The McGill Daily Strong and delicious since 1911 2016-09-25T22:02:54Z http://www.mcgilldaily.com/feed/atom/ WordPress http://www.mcgilldaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cropped-logo2-32x32.jpg Jessica Hunter <![CDATA[Tiering the masses]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47438 2016-09-19T16:48:00Z 2016-09-19T16:48:00Z McGill was recently ranked 1st on Maclean’s list of medical-doctoral granting institutions in Canada for the twelfth year in a row, and is consistently ranked among the top 25 universities in the world. Our campus is believed to be made up of some of the top students from Canada and around the world.

It is estimated that about one in every 10,000 children will pass testing criteria to be considered “gifted” according to the work of Julian Stanley, the founder of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). This research initiative, which began in 1971, has been tracking the growth and accomplishments of thousands of intellectually talented individuals over the past 45 years.

The SMPY study defines as those between 12-14 years old scoring within the top 3 per cent to 0.1 per cent of the Standard Aptitude Test’s (SAT) mathematics portion. The SMPY’s reliance on the SAT’s mathematics component as the sole test for picking out remarkable children demonstrates a narrow-minded focus on quantitative ability over any other forms of intelligence. A contrasting but still popular theory of intelligence is Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which suggests that intelligence can be broken down into distinct and disparate categories; within Gardner’s framework, one can excel musically and struggle mathematically, but the different IQ levels for these two forms of intelligence do not overlap.

The SMPY database was used in a meta-analysis conducted in 2010 by Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, studying the correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. Wai claims, “[that] the kids who test in the top 1 per cent tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires.” He bluntly concludes that “whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society.”

If that statement leaves you with the feelings of disdain, you’re not alone. Many have taken issue with the conclusion that innate cognitive ability is the greatest predictor of lifetime achievement. In searching for a way to define and measure childhood genius, Stanley and his colleagues zoned in on one aspect of intelligence: mathematical reasoning.

Through history, intelligence has been defined variously and according to different standards. Intelligence testing dates back to the late 19th century, beginning with Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, a renowned statistician, and the founding father of eugenics. Eugenics is loosely defined as the set of beliefs or practices that aim at improving the perceived quality of the human gene pool. Galton valued intelligence above other traits; his earliest work was on the very subject of greatness and genius, entitled “Hereditary Genius” published in 1869. He attempted to design ways to empirically measure intelligence often relying on physical attributes, such as cranial shape and “colouring,” as well as behavioural characteristics like criminality, and sex workers.

The eugenics movement is the insidious theoretical foundation upon which intelligence testing rests.

It’s plain to say that not all were equal within Galton’s “testing system” although at the time his work was used to aid in the ‘screening’ of potential American immigrants landing on Ellis Island, and later backed regimes dictating and policing which characteristics could remain in society’s gene pool, which included the German Nazi party. In fact, it was the dispersal of eugenics ideals by the Nazis that turned the rest of the world sour to the concept not even a hundred years ago. The eugenics movement is the insidious theoretical foundation upon which intelligence testing rests. This remains a common thread in the study of intelligence as we continuously strive to segregate peoples into different statistically justified groups according to attributes deemed desirable by some.

People possess varied levels of intelligence and capacities for academic pursuits, however it is crucial to acknowledge that other factors such as identity, personality, and social environment play an important role in dictating one’s success. The children selected into the SMPY study have many advantages conferred on them prior to and during the study. During the study these children are provided with personalized education programs that suits and encourages their abilities, which would likely confer success on any child. Moreover, these children likely stem from a homogenous pool of those who have access to early opportunities and advantages, which excludes children from underprivileged or marginalized backgrounds. The influence of early childhood access to academic and extracurricular opportunities cannot be overstated, but too often these opportunities are afforded according to society’s many hierarchical structures: socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and ability. Access to these advantages helps cultivate ‘gifted’ qualities, contradicting the notion of ‘hereditary genius.’

In considering how to better treat children of different abilities in the classroom, Carol Dweck, a professsor in the psychology departmant at Stanford University, suggests that labelling children can be damaging and counterproductive to their growth. Dweck suggests that labels can interfere with motivation and can contribute to a “fixed mindset” of intelligence, wherein the child believes that their basic qualities, including intelligence, are immobile and unalterable through practice. Instead, she suggests cultivating a “growth mindset” where children believe their inherent abilities are only a starting point that can be cultivated through hard work and intellectual risk-taking.

Labelling children can be damaging and counterproductive to their growth.

The failure to prove the real and lasting differences between children of varied IQ’s was demonstrated in a study by Lewis Terman, whose infamous work on the genetics of genius relied on IQ scores to identify gifted teenagers that were subsequently tracked over their lifetime (began in 1921, it is one of the longest running longitudinal studies ever conducted). Albeit the fact that some of Terman’s subjects, or “Termites” as they came to be known, reached eminence in their fields, sociologist Pitirim Sorokin pointedly found that the “Termites” (with IQs at or above 130) did equally as well over their life course as a random group of individuals from comparable family backgrounds.

Within our complex and layered world requiring talents of all kinds, the glaring focus of Stanley’s study on mathematical intelligence and scientific potential strongly shows that this is what society values among its ‘best and brightest.’ SMPY mutates intelligence into an economic resource upon which to hone in to create the world’s next leading group of leaders and intelligentsia, and the narrow focus on scientific achievement excludes or ignores other forms of achievements. Imagine a world highlighting only the brilliance of Newton and Einstein, but devoid of Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, Frida Kahlo, or Yo-Yo Ma.

