black women’s bodies in the media] because […] a lot of people won’t realize that these things are offensive, and the history, and background that they have, and their oppressive nature, so that’s something also that we’re going to hit on,” said BSN Political Coordinator Isabelle Oke.

Oke began by providing some contextualization for the discussion. She explained that the institution of slavery is at the root of many of the problems that black women currently face. Black women were seen as the property of the slave masters, Oke explained; they were exploited and dehumanized, which led to assault and abuse.

“When it comes to the case of sexual assault, society propagates this stereotype in order to create doubt on [the woman’s] credibility,” said Oke.

Attendees viewed and discussed three pop song video clips from popular songs: “Anaconda” by black American rapper Nicki Minaj, “Pu$$y” by white Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, and “Hard Out Here” by white British singer Lily Allen.

One of the major discussion points surrounding Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” the first clip shown, was whether her depiction of sexuality in the video was empowering or objectifying.

One audience member said that Minaj “reclaims” her sexuality in the video, by showing her “big butt” even though it may be shocking.

“Is she really celebrating her sexuality, or is she buying into this trope of strong, black women with a predatory sexuality […] copying the way men have exerted this sort of predatory sexuality against women, rather than exploring something that is truly new and truly unique?” asked another student.

Many argued over whether this music video was made to appeal to heterosexual men. Students argued that this could be the case, considering that the video was directed by Colin Tilley, a young, white, male director from California.

The next media clip shown was “Pu$$y” by white rapper Iggy Azalea. Participants criticized the music video for its objectification of black women and appropriation of black culture, as well as the hypersexualization of the young child in the clip, who is depicted riding a rocking horse and clinging to Azalea with his legs around her neck.

The video at one point also depicts the child holding a toy gun, and other men in the film wearing shirts with the words “drugs not hugs,” which the attendees criticized as perpetuating stereotypes of young, black males being associated with crime.

Furthermore, students questioned why some of these hip hop music genre tropes that have been around for years are suddenly desirable when they are used by white female artists.

Lastly, a clip of white singer Lily Allen’s  “Hard Out Here” music video clip was shown to the attendees. Allen attempts to tackle misogyny and societal pressures on body image; however, some in the audience criticized the video because Allen assumes a sense of superiority over the backup dancers, who were mostly people of colour in the video. She is fully clothed, while the backup dancers aren’t, and she also says phrases such as “don’t need to shake my ass for you ‘cause I’ve got a brain” within the song.

BSN VP internal Richenda Grazette called the event a success, as an unexpected amount of students were present in the lecture hall and an active discussion was held.  The discussion still continued on the event page on Facebook, and according to their page, the BSN is already planning similar events and discussions that will be held in the future.

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Remembering the Sikh genocide Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:07:02 +0000 Concordia Sikhs host discussion of the events of 1984

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Warning: This article contains discussion of graphic violence and rape.

On November 13, the Concordia Sikh Students Association held an event to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide, during which thousands of Sikhs in India were killed and displaced from their homes. Around twenty people, most of whom were Sikh, attended the event, which featured screenings of short films followed by a discussion.

Two of the videos shown described the events of 1984, when, in June, the Indian government enacted Operation Blue Star, a military operation intended to “break the backbone” of Sikh ‘separatists.’ It ordered the bombing of a prominent gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) and the massacre of the people inside, under the guise of combating a separatist, terrorist movement in the Sikh-dominated state of Punjab.

The following November, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. In response to the assassination, anti-Sikh mobs engaged in a genocide of approximately 30,000 Sikhs.

Participant experiences and collective knowledge

Many attendees had relatives in India at the time, and some described how their families had been directly affected by the events of 1984.

One participant said that her family lived in South Delhi at the time, and, for three weeks, did not leave their house, during and after the period of genocide. When they did go outside they saw that the gutters were filled with bodies.

“[The bodies] were dismembered, but the only thing you could tell was you could see kara [a metal bracelet Sikhs wear] and you could see the person had long hair.” She said they were left for around two or three months.

“My family had Hindu neighbours and tenants, so when the mob did come, when they were passing the street, these guys stood in front of the gate and warded [the mob] off,” said one participant.

Some of the videos played reflected participants’ experiences, as they depicted refugee camps filled with Sikhs displaced by the genocide, many covered in burns where mobs had poured kerosene on them and tried to light them on fire. Another video showed the aftermath of the genocide twenty years later, speaking to women in the “Widow Colony,” in Western New Delhi, where impoverished women whose husbands and children were killed in the genocide still live today.

All of the videos shown said that, in addition to the systematic killing of Sikh men, women, and children, Sikh women and girls were also targeted with sexual violence – many of the women who survived the genocide were raped while their husbands and children were killed.

An elder Sikh man present at the discussion, whom everyone at the discussion referred to as “uncle,” explained that the tensions between Sikhs and Hindus dated back to the independence of India from British colonial rule. He said that, when India received its independence from Britain, the Hindus asked the Sikhs to remain a part of India instead of splitting into their own country.

Sikh leaders sat down with prominent Hindu figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, and were promised that the Punjab would be an independent state. However, many at the discussion said that the Sikhs suffered great oppression as a minority: they were paid very little for their agricultural products, they had limited access to clean water, they were not allowed to list Punjabi as their first language, and they were forced to adopt Hindu customs.

According to one participant, the Indian government unofficially facilitated the genocide, sending buses full of jailed criminals, who were promised shorter sentences in exchange for their participation, to villages for the purpose of killing the Sikhs.

The prisoners were provided with addresses, voting lists, and other government information, and were authorized to stop trains to look for, and murder, Sikh passengers. Civilians were also encouraged to kill the Sikhs, storming their houses as police turned a blind eye.

Legacy of the 1984 genocide

Speaking to the legacy of the genocide, many agreed that it is important to raise awareness of it, and spoke against “forgiving and forgetting” the past. One participant noted that the Indian government actively tries to hide the truth from the general public.

“One thing I find that’s very shocking is, when you go to India and you look at their history textbooks in high school, even at the university level, there’s no mention of it at all, like absolutely none,” she said.

The uncle brought up the point that, while the Indian government may not want the world to know about what happened, the presence of the Widow Colony serves as a constant reminder for Sikhs about the injustice they still face, and may be intended to prevent further Sikh mobilization and activism.

Some mentioned the immense danger of speaking about the oppression of Sikhs in India. The uncle told the story of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist who was extremely vocal about the Sikh children who went missing in the years following the genocide.

Khalra discovered the cremation of around 25,000 unidentified Sikh bodies by the Indian government, and presented his findings to the Indian high court. In 1995, Khalra left India and traveled around Canada to present his findings. According to the uncle, Khalra returned to India knowing it would be a threat to his life, and within 15 days of his arrival, he was abducted by the police and killed.

Some said they had not known much about the genocide prior to attending to the discussion, or knew other Sikhs who knew nothing or were misinformed of the events. The information on the genocide has been coming out recently, and much is still not known, as the Indian government continues to cover up its actions.

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Vote or bust Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:04:49 +0000 Our political systems are broken, but we should not disengage

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Young people are not turning out to vote because of a disgust for a political system that does not represent them. As a group, young people are increasingly choosing complete non-participation – this solves nothing.

However, this sentiment is not only found among young people. The British comedian and actor Russell Brand recently shot to fame for advocating non-participation in an interview on the British news panel show Newsnight, which caused a large backlash; his remark that “there is nothing worth voting for, that is why I don’t vote” caused a mixture of consternation and approval among politicians, celebrities, and the general voting public. Brand further clarified by saying that mainstream political parties are unrepresentative and that voting makes no difference. Summing up his attitude, he stated, “Give us something to vote for and then we will vote for it.” Brand is mainly popular among young people, and the sentiments expressed are indicative of how many feel that their concerns are underrepresented. The short YouTube video of the interview has over ten million views.

The statistics clearly indicate that younger voters are less inclined to vote, and this is problematic.

Election turnout results support Brand’s claims. In the recent midterm elections in the U.S., while voter turnout was low overall (with only 36.4 per cent voting), 78.5 per cent of those who did not vote were between 18 to 29. Likewise, during the 2011 Canadian federal elections, 61.2 per cent of the 18 to 24 age group did not vote. However, the problem is not particular to North America. In the elections for the European Parliament this year, 72 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds did not vote either. The statistics clearly indicate that younger voters are less inclined to vote, and this is problematic.

What is Brand’s answer to this malaise? Revolution, mobilization, and a fuck-the-system attitude. The older generation may sigh, but from a student perspective this viewpoint is completely justified. Expanding austerity measures means we have to pay more for education, increasing our debt sizeably, while the quality of education plummets because of budget cuts. Not only this; when we graduate, we are left with limited job opportunities and thus little means of paying back this debt. As for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, did 15 million people on the streets worldwide not indicate to governments that citizens did not want war? It’s a truism that the establishment does not represent voters on an array of their critical concerns.

We have a democracy in name, but not in practice, and therefore according to Brand, we need to bring down the system, dismantle corrupt political structures, and replace them with directly responsible and democratic organizations. Providing such direct representation is indeed an answer to the concerns that young voters, and students in particular, harbour. Such a system could provide an accountable link between young voters and their representatives.