Essentially, if society was truly determined and crafted at the hands of the “scientists and academics, Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” highlighted in SMPY, our world would be far less vibrant, diverse, and interesting. Future research into educational achievement and intelligence should denigrate (or at least acknowledge) classist logic that splits youth into distinct and visible hierarchies according to typologies deemed most ideal by society.

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Sonia Ionescu <![CDATA[Google Mapping the world]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47426 2016-09-19T14:31:27Z 2016-09-19T14:30:24Z When we think of a map, we think of it as an almost immutable source of facts.

However, not only are maps often grossly inaccurate in terms of the relative size of different regions, but geographical boundaries are often disputed than they might seem to those who have received education in North America, a region which has not had a major change of boundaries between sovereign states since 1949 – long before most of us were born. Looking at national border changes since World War I, it is clear that this hasn’t been the worldwide norm. The changes within Europe, Africa, and Asia have not only been more numerous than those in this part of the world, but also more significant.

While those of us whose knowledge is largely based in a North American context may think of these changes (due to their presentation as historical fact, rather than an ongoing dispute) as cut-and-dried, they often aren’t: many boundaries are still being contested. The way that these boundaries are depicted, both verbally through education and the media, and visually through maps and globes, shows the relations between the countries involved in the dispute, as well as how global communities view the disputed area. One of the most visible ways this manifests is in Google Map depiction of disputed boundaries.

On Google Maps, disputed boundaries are shown by dashed lines, rather than by the solid lines which are usually used to indicate the borders between two countries. This came to mainstream attention earlier this summer, when Google was accused of deleting the label for Palestine on its Maps (Google later stated that there had never been a Palestine label, but a bug had caused the labels for the West Bank and Gaza to disappear, which was rectified later). The boundaries between the West Bank and Israel, and between Gaza and Israel, are displayed by dashed lines. These dashed lines recognize that the boundaries between these territories are not nationally or internationally agreed upon.

This is not the only way in which Google attempts to remain impartial on the issue of what it calls “sensitive borders.” When you search for a country which has had historically well-defined, undisputed borders, Google highlights the border in red, and overlays a translucent red highlight over its territory. In the summer of 2014, however, Google treated 32 countries differently: when searched, they were either simply zoomed-in on, or the red Google pin was placed somewhere within their territory. Now, eight of those countries (Albania, Georgia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Montenegro,Nauru, South Sudan, Macedonia) have their borders highlighted in red when searched, reflecting past geopolitical changes that Google has decided to formally recognize.

The results of searching for Russia, Canada, and India respectively when searching with Google Maps Canada.

However, even these layers of complication are not a complete picture of Google’s attempts to avoid conflict. There are several territories which have different boundaries depending on which country code top level domain (ccTLD) – .ru, .ca, etc. – is used to access Google Maps. A 2014 hackday (a day where coders interested in forms of “hacking” get together and collaborate on projects) sponsored by the Knight Foundation, Mozilla, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and dedicated to the idea of “the Open Internet,” or internet neutrality, resulted in a list of “notable examples” of disputed territories which have different appearance on Google Maps depending on the viewer’s location.

The site shows the results of searches for these disputed territories from the U.S. view, as well as the “administering” country and the “claimant” country. These territories are: Aksai Chin, Arunchal Prades, Azad Kasmir and Gilgit-Baltstan, Bhutan (Chumbi salient and northwest valleys), Crimea, Demchok, Jammu and Kashmir, Pinnacle Islands, Shaksam Valley, Siachen Glacier, Spratly Islands, and Tirpani and Bara Hotii valleys. While this is not a comprehensive list, it does offer a look at the extent to which Google must consider the ramifications of its decisions; there are many countries implicated, and millions of people implicated.

The reasons for Google’s decisions are manifold. Google must follow the laws of the countries the accessing servers reside in, and relies on this rather than the judgments of a supranational power, such as the United Nations (U.N.), due to the U.N.’s lack of topographical tools: the U.N. Regional Cartographic Conferences meet only every three years, far too infrequently to be reliable for the settlement of disputes, and their maps are often not as detailed as Google’s. Google moves quickly – in the case of Crimea, it only took two weeks after the Russian vote to annex before Google Maps was updated – but it also maintains an expectation of quality mapping. This is why, when South Sudan was added as an independent country, it took two months for the boundaries to appear on the map; the U.N. decision did not make clear delineations, and the government’s delineations were not those commonly used. In order to rectify this, Google organized a series of events in Nairobi dedicated to community mapping South Sudan. In order to maintain the standard that Google is accustomed to, while also complying to local laws, Google has had to resort to what is known as “agnostic mapping” – acknowledging that there is no one objective reality, even when it comes to global boundaries, and providing cartographic information in compliance with this principle.

Google Maps decisions aren’t arbitrary, nor are they inconsequential: in 2010, a mistake in Google Maps almost launched a war between Costa Rica and Nicaragua when Nicaraguan officials believed that Google-drawn boundaries, later shown to be a mistake, indicated a Costa Rican invasion of already contested land. More recently, India drafted a law (which was not passed into legislation) which would allow for fines levied on those who publish inaccurate cartographic information to reach up to 1 billion rupees, or about 20 million Canadian dollars. Google’s transparency in regards to disputed boundaries is admirable – most of the time, to see a different country’s view, all you need to do is to change the ccTLD.

However, the lack of a consistent approach to these boundaries, or an official, regularly updated list limits the knowledge of viewers. Whether these viewers are players in world politics with the ability to launch troops, or students who are learning about geopolitical boundaries and only have certain viewpoints readily available to them, Google Maps has a responsibility to be as transparent as possible with its location and treatment of boundaries.

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Marina Cupido <![CDATA[McGill releases Draft Policy against Sexual Violence]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47409 2016-09-19T21:13:51Z 2016-09-19T13:18:52Z On Monday, September 12, the McGill administration released its Draft Policy against Sexual Violence (DPSV). The draft was written by Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) Angela Campbell following the administration’s sudden withdrawal of support in April for a previous Sexual Assault Policy (SAP). The earlier policy had been drafted by an unpaid, student-led working group over the course of three years.

Policy Content

The DPSV has three primary objectives: to prevent sexual violence through education and awareness, to “support Survivors of Sexual Violence,” and “to respond effectively to Disclosures and Reports of Sexual Violence.” Though the first and last of these objectives have their own explicitly labelled subsections within the policy, the goal of “support[ing] Survivors of Sexual Violence” does not.

The “Education and Awareness” subsection specifies initiatives such as on-campus informational campaigns and training sessions for various University bodies (including the University Residences, and Athletics and Recreation services).

The “Responding to Disclosures” subsection, meanwhile, would mandate McGill staff to “inform [survivors] about and provide access to appropriate […] services, including health and counseling services” at McGill and beyond, preserve the survivor’s confidentiality, and “refrain from questions or comments that imply judgment or blame of the survivor.”

The DPSV also features a section on immediate steps that the University can take upon receiving a disclosure or report, as to “protect the Survivor and the University Community,” including “voluntary measures” agreed to by the alleged perpetrator, “implementing alternate academic […] extra-curricular, residential or work arrangements,” or even “temporarily excluding the alleged perpetrator from campus or limiting that person’s role, privileges or duties.”

Finally, the draft policy stipulates that “within four months of this Policy coming into effect, the Provost shall initiate a review of the phenomenon of Sexual Violence at the University,” and that as part of this process, “efforts will be made to engage with” students who have experienced sexual violence, and those with relevant expertise.

“The draft that is currently up for feedback is heavily informed by the efforts of the student-drafted policy.”

It also mandates the creation of “appropriate, visible and accessible physical office space and the appointment of adequate and qualified staffing focused on Sexual Violence case management, education, prevention and support, which accounts for the particular effects of Sexual Violence on members of equity-seeking groups.” This is to be accomplished “through the allocation of appropriate resources.” The nature of “appropriate resources” remains unspecified.

DPSV vs. SAP

In an email to The Daily, Campbell wrote that “the draft that is currently up for feedback is heavily informed by the efforts of the student-drafted policy [SAP]. It draws heavily from their work, and we know that universities are often led to change through effective, thoughtful student leadership and advocacy.”

She went on to explain that features of the DPSV such as its definition of consent (which includes the specification that “consent may not be free or informed when a person is intoxicated, unconscious, or where the sexual activity has been induced by conduct that constitutes an abuse of trust, power, or authority”) and the aforementioned review of sexual violence at McGill came directly from consultation with students that took place over the summer.

Despite this, the DPSV features notable differences from the rejected working group’s SAP. It is significantly shorter, describes itself as “survivor-focused,” as opposed to “pro-survivor,” and, unlike the SAP, features no specific delineation of survivors’ rights.

It also includes fewer equity provisions than the SAP, as it does not specifically name marginalized groups that may be more vulnerable to sexual violence, eliminates the requirement of specific resources for such marginalized groups, and removes a commitment to equity from the policy’s objectives and the term intersectionality from the policy entirely.

Talia Gruber, one of the members of the original student working group that put together the SAP, expressed her frustration about the DPSV in an email to The Daily.

“The goal of our policy was to ensure a clear commitment by the University to create new, accessible, and effective recourse and interim measures for survivors wishing to pursue action against perpetrators, and to ensure the creation of new, more effective, and better funded […] intervention resources, which this Policy simply does not do,” she wrote. “By simply gathering existing modes of recourse, the University is maintaining mechanisms for recourse that are insufficient at best, and retraumatizing at worst.”

In their joint statement on the DPSV, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) echoed Gruber’s concerns that the administration’s draft doesn’t go far enough to help those who have experienced sexual violence.

“Despite [some] improvements [over the status quo], however,” the statement read, “the current draft reinforces existing University limitations on responding to sexual violence. It does not address formal reporting and disciplinary procedures, relying instead on existing policies such as the Code of Student Conduct that fail to account for the specific challenges of cases on sexual violence. It also does little to guarantee or impose timelines on administrative responses to disclosures and reports beyond these existing policies.”

Vagueness and Impracticality

Several campus groups have also criticised the DPSV for using vague language and shying away from concrete measures. In an email to The Daily, The McGill chapter of Silence Is Violence (SiV) pointed out that, while the policy requires the University to direct survivors to “appropriate University services,” it fails to specify these services.

“What are the services that should be mentioned?” SiV asked. “Do they include free emergency STD testing, free emergency contraception, information regarding abortion services, and contact info for SACOMSS [The Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society]?”

“By simply gathering existing modes of recourse, the University is maintaining mechanisms for recourse that are insufficient at best, and retraumatizing at worst.”

SACOMSS echoed these concerns, telling The Daily via email that they “do not see any of the desperately needed concrete changes in the reporting process or mechanisms for recourses within the University.”

Similarly, SiV is concerned about the lack of specification in the provision for “reasonable accommodations and immediate measures” for survivors, asking what form these accommodations could take and how they would be approved.

Gruber also criticized the DPSV’s use of language. “McGill uses equity language,” she wrote, “which the [SAP working group] felt was more watered down and often means historically marginalized groups continue to be excluded.”

While Campbell admitted that “there continues [sic] to be unanswered questions that we will need to address as we look to implementation: including a fulsome training program for staff, resources, and clarity around how this new policy will work alongside current disciplinary policies […] and how it will complement existing campus initiatives,” she did not address the lack of robust forms of recourse for survivors.