A party or group of parties still wins if you choose not to vote, and if anything, students and young people not voting means there is no desire to represent the concerns of this group among elites.

Direct-democratic mobilization has also been highly successful in achieving change, but arguably, it is limited and can easily backfire. The Parti Québécois’ so-called support for the student strikes, only to hike university tuition fees once in power, is a good example of this. Anger toward this sort of betrayal has led to the visibility of protest-vote parties like the Parti Nul, established on a platform of allowing voters a chance to express that they feel unrepresented by elites. The argument is that by acknowledging nullified votes, one step is created toward real democracy. However, this points to a more troubling question: we may not be able to change the system without participating in it. The solution to the problem of lack of representation is precisely participation in the system. Efforts at establishing direct democratic structures are valuable and have produced gains, yet repeated efforts to mobilize outside of the political system still have not led to systemic change.

While the premise of the argument for non-participation is admirable, failing to turn up at the ballot box is not a solution. In fact, not voting, or even spoiling your ballot, changes absolutely nothing. A party or group of parties still wins if you choose not to vote, and if anything, students and young people not voting means there is no desire to represent the concerns of this group among elites. Voters aged over 65 consistently turn out to vote and are rarely threatened by the kind of budget cuts that young people are. Thus, by not voting, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Historically, it has been through participation in the system that relevant gains have been achieved for those who felt underrepresented by the system. Think about the eight-hour workday, paid holidays, paternity and maternity leave, anti-discrimination laws, and affirmative action policies. If young people continue to disengage, they risk losing the momentum of decades of gains.

The argument should not be “give us something to vote for”; rather the onus should be on us to provide something for ourselves to vote for.

Though statistics clearly indicate that young people are disillusioned with the system, what is evident is that there is no lack of passion. Sales of Brand’s book raked in roughly $400,000 in the space of 11 days, and his YouTube channel has 750,000 subscribers. However, the issue is how to guide that passion in a direction that causes a change within the system. If citizens or young people do not get involved in politics, others will. This opens the door for them to rob you of democracy, your rights, and your wallet. The argument should not be “give us something to vote for”; rather the onus should be on us to provide something for ourselves to vote for. This could come in the form of creating a political party. This may sound a little like a pipe dream, but it can be a successful tactic. In Spain, the Podemos party was formed from a protest movement and is led by a political science professor. It achieved 2.25 million votes in the European elections and won five seats in the European Parliament. The effect of the party’s success has led to politicians in Spain admitting that the results represent a “serious warning” from voters and even led to the resignation of the Socialist party leader. Furthermore, in an opinion poll on voters preferences in October this year, Podemos was preferred by 27 per cent of Spaniards.

Mass participation in the system invariably leads to the requirement that the establishment take notice. If we are to have our views represented in government and our concerns listened to, we should unshackle ourselves from the demand culture of ‘give us something to vote for’ and stop expecting the establishment to deliver change. Instead, we need to recognize that disengaging from voting can be dangerous; organizing along party lines can change the system.

Thomas Burgess is a Masters student in Political Science. To contact him, please email

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Deputy Provost shows no support for student-run food services Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:03:40 +0000 Councillors talk student engagement, reopening Redpath doors

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On November 20, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened to discuss the creation of a student engagement committee as well as student demand for reopening the Redpath Library doors. Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, who was present as a speaker, was also thouroughly questioned by Council about his commitment to food services on campus.

Dyens on food services

In his presentation, Dyens discussed his role as Deputy Provost, and spoke to the necessity of “finding a way to work together” with SSMU. A lot of the discussion surrounded the current food services on campus and student dissatisfaction about what is provided.

Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke asked Dyens about the lack of affordable food options on campus. “I know that’s a big issue for students,” said Dyens, going on to emphasize that McGill’s concern is directed toward “health and better food options.”

“We have fair-trade food now,” said Dyens, referring to the recent replacement of the Tim Hortons in the Redpath Library with a Première Moisson outlet. “Tim Hortons is a large corporation; it has no fair trade.”

VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette and VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley both questioned Dyens on his support for student-run services. Dyens denied having ever claimed to support student-run services and told Council that the McGill administration is “not for these things.”

Moustaqim-Barrette asked Dyens whether his duty in a position representing students to the administration wasn’t “to represent the interest of students who are overwhelmingly in favour of student-run food services.”

“I represent the students, but we also have a business relationship,” Dyens responded.

Bradley was not satisfied with Dyens’ answers to the questions posed at Council.

“I think he is still new in his role and has a lot to grow,” she told The Daily. “Regardless of administrative difficulties, he is supposed to be the person who advocates on the behalf of students […] he has not demonstrated that in any capacity that I have worked with him.”