Student criticisms of vague language point to a broader concern with the lack of practicality and actionability of the policy. Some groups have even suggested that this vagueness is not mere oversight, but instead a measure that protects McGill from liability if the University fails to adequately support a survivor.

“In keeping the language of the policy vague and omitting certain topics altogether,” wrote SiV, “McGill officials are simultaneously asking survivors of sexual violence to take a giant leap of faith and assume that the University will do the right thing for them when they report, and protecting their own institution in case it falls short of a reasonable response.”

A Culture of Distrust

Student groups also expressed frustration with the administration for the process that led to the DPSV. SiV told The Daily that McGill’s “lack of transparency and shifting levels of commitment” has created a “culture of distrust among members of the McGill community.”

In light of this “culture of distrust” and the policy’s vague language, many remain skeptical that the DPSV’s creators had the best interests of students in mind. “We are concerned,” SACOMSS wrote, “that this policy may just be more empty words from a university that continues to prioritize its public image over supporting the survivors of sexual assault who were promised a supportive and safe learning environment.”

“We are concerned that this policy may just be more empty words from a university that continues to prioritize its public image over supporting the survivors of sexual assault.”

SiV concurred, claiming that the DPSV is simply “a PR stunt designed to polish McGill’s image superficially rather than a tool to ensure that survivors have their rights respected.”

In her email to The Daily, Campbell acknowledged students’ grievances, writing that the administration “regret[s] the sense of legitimate frustration that some students experienced as a result of the time and energy required to bring this matter to Senate. […] We truly want to continue working with and listening to students; their engagement with the process has been invaluable to-date.”

But according to Ian Beattie, a former editor at The Daily and another member of the original working group, this, if anything, represents an understatement. Beattie told The Daily via email that although he feels progress has been made since the group began advocating for a sexual violence policy in 2013, these developments have come about almost exclusively because of students.

“It’s surprised me from the beginning of this process how little urgency administrators have felt about this issue,” he wrote. “Every university in the [United] States, all the other major universities in Canada (and many smaller ones) have policies, and a few even have fairly developed infrastructures to support survivors.”

“At McGill, though, VP after VP, Dean after Dean started their job, presumably at some point became aware that there was no policy on sexual assault at McGill, and not one of them felt the need to do something about it,” Beattie continued. “I think it’s worth emphasizing that this was a student-led initiative – we took it to them, and then had to slog away at it for three years.”

Next Steps

The administration is currently calling for feedback on the DPSV, requesting that community members submit their comments via an online form by September 30.

This feedback will be reviewed by members of the administration in conjunction with the non-profit White Ribbon, an organization which describes itself as a “movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity,” and which, according to Campbell, is working against gendered violence on multiple Canadian campuses.

After feedback is considered, explained Campbell, the DPSV will be brought to Senate for information in October, and for approval in November.

Despite their reservations, SSMU and PGSS encouraged students to submit feedback. “The current feedback period is an important opportunity for student participation in efforts to implement pro-survivor, intersectional, and non-directional approaches to addressing sexual violence at McGill,” their joint statement read, adding that they “will be offering closed focus groups in order to gather feedback on the policy draft.”

Other campus groups are doubtful, however, that this public consultation period will lead to any concrete improvements in the policy. “Given that McGill has ignored student input around sexual violence in the past,” SiV wrote, “we are skeptical that public consultations will lead to major changes in the policy. Nevertheless, we plan to be involved at every stage of the public process.”

According to SiV, in order to eliminate McGill’s pervasive “culture of distrust,” “survivors need to be put at the centre of this process,” and the public consultation is the perfect place to start. “No online submission can adequately convey the unique needs of survivors better than face-to-face meetings with them as a major stakeholder.”

“I think it’s worth emphasizing that this was a student-led initiative – we took  it to them, and then had to slog away at it for three years.

Beattie stressed that beyond consulting students on the DPSV in the weeks and months to come, McGill must also address its problematic past.

“The fact that there has been no infrastructure for support up till [sic] now means that for decades people have been experiencing sexual assault at McGill without receiving any institutional support from the University,” he told The Daily in his email. “That’s a legacy which the University hasn’t begun to deal with. If in the next few months the University really seeks out and shapes this policy around those people’s feedback, though, that would be a good start.”

A previous version of this article stated that the Draft Policy against Sexual Violence was written by an ad hoc Senate committee over the summer. In fact, it was written by Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) Angela Campbell. The Daily regrets the error.

A previous version of this article also stated that the DPSV will be brought to Senate for approval in October. In fact, it will be brought to Senate for information in October, and for approval in November. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Ellen Cools <![CDATA[“No future” for Accountable Leadership Policy]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47406 2016-09-19T23:18:15Z 2016-09-19T13:00:32Z On Thursday September 15, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its first meeting of the 2016-2017 school year to hear a report on alternative and equitable governance, and discuss five motions. The motions concerned the adoption of the Council’s standing rules, the creation of an ad hoc equitable governance reform committee, the creation of an ad hoc provincial representation committee, revising the committee terms of reference, and the future of the accountable leadership policy. All motions passed.

Equitable Governance Report

SSMU Alternative and Equitable Governance Researcher Leslie Anne St. Amour presented a report to Council via Skype entitled “Moving Towards Equitable Governance at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU),” which provides several recommendations through which SSMU can carry out its commitment to social justice and equity, as mandated in its Constitution.

St. Amour came to these recommendations by consulting with “students who identify as people of colour, Indigenous, students with disabilities […] at other schools.”