Creation of a student engagement committee

A motion was brought forth for the creation of an ad-hoc committee for student engagement, to be charged with identifying areas of miscommunication and improve SSMU’s communications strategy.

“It’s super important to create this committee because there’s a lot of rampant misinformation going about campus, and I think it’s our duty to address that and explore as many communication channels as possible,” Arts Representative Lola Baraldi, one of the movers, told The Daily.

Science Representative Omar El-Sharawy spoke strongly against the motion. “I have six hours of office hours per week and not a single member tries to come to me,” he said. “If [the constituents] want to be represented right, they need to put in the effort.”

“This committee is not for the purpose of re-identifying how SSMU communicates, but rather looking at a vision for how things can work in the future,” argued VP Internal J. Daniel Chaim.

Rourke expressed hope that the committee would improve SSMU’s response to “controversy on campus.”

“That is one thing we’ve failed to do,” said Rourke. “We communicate the least when we need to communicate the most.”
The motion passed.

Reopening the Redpath Library doors

Council also passed a motion calling on VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan to “prioritize the reopening of the Redpath doors in her negotiations with the McLennan-Redpath Library.”

Moustaqim-Barrette, one of the movers, told The Daily that the issue had been brought to her attention by a student, Alexander Elias, who started a petition and a Facebook group to gather student support for reopening the doors, which currently only function as an emergency exit.

“[This motion is] something that is a direct response from student needs and wants and motivations, [and] a great demonstration of SSMU being open, responsive, and efficient in addressing student needs,” Bradley said during the discussion.

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New position addresses equity in computer science Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:03:18 +0000 Since the creation of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society (CSUS) VP Diversity position […]

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Since the creation of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society (CSUS) VP Diversity position last September, the current co-holders of the position, Computer Science students Pascale Gourdeau and Gabriela Stefanini, have been aiming to make the program more inclusive for individuals of all identities and backgrounds through different events on campus.

The new role was created after a CSUS Facebook post proposing a VP Diversity position turned into a long thread with more than 200 comments. The suggestion initially came from an article on women in technology that was shared earlier in the same group.

“The position was put into place in order to create a space where there could be dialogue about [diversity] issues outside of Facebook, and because there was little mutual understanding [in the comments] about those issues,” Gourdeau said.

The co-holders of the VP Diversity position still rely on Facebook to promote their events, share resources, and receive feedback. They created a new Facebook group called “Diversity @ SOCS [the School of Computer Science],” on which they have successfully advertised four events so far.

While their first event served as an introduction to the position and a discussion of future ideas, their second event tackled the issue of inclusivity in the hacking community.

The attendees ended the meeting with a list of suggestions to McGill’s own hackathon, McHacks, an event that gathers programming enthusiasts to create small programs, such as computer and phone apps, in a limited amount of time. Suggestions included the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the conduct of these events, as well as the introduction of forms for attendees to fill out anonymously at the end of a hackathon to disclose how inclusive they thought it had been. “This creates accountability,” Gourdeau said.

The third event, on integrating humanities into computer science, also led to some new tasks. Computer Science students now add the names of researchers that they find in the Montreal area who are integrating computer science and humanities to a shared document. Researchers chosen from this list will be invited to give a talk about their work at a Computer Science Colloquium, a SOCS-organized event series.

The most recent event that the VPs co-hosted, the Computer Science Women Mixer, was organized by U3 Computer Science student Lei Lopez.

She said she got the idea when a professor pointed out that a lot of female students who are interested in computer science don’t end up pursuing it.

“[T]he female-male ratio in COMP 202, the introductory computer science class, is around one to one. However, in the actual program, the ratio is more like one to four. I think that having female peers and role models can encourage women in those classes to stay in computer science,” she told The Daily in an email.

Gourdeau is currently working on making graphs for women’s enrollment numbers in computer science.

“Sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and ethnicity [information] is not available. That’s a challenge,” she said.

Another challenge is the future of the VP Diversity position. U3 Computer Science student Emily Sager expressed concern that the position could be taken over by a hostile CSUS member.

“It is a little dangerous to have a VP Diversity position, because when it first came about, some people popped up saying, ‘I’ll be VP Diversity and do nothing,’” Sager told The Daily.

To mitigate the problem, the current VPs have made attending at least one anti-oppression workshop mandatory to hold the position in the future. Anyone who fails to fulfill this requirement will have to step down.

During their time in office, Gourdeau and Stefanini want to change the name of the position to Equity Commissioner to reflect the pattern on campus, and organize new events, including a diversity tech talk with Google engineers and a recruitment event targeting different underrepresented groups.