Recommendations included establishing an equity seat on SSMU’s Board of Directors (BoD), adjusting financial accessibility in Council positions, requiring equity training for all members of Council, revising the clubs and services organization, and possibly looking at SSMU’s role in non-academic misconduct.

To establish an equity seat on the Board of Directors, St. Amour suggested using one of Council’s reserved seats on the BoD. Reserved seats on Council are filled by election, and St. Amour clarified that the students who would be entitled to vote in these elections would be determined by self-identification.

Revising the clubs and services organization would also result in restructuring, said St Amour. “Instead of having various clubs or services serving equity based goals, for example […] you could have an overarching service potentially titled Racialized Student Services,” for which SSMU would provide funding, she explained.

Council then discussed a motion that will create an ad hoc equitable governance reform committee to review the report compiled by St. Amour, consult students and groups, and ultimately submit recommendations to Council. An amendment was made to the motion that increased the number of councilors on the committee from one to two. The motion passed unanimously.

Accountable Leadership Policy

SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat introduced a motion to repeal the Accountable Leadership Policy, announcing, “the future of the Accountable Leadership Policy is that it has no future.”
According to Sobat’s motion, the Accountable Leadership Policy “includes provisions related to executive performance reviews, executive attendance, member-at-large restrictions, and the Accountability Committee.” The motion also notes that this policy “has historically suffered from either an ill-defined or overly ambitious mandate.”

The policy is meant to hold executives accountable to their mandates, and addresses logging hours and pay docking, which, Sobat noted, SSMU cannot do legally.

Much of this information is already contained in other documents such as the Regulations of Governance and the Committee Terms of Reference. Before introducing this motion, Council unanimously passed a motion to revise committee terms of reference which addressed the Accountable Leadership Policy.

Speaking in favor of the motion, Clubs Representative Adam Templer noted that “last year, the accountability committee was not the most effective committee, to put it lightly.” He believes that the motion “speaks to the reform that needs to be done.” The motion also passed unanimously.

A previous version of this article named Adam Templer the Clubs and Services Representative. In fact, he is the Clubs Representative. The Daily regrets the error. 

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Ryan Canon <![CDATA[Socialists seek to engage youth]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47401 2016-09-17T05:11:06Z 2016-09-19T13:00:06Z On Wednesday, September 14, about seventy people gathered in a Concordia University classroom, filled past capacity, to discuss the “Capitalist Crisis” and the need for a socialist revolution.

The event was organized by Socialist Fightback at Concordia and McGill, a student association that aims “to promote a Marxist analysis and program for today’s workers and youth.” The group is a chapter of the larger Canadian Socialist Fightback collective, which describes itself as “the Marxist voice of the working class and revolutionary youth in today’s labour movement.”

The event began with a talk by Joel Bergman, one of the event organizers and a member of Fightback for over ten years. He discussed the decline of capitalism over the past several decades, and focused on the reasons why Fightback believes socialism is essential for building an equitable and sustainable society.

“‘It’s going to take at least twenty years to solve the problems of the Euro, twenty years of cuts and falling living standards,’” Bergman said, quoting a Financial Times article to the room.

“This isn’t some Marxist paper saying this, this is the bourgeois saying it themselves, saying this is what will have to happen in order to rectify the situation,” he continued.

Valentina Garcia, an organizer of the discussion and a studio art student at Concordia, told The Daily in an interview that “after [WWII] the market was expanding. But now we see that the capitalist crisis is happening – and it’s not really a crisis, it’s more like this is the normal state of capitalism […] It is normal for capitalism to be this bad, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Speaking to the crowd, Bergman discussed how socialism is far from a universally accepted system. There is a growing generational gap between those who support socialism and those who support capitalism, he explained.

“Now we see that the capitalist crisis is happening.”

“Young people don’t remember the ‘Golden Ages,’” Bergman elaborated in an interview with The Daily. “My parents talk about it […] In the sixties, seventies, there was free health care, they created the EI [Employment Insurance] system, so you know, even if you lost your job you’d be taken care of. There were all of these great things, education was cheaper, and [you could find a job] just like that. My dad, he didn’t go to university, he just did some stuff in college and then bam – he started working in the CBC.”

It should be noted, however, that during this period marginalized communities faced widespread systemic discrimination which often prevented them from benefitting from the societal prosperity of the post-war era.

During the discussion, Bergman addressed the significance of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy in the United States presidential primaries, citing it as evidence that more people are starting to accept the idea of socialism.

Many people present at the event blamed capitalism for far more than just recent economic troubles. “When you have capitalism you [have] racism and sexism to oppress people, to pay them less.”

While many of the attendees believed that capitalism fueled oppression, they also believed that socialism could bring people together.

Speaking to The Daily, Julien Arseneau, a member of Fightback and a Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM) graduate who attended the event, said: “homophobia, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and all the like have absolutely no place in our movement. They are really divisive. They’re unacceptable for revolutionaries, unacceptable attitudes, and we have to fight against those all the time.”

“Homophobia, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, […] have absolutely no place in our movement.”

“What unites us in the struggle against capitalism is our class position in society,” he continued. “The socialist revolution needs to be inclusive, to include all the oppressed people and unite them to transform society towards socialism.”

Bergman hopes to unite people toward the socialist cause through education. “We aim to study everything that’s happened day in and day out – the past movements, the current movements, and revolutionary theory – in order to educate youth and new revolutionaries today,” he said to the crowd. “And with this I really think there will be amazing possibilities.”

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Paniz Khosroshahy <![CDATA[#ThisIsNotHelping]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47360 2016-09-22T04:15:19Z 2016-09-19T10:01:45Z Content warning: sexual assault, rape, misogynistic slurs

This September at McGill, consent education will be in full force: first year students living in Rez will be participating in Rez Project – mandatory workshops that discuss consent, sexuality, and gender – and the #ConsentMcGill campaign will be holding Consent Week, aimed at preventing sexual violence on campus.

In previous years, I have been involved with consent education programming at McGill and Montreal as a participant, facilitator, and organizer. But I’ve long since lost respect for this kind of programming, and refuse to continue to support it. Firstly, because I realized no amount of consent education would have prevented me from getting raped. Secondly, because I have witnessed how consent education overshadows and replaces institutional transparency and accountability.

But most importantly, this year, after months of doubting the legitimacy of my disillusionment with consent education, I met other PWESAs, which stands for Person Who Has Experienced Sexual Assault, from all across the country who have been failed by consent discourse. As my friend Nina Hermes, who was sexually assaulted by her McGill floor fellow, recounts, “[My rapist] had already had two years of floor fellow training (around 60 hours of training each year) and had facilitated at least four Rez Project workshops, so he should have known better, right? Hell, he should have been an expert on consent!” So why wasn’t he?

What if for so many PWESAs, “healing” – something consent educators are so fond of – only looks like justice and accountability?

Beyond offering a theoretical framework to talk about gender and sexuality, consent education at Canadian universities persistently fails to offer real-life conceptualization of sexual violence. In many ways, it misinforms students about the true nature of sexual violence by watering it down to unrealistic scenarios, ridiculous analogies, individualized and one-off incidents, and de-politicizing its roots.

I’ve been told by consent educators, over and over, that consent education is like “planting seeds” that will grow into a robust understanding and practice of consent, and elimination of sexual violence in the long run. But what if these seeds are rotten? What if so many of us are already suffering? What if for so many PWESAs, “healing” – something consent educators are so fond of – only looks like justice and accountability? What if so many of us don’t have the privilege of “healing” without being compensated for all the money we lost getting our life back together after rape? What if so many of us can’t give a crap about preventing rape when we know there’s little point, since raping has absolutely no consequence for rapists on our campus?

The consent framework and the de-politicization of rape

The basics of what you learn at a typical consent workshop are simple. According to McGill’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention website, consent is “an affirmative decision to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity and is given by clear words and/or actions.” We can all probably recite the rest: consent is continuous, can be revoked at anytime, should not be assumed, should be enthusiastic, and so on.

And, just like that, rape becomes divorced from its social reality and de-centered from the conversation to open up space for consent – the golden key to good, fun, mutually respectful sex. Rape becomes a “campus sexual assault epidemic,” as if rape is a new phenomenon. Instead of being acknowledged as a tool of patriarchy, as a form of social control, as men enacting dominance over women and femmes’ bodies, rape is simplified to any sexual activity gone bad, by anyone.

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Every other nuance becomes secondary or simply omitted. The role of rape in upholding white supremacy by falsely accusing and suspecting racialized – but primarily Black – men of raping white women, or its practice during slavery, or its use in warfare – mostly formally documented during the wars of the 20th century – are rendered irrelevant. Power dynamics created by age, desirability, sexual experience, or pressure to fit in are too ‘advanced’ to discuss in consent workshops, as is women’s socialization to please men or men’s socialization to be entitled to women’s bodies. We are all standing on an equal playing field – unless there’s a professor or frosh leader involved – ready to exchange sex.

Furthermore, in consent education’s eagerness to appeal to “everyone” – read: men, a.k.a. potential rapists – we are reminded, over and over, that men can get raped too, that one out of four ‘people’ get raped in college, not one out of four ‘women.’ And very little to no attention is paid to sexual violence against trans people.

Instead of being acknowledged as a tool of patriarchy, as a form of social control, as men enacting dominance over women and femmes’ bodies, rape is simplified to any sexual activity gone bad, by anyone.

Men do get raped, but according to a 2006 study from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, at a staggering rate of 98 per cent, men are almost always the perpetrators, not the victims. When they do get raped, there’s a 93 per cent chance that they’re assaulted by other men, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. By avoiding any interrogation of male violence, we dilute our values and falsify the reality just to roll out a bigger welcome mat for would-be rapists.

Moreover, consent programming preaches that if you, as an individual, check in during sex with your partner, respect their wishes and so on, rape won’t occur. And if you, as an individual, feel violated, if you didn’t consent, then it’s rape.

While it is absolutely crucial to understand the validity of feelings and emotions, the focus on PWESAs’ individual actions instead of interrogating cultural and systemic problems lets rapists off the hook. How about we also ask why rapists pressure their targets, why they get off on dominating other people’s bodies non-consensually? Why do rapists rape?

Rape is part of broader sexual realities, and we need a more nuanced deconstruction of the culture of hookups, alcohol, and parties to understand sexual violence. Alcohol, drugs, and the highly sexualized contexts in which they are consumed are not solely responsible for rape – and I have no time for the likes of Brock Turner who blame their acts on “college drinking culture.” However, stopping at this statement is too simplistic.

The truth is, most rapists do rape while drunk or high, often in the context of the hookup culture pervasive on university campuses. In such environments, the lack of emotional accountability removes checks on people’s actions. The hookup culture game is so rigged that one of women’s main fears about hookups is “coercion,” which is, you know, just good old-fashioned rape. We also need to move beyond “sex positivity” to understand that, even when rape doesn’t happen, the sole focus on consent and non-consent ignores the vast array of technically consensual experiences that are just terribly sexist.