Stefanini told The Daily in an email that “writing news articles about technology companies in Montreal, both corporations and startups, and finding how they [are] tackling diversity issues and creating a more diverse workforce” is also on the VPs’ agenda.

“Bringing the [diversity] discussion to the forefront helps us inform people, decreasing discrimination at McGill, and hopefully also in both industry and academia,” she added.

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Fuck this(es) Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:02:52 +0000 A compilation of hate

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Fuck Gerts

Fuck you Gerts. I hate how you have not learned to hire more staff, how you insist on playing the same shitty music night after night. Nobody gives a flying fuck about you once they leave first year. You’ll always be that embarrassing moment in all our McGill careers.

I always hear your patrons singing along to Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools. It’s supposed to be ironic and caution people about the perils of drinking – not become the anthem you half-sing while ordering the blackout special and yelling “shots, shots, shots,” you repetitive fucks. Even getting into Gerts is a pain in the ass: the security guards have all seen Air Force One one too many times, and like to convince themselves that they need to protect Gerts as if the U.S. and Canadian governments are playing a game of beer pong to determine who gets more profits from the Enbridge Pipeline. If that’s not enough, yelling at drunk first-years definitely makes me respect your authority more, because we all know how wild people can get while waiting to get into a bar for some cheap, watery sangria and nineties pop hits.

The only thing Gerts is good for is bumming smokes off the mindless drones who consider it a real bar. Because at least the calming effect of nicotine prevents me from an eruption of Manhattan Project-style anger. This is worth the well-advertised health side effects because at least if I smoke myself into an early grave I will not have to put up with your goddamn bullshit. This, coupled with the smell of beer and puke in the morning when I walk into the SSMU building is not only fucking disgusting but a confirmation of how god damn pathetic you are.

Fuck borders

Fuck borders. Fuck the idea that where I’m born dictates where I should die. Fuck chauvinistic patriotism. Why do I owe anything to a place I was arbitrarily placed in? Fuck xenophobia. Fuck citizenship. Fuck nations too. Why can’t I choose my own identity? Fuck pieces of paper that dictate my identity. Fuck pieces of paper that tell me where I can live and where I can’t. Fuck these invisible lines that divide this fucking human species into a million fucking pieces. Fuck the fact that we can’t all remember that we’re all fucking humans and that our fucking place of birth on this planet is of no fucking consequence. Why? Because we’re all born on this fucking Earth. Have you seen this planet from space? There are no fucking lines. So why do we draw the lines? Fuck those lines. Fuck arbitrary adjectives. Fuck nations, fuck nationalism, fuck patriotism. Fuck borders.

Fuck lateness

Fuck people who are always late. Fuck people who use sorry every other sentence without any meaning or weight behind it. Fuck people who think that their time is worth immeasurably more than my own. And fuck the people who complain about their lives being so fucking busy, as if the rest of us have nothing going on. Or the people who whine about all the goddamn sacrifices they have to make, without stopping for a millisecond to think about everyone around them. Thank fucking god for the people who are busy, and who make sacrifices, but still realize that there are people around them too doing the exact same thing. But seriously, fuck consistent lateness without apologies, because that shit is disrespectful and a waste of everyone’s time.

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An architectural encounter Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:02:49 +0000 On the artists behind the CCA’s “Rooms You May Have Missed”

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“All great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.” Whether you agree or not with this definition of “great architecture,” American architect Philip Johnson had a precise, modernist idea of what great architecture ought to be. Pursuing this idea that aesthetics should follow the sensory experiences we derive from building art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is hosting “Rooms You May Have Missed: Bijoy Jain, Umberto Riva,” curated by the institution’s director Mirko Zardini. The exhibit showcases the projects of Indian architect Jain and Italian architect Riva, reflecting on concepts as diverse as rooms, globalization, identity, and contemporary living.

During the introductory statement of the press visit, Zardini discussed the importance of valuing our personal spaces today, profiting from their fundamental qualities instead of just using them as “machines for living.” Zardini stressed that “in architecture, standardized forms tend to blur cultural differences.” This idea, which can be extended to other aspects of globalized Western cultures, seemingly carries the criticism that although we are more efficient than past generations, our societies – and buildings – suffer cultural impoverishments, which affect our spiritual and emotional lives in turn. Zardini suggests that “we have to remove ourselves from the homogenization of global cultural currents and overcome our general dependence on powerful systems of production,” at least when it comes to architecture.

Their shared concern for the “act of inhabiting architecture” led Zardini to bring together Jain and Riva, two diametrically opposed architects, in Montreal. Separate from modern standardized architecture, the architects share the vision of harmoniously equating our personal needs and desires with the spaces in which we will live. Their rooms offer ways in which to protect our most human daily practices, individual identities, and desires.

Jain, the orchestra conductor

Born in 1965 in Mumbai, Jain was trained at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri before returning to India to found his own firm – Studio Mumbai. In this open-air office, artisans and architects work hand-in-hand to explore design problems on large-scale models. At the press visit, Jain described his work as “strategic design” – this certainly comes through in the “monsoon-rain-resistant-tape-drawings-on-plywood” presented, made to study angles and space on a full scale.

Overall, Jain is particularly sensitive to a place’s distinctive characteristics, its climate, and its cultural environment. He has developed this sensitivity through patient contemplation of his surroundings, as shown by his “Demolition Series” – a series of pictures taken during a building’s demolition, showing its interior structure and particularities. The series depicts the economic, political, and physical forces that have shaped the building through time. Jain’s attentive observation to this process allows for a deeper understanding of the life and evolution of a structure.

In the past years, Jain’s work has also had to consider changing socioeconomic forces and growing ecological pressures in India. He contextualizes his work in existing sustainable architectural production systems, and promotes economies of scale. For example, the bricks used in some of his projects are directly made on construction sites in order to prevent undesirable traffic.

The architect is also very attached to the idea of the courtyard, believing it to “collect the rain and the sky.” In this exhibit, one particular courtyard stands out, beautifully transcribed in his Ahmedabad house along with its marble pool. Balancing the poetic and the practical, Jain describes himself as an “orchestra conductor” – structures are his symphonies.

Riva, the enlightened craftsman

Born in 1928 in Milan, Riva has been a discrete but active player in the Italian architectural landscape. Since the 1960s, he has remodelled the contemporary habitat, staying away from dominant currents in the field. The combination of organizational simplicity and geometrical complexity in his hand drawings – he claims he has never touched a computer – appear as an allegory of patience, maturity, and wisdom.

Through meticulous observation of our daily lives, Riva also tries to penetrate the essence of small architectural details, in order to give them new forms and significance. He designs every detail of the spaces he creates, from lamps and doorknobs to pergolas and skylight. Riva confers dignity to even the smallest details – he claims “there is no hierarchy in the elements of [his] work,” which certainly brings harmony to his architecture.

“Intermediate spaces” such as anterooms and entrances, aspects more common in Latin architecture, play an important role in his spatial organization. His work highlights smaller, human-scale spaces, as seen in his arrangement of the Casa Insing, an apartment in downtown Milan. Riva, the enlightened craftsman, reminds us that good architects ought to take into account every physical feature relevant to the spaces they create.

The encounter

Without doubt, there is a clear difference in the atmosphere of the spaces these two architects create, demonstrating that architecture is a dynamic process that evolves through time and differs across cultures. The different practices and philosophies framing their styles make for an illuminating encounter.

The CCA recreates the spaces these architects build in their respective countries by remodelling the main gallery into two separate spaces: one for Riva, and one for Jain. Wooden walls and furnishing taken from Jain’s projects, as well as angular walls for Riva’s exhibition space, provide a sensory immersion for the viewer. Aside from their shared concern for details, the exhibit also sheds light on a common affinity for faded colours and harmonious integration of light. Together they draw attention to the details that we have missed but which influence our daily lives.

In short, “Rooms You May Have Missed” is a reverence to all those rooms we inhabit mindlessly in our busy contemporary lives. “Rooms You May Have Missed” is also the story of a not-to-be-missed encounter between two distinctive artists that – against all odds – get along fairly well. After visiting this exhibit, you may never think about a small room, a lamp, or a doorknob the same way again.

“Rooms You May Have Missed” is on exhibit in the CCA’s main galleries (1920 Rue Baile) from November 4 2014 until April 19 2015.

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The case for safe space Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:02:18 +0000 Why your ‘free speech’ is someone else’s silence

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Safe space aims to create an environment in which people feel comfortable and free to express themselves, their identity, and their views, without fear of judgement or physical and emotional harm. McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education office (SEDE) defines safe space as not condoning “homophobia, transphobia. or heterosexist actions in work, study, or living space,” as well as believing “that systemic and personal discrimination and harassment on the groups of sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong.” In essence, being an ally in these terms means being aware of these systems and sensitive to how you speak with others.

Creating safe space can never be completely guaranteed in any setting, which is why groups often use the term safer space instead. Experiencing safer space is an individualized experience, and as such, one can never truly know how their language or actions may affect another individual. Just because a group might strive for safer space does not mean that deeply embedded systems of oppression are completely left at the door. Safer space is – more than anything – a goal.