Consent as communication

There are only two stages of sex and sexual assault which are covered in consent programming. The first is during sex: preventing rape by teaching people to ask their partner “does this feel good?” and “can I do x to you?” The second is post-assault: teaching people to “support survivors” by repeating “I’m sorry you had to experience that” and “that sounds shitty.” Basically, anti-sexual violence work is all about talking – a lot of it. When we talk – or, in consent educators’ words, “communicate” – apparently, rape goes away. When it doesn’t, we can just keep talking until we “heal.”

If not raping is as easy as talking, then why on earth is rape so pervasive? If consensual sex is a result of “Ask, Listen, Respect” – #ConsentMcGill’s motto – then non-consent is the absence of those things. Or, in other words, rape only happens when we don’t communicate well enough.

In a 2014 study published in the journal Violence and Gender, one third of college men reported that they would rape if they knew they could get away with it.

The problem is that rape isn’t an accident or an unfortunate episode of miscommunication – the vast majority of college rapists, statistically, know very well that they’re doing something wrong. In fact, many rapists carefully premeditate their attacks and use sophisticated strategies to ensure the success of their plan – by physically isolating their victims, by feeding them drinks, by gaslighting them enough so they don’t say a word to others.

Even more chilling is that, in a 2014 study published in the journal Violence and Gender, one third of college men reported that they would rape if they knew they could get away with it. Rapists often display misogyny, lack of empathy, and a need to dominate women. They view sex as ‘conquest,’ and women as their ‘target.’ What does all of this mean? That your average rapist may know what consent is, or may not – in any case, for them, consent education is effectively redundant.

Consent in daily life

Consent discourse has shifted the focus away from sexual consent, and depoliticized and broadened consent education to include “everyday consent,” which includes asking for consent during daily interpersonal interactions, like giving someone a high-five or hugging them. As the magical consent umbrella gets bigger, it becomes less specific, less political, to the point that consent applies to everything and nothing.

Sexual consent is infinitely more complicated, and a lack of sexual consent is infinitely more traumatizing than the consent involved in giving a hug, taking a picture, or putting your hand on someone’s shoulder. It would be nice to always ask if someone wants a hug, but don’t you fucking dare suggest that a hug without asking, even a hundred hugs without asking, is even comparable to the trauma of rape, is remotely as violent or has the same history of domination as rape. That’s an insult. That’s misogyny. That’s rape culture.

Don’t you fucking dare suggest that a hug without asking, even a hundred hugs without asking, is even comparable to the trauma of rape.

While, often, speaking about “everyday consent” is supposed to engage those who don’t have sex, we need to acknowledge that everyone is affected by sexual violence, and that sexual violence takes different forms for different communities and people. Even though sexual violence on campus often takes place where hookup culture and alcohol are present, the narrative of the skinny white girl who once got “too wasted” and “taken advantage of” at a party should not dominate the conversation on campus sexual violence at the expense of overlooking other forms of sexual violence experienced by students, faculty, and staff.

Where does a married student or faculty member who is physically assaulted by her husband receive support on campus? Someone sexually abused as a child and uncomfortable having roommates in Rez? Someone who has to go home on Thanksgiving to witness the abuse of her mother? University campuses’ exclusive brand of consent activism is leaving people behind, and that doesn’t get solved by making a mockery of rape.

Feel-good awareness projects

Most people have seen the tea video where violating, overpowering, and humiliating women’s bodies is compared to pressuring someone to drink a cup of tea. Following this lead, a collaboration of several offices and groups at McGill produced a mandatory-to-watch consent video for Froshies that uses “a clever (and even at times funny) dance analogy,” according to McGill’s website.

While the fundamental problem with such awareness campaigns is their dilution of the gravity of rape, what is more concerning to me is that these videos are supposed to be ‘funny.’ If dancing without consent is an analogy for rape, and is oh-so-hysterical, then we are effectively laughing at rape or at least laughing in a context where rape is being discussed, because who would dance with or pour a cup of tea down the throat of an unconscious person?

There is absolutely nothing funny about rape. Rape ruins people’s lives. People drop out of school, develop drinking problems, resort to suicide because of rape. Any programming, regardless of methods, impacts, and intentions, that elicits laughter when talking about rape is reprehensible. Do people really take rape more seriously when it’s reduced to nonsensical mundanities? If they do, they’re the cause of rape culture.features_button2_web

Yes, it does seem illogical to dance with someone that doesn’t want to dance with you. But that’s because comparing rape to dance is fucking ridiculous. Rape has absolutely nothing to do with logic; it’s about violation. If anything, the logic in the mind of a rapist is to detect targets, isolate them, and loosen their inhibitions to ensure a successful conquest.

According to an independent investigation funded by the Government of Ontario, such “education and training ‘short cuts’ through, for example, online modules or student contracts, are not suitable and strongly discouraged.” But it’s surely too tempting to force students to watch a seven minute video for the good PR that results from checking the students-know-enough-about-consent box before throwing them in the binge-drinking festival of Frosh that is rampant with casual misogyny.

Athletics, fraternities, and Frosh at McGill

Such videos, virtually spewing out of every university in North America and babbling the same lines, often have a tendency to exonerate groups notorious for encouraging environments that breed sexual violence.

McGill athletics, fraternities, and Frosh have all produced such videos, and they all have a strange – but surely deliberate – erasure of the history and structures of violence facilitated by them. There’s, unsurprisingly, no systemic procedure to collect information about the nature and history of sexual violence at our campus. For example, how many of us know that, in 1988 and 1990, a gang rape at Zeta Psi and another high-profile rape at Phi Delta sparked national outrage, and that the sexual assault centre on our campus was established as a response to the disgusting misogyny and sexual violence happening within McGill’s Greek system?