I personally hold a lot of privilege in society. On a daily basis, I reap the benefits of living in a society that is white-supremacist, heteronormative, ableist, and so on. Despite my best efforts, I am regularly complicit in upholding systems that oppress certain identities that may not easily benefit from the way that society is ordered in the same way I do. My access to space can come at the expense of limiting someone else’s access, and by extension, can silence others. However, recognizing privilege is not about guilt. Guilt is not a productive tool in allyship. Rather, recognizing how my access might silence another’s is a basic step toward creating safer space. Turning this recognition into action is even more important.

I honestly think the argument that safer space impedes freedom of speech is a crock of classic right-wing ignorance.

Recently, McGill made the list of the ten worst universities for upholding free expression, according to the 2014 Campus Freedom Index, which is created by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). The JCCF itself has been criticized for having untransparent political leanings such as having several of its members affiliated with conservative organizations. Its criteria for determining freedom of expression has also been subject to much skepticism from the student body at McGill.

Campus media including the Bull and Bear and Le Délit have used this to problematize safer space as playing a part of McGill’s place on the list. I’d like to clear up the confusion: safer space is not impeding on anyone’s freedom of expression. I honestly think the argument that safer space impedes freedom of speech is a crock of classic right-wing ignorance, and I am reluctant to dignify this argument with space, but here it goes.

Frankly, a lot of the claims about freedom of speech being limited come from highly privileged people who have incredibly uncensored access to space in a society that explicitly upholds their powerful positions.

Violent prejudices are extremely normalized in our society, and this is compounded by people with identities deemed more valuable by society – read white, cis, male – who are too often pitted as the be-all-end-all authorities on issues they hold no stake in. An all-too-easy example: take abortion rights or access to birth control. If you ever want to hear about a woman’s experience on the matter, just turn to the nearest white male policymaker – he’s probably writing the bill on it, not to mention being the go-to authority in all media relations. Denying this enormous access to space and authority is a mere extension of utterly blinding privilege. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to ignore this.

Safer space broadens the capacity for voices that are systematically silenced to be able to participate.

The only limitation put on freedom of speech as far as safer space goes is limiting hateful, homophobic, racist, ableist language, in order to make space safer for people who experience homophobia, racism, ableism and other ‘isms’ on the regular, at your expense. Is that really so outrageous an idea to get behind? I’m sorry our incredibly oppressive society is not enough space for you to share your hateful words – that the idea of creating an actively less oppressive society is so threatening to your dominance.

Safer space is difficult to achieve on a large scale, but striving to create safer space is a critical step in establishing a welcoming campus to a diverse student body. Safer space broadens the capacity for voices that are systematically silenced to be able to participate, and in this sense, opens the potential for an incredibly valuable dialogue that is seriously lacking on campus. Let’s get behind safer space – no one is losing anything from doing so.

Hannah Besseau is the Features Editor at The Daily, but the opinions here are her own. To contact her, please email

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SUS councillors voice support for AGSEM union drive Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:01:58 +0000 Additional fees for projects and student space fund go to referendum

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Last Wednesday, the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) General Council (GC) passed motions from the November 5 General Assembly (GA), which could not pass them since it had not reached quorum. These included a motion to support AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union’s unionization campaign, and motions to increase the SUS base fee and create a new student space improvement fee.

Support for AGSEM union drive

The motion to support AGSEM’s union drive had been tabled at the GA because attendees wanted a more thorough understanding of what passing the motion would entail. At the GC, AGSEM Teaching Assistant (TA) Grievance Officer Benjamin Elgie explained the campaign and was available to answer the councillors’ questions. AGSEM is currently seeking to unionize currently non-unionized teaching staff, such as graders, undergraduate teaching assistants, and tutors.

As it stands, undergraduate tutors are not guaranteed any hours through their employment at McGill, Elgie said. Course notetakers are currently paid $100 per course, a contract that, according to Elgie, may possibly be in violation of Quebec’s labour code, as he said it is against the code to be paid per unit of production instead of by time.

Some concerns brought up included whether or not unionization would lead to higher fees and lower employment of undergraduates; councillors also asked about the effects that unionization would have on undergraduate employees.

Elgie said that, potentially, undergraduate TAs and graders could see a reduction in their hours, if the teaching support budget is not increased via linkage to undergraduate enrollment, which AGSEM is currently bargaining for. He clarified that it would be upon the newly unionized employees to decide what they would like from their contract.

SUS VP External Emily Boytinck spoke in favour of the motion, noting the importance of making students aware that they have the option to unionize.
“I think it doesn’t speak on behalf of the workers and it gives workers the choice of whether they want to be unionized or not, and if workers are unaware of this campaign then they are stripped of the right to have that choice,” Boytinck said.

Another councillor spoke in favour of the motion, saying that, as an undergraduate tutor, it would be valuable to have at least a guaranteed income.
The motion passed with 13 votes for, no votes against, and 11 abstentions.

Base fee increase and student space fee

The Motion to Increase the Science Undergraduate Base Fee and Motion to Introduce the Student Space Improvement Fee were also passed by the GC, to be voted on by SUS members via online ballot. For full-time Bachelor of Science (BSc) students, the base fee will increase from $7.50 to $12.50 per semester, and the student space improvement fee will be $7.00 per semester.

According to Boytinck, the increase in the base fee will be used to fund a variety of projects such as a possible SUS career fair and sustainability initiatives (such as recycling at Burnside, which currently just gets thrown in the trash). SUS VP Communications May Yin-Liao said the money might also be used to make an SUS agenda and handbook, and SUS VP Academic Jeremy Goh said it would also help with increasing the diversity of schools at the SUS Grad Fair.

The student space improvement fee will go to projects set out by the GC, possibly including renovations to the Burnside basement and additional lockers for Biology students. A portion will be dedicated to improvement of departmental student spaces.

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De-de-demilitarize causes stir Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:01:40 +0000 Controversy exploited by University while it prepares for war

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In an escalating war of attrition against radical conformists, campus direct action group Demilitarize McGall has changed its name to ‘De-de-demilitarize McGall,’ The Weekly has learned.
The name change has come after a De-de-demilitarize McGall awareness-raising action on Remembrance Day, which caused campus centrists to crawl out of their privilege-hidey-holes and voice an opinion in retaliation.

Students’ Facebook accounts were flooded with demonstrations of centrists’ newfound self-confidence the night of November 11. The Weekly interviewed Facebook debate participants who were enthusiastic about the forum as a means to promote discussion.

“It was so empowering,” said Glen Reject, a U3 Management of the Class War student. “Ordinarily I wouldn’t have the confidence to voice my opinions in person. Online though, I can swear and belittle as much as I like! This is one of the truly liberating interpretations of freedom of speech.”

“It’s great because I get to match silent awareness-raising with pure spite!” he continued.

De-de-demilitarize McGall refused to stoop to the level of the radical conformists however, only to cause further anger, prompting a slew of ill-informed tirades in the campus press. According to insider sources at De-de-demilitarize McGall, the name change serves the purpose of detoxifying their “brand identity” among the student body.

“We were actually really concerned when people started insulting us online and in the press,” said an activist who requested to remain anonymous. “It’s upsetting because we really aim to reach out to reactionary students – they’re the ones we care about the most. Unrequited love is just the worst.”

The squabble reached a new peak with the creation of an anti-De-de-demilitarize McGall Facebook page, Militarize McGall, which appeared after the Remembrance Day action. Initially, McGall internet message boards circulated the rumour that this was a false-flag operation by anti-military activists on campus, designed to humiliate jingos by wildly exaggerating their claims. Weekly investigative journalists were able to trace the IP address back to a source located within James Defenestration.

“This confirms our worst fears,” said Kook Swain, a U0 Brain Thinky Science student. “The University is engaging in a propaganda campaign to recruit students for its long-planned military attack on the University of Tdot.”

“I work in the McGall Laboratory for the Perpetuation of Marginalization via Death and Destruction (MLPMDD), and I kept coming across plans for a massive, globular death-ray weapon,” they continued. “It seems strange, but at the time I just went along with what everyone else was doing.”

Swain told The Weekly, with some remorse, that MLPMDD workers would chant like medieval monks while working. “The refrain was always the same: ‘Tdot, Tdot, Tdot. Death, death, death,’” they said.

Subject to The Weekly’s discovery, De-de-demilitarize McGall has been able to make sense of its latest access to information request. “They’re building a Death Star. They are coming. Run. Hide,” the group told The Weekly in a concise email.

Deputy Provost for Student Gripes and Weed, Trololollivier Bitumens, and Bane of Students, Andray Bigbadboss, were surprisingly frank when contacted for clarification.

“We’re sick and tired of this rankings bullshit,” said Bitumens. “The time has come to bring this rivalry the next level and crush them [University of Tdot] once and for all.”

“Only one small group of rebels stand in our way,” he continued, referring to De-de-demilitarize McGall.

“Where is the rebel base?” demanded Bigbadboss of Weekly reporters. “All this fuss about spending! Students should glory in the magnificent wealth spent on our new weaponry.”

McGall later sent out a press release confirming their propaganda campaign for the war effort, with Principal Suzie Forte due to authorize the mobilization of the Death Star later this week. In the interest of impartiality, The Weekly declined to point out that their whole project is vulnerable to a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-person starship. De-de-demilitarize McGall has relocated and begun organizing on a small forest moon.

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