Five years ago, a McGill student wrote in The Daily about her experience at a Rugby banquet where women were referred to as “rugby boys’ sluts” and the players chanted “I wish that all the ladies/ were like the statue of Venus/ because then they wouldn’t have any arms to shove away my penis!” Soon after, McGill made national headlines when it was revealed that three players from the varsity football team were permitted to stay on campus for a year and allowed to continue playing on the team after being charged with sexual assault with a weapon and forcible confinement of a Concordia student. Popping out a cute little video in the face of such aggressive misogyny doesn’t make rape go away.

While I’m sure that there have been efforts to make Frosh more ‘inclusive,’ sexual violence is rampant at events where alcohol is the main focus and chants are spiked with misogyny and promotion of rape, such as Frosh, E-Week, Carnival, Hype Week, and Science Games. Frosh is different because, statistically, college women are at a higher risk of getting assaulted during orientation week and the months of September, October and November – a period called the “red zone” – than at any other time in their undergraduate career. Does anyone tell first-year women about this reality?

Popping out a cute little video in the face of such aggressive misogyny doesn’t make rape go away.

Sadly, saying “things have changed” and “we are not as bad as the States” doesn’t solve McGill’s rape problem. I want McGill athletics, fraternities, Frosh, and binge-drinking festival enthusiasts to tell us what they’re actually doing to address sexual violence within their communities. Is there a special body governing and addressing complaints? How are abusers held accountable? What if they find out about a complaint before an important game, in the middle of a drinking event, during an end-of-the-year banquet? What if the abuser is a senior athlete, a coach, an E-Week team captain, or the president of the fraternity? Are abusers removed from the community? Are they allowed to just switch to another rape-friendly environment with nothing more than a slap on the wrist?

The role of institutions in facilitating sexual violence

Consent discourse is silent when it comes to the role of universities in creating an unsafe campus, probably because most consent educators are university employees. What is unique about campus sexual violence is that PWESAs and perpetrators are often in the same community, and without the school’s intervention – such as forcing the perpetrator to switch classes or dorms – PWESAs’ continued education could be hindered.features_button1_web

When universities fail to uphold their own charters that mandate them to ensure safe and suitable conditions of learning for students, they effectively betray their community members. Jennifer Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, defines “institutional betrayal” as “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals, committed within the context of the institution.” According to her research, PWESAs who experience such institutional betrayal also experience higher levels of several post-traumatic symptoms.

Consent discourse will never cover this kind of trauma. In fact, even though I should be exactly the kind of person consent educators are supporting, I have experienced silencing and even bullying by educators at McGill, Ryerson, and Queens, and my friends have experienced the same at University of Toronto, York, Mount Saint Vincent, and University of British Columbia. With bystander prevention workshops, rape becomes everyone’s responsibility except the university’s, and many consent educators effectively act as bystanders themselves by staying silent about institutional betrayal.

Moving forward

If the consent framework isn’t working, then what will? I’m not sure, but I know if a fraction of the resources devoted to educational programming was redirected to prioritize consultation and collaboration with PWESAs, we would know that we need a radical revisioning of Frosh and other drinking events, a pause to interrogate Rez culture, comprehensive and easy-to-navigate accountability processes, reporting procedures at all levels of the university, and a complete overhaul of consent educational programs on campus.

While I am happy for PWESAs who find healing in consent programming, I need people to acknowledge that it is not working for many others. Last year, two survivors penned an article in The Daily to express their frustrations with consent programming, anonymously, likely due to ever-present possibility of ostracization for those even slightly critical of the ‘leftist’ status quo. We need room to have non-oppressive, mutually respectful discussions about our work in leftist communities – something that is virtually nonexistent. Who is our activism for if only the most powerful among us get space and media attention, while the rest of us are left behind?

In 2015, a CBC investigation into the frequency of campus sexual violence excluded McGill from its data set, because our school was among the three universities nationwide without proper documentation of sexual assault reports. Earlier this year, former Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos said in an interview that his office is informed of 1 or 2 assaults per month – or roughly 18 per year. “In a town of 40,000 you’re going to have stuff happen,” he said.

Clearly, sexual assault is massively underreported at McGill. But let’s work with these 18 incidents of “stuff happening”: how many rapists involved in these cases have been removed from PWESAs’ classes, clubs, or residences? How many of these 18 incidents involved formal reports, informal reports, investigations, hearings, mediations, appeals, criminal trials, disciplinary charges, suspensions, or expulsions? Who do PWESAs disclose to? Do unsupportive disclosure recipients face any sanctions? Who sits on disciplinary committees? Which faculty, department, race, age, ability level is mostly represented among PWESAs and perpetrators? How do these 18 PWESAs perceive their experience with McGill?

Who is our activism for if only the most powerful among us get space and media attention, while the rest of us are left behind?

Clearly, transparency isn’t McGill’s best suit. But let’s go back to underreporting, because McGill fails miserably at accountability as well. Why would a survivor care to report, and why would a rapist stop raping, when we know that, plain and simple, rape is tolerated in this institution? Sadly, nothing seems to be changing; the administration has refused to include a single clause on reporting and disciplinary procedures in the Sexual Violence Policy, leaving too many things up to individual administrators’ discretion.

A letter published in 1991 in The Daily (after the Phi Delta Theta rape) reads, “If McGill cared as much for women’s rights as it did for its own reputation, there would be the reassurance of checks on university decisions.” In 1994, the University refused to adopt a sexual assault policy despite student activism, arguing that a general assault policy was sufficient. Last April, 22 years later, McGill rejected the sexual assault policy developed by students for similarly ridiculous reasons. Alas, when accountability and transparency – the signifiers of institutional health – are lacking at our university, when PWESAs’ trauma is McGill’s PR disaster, a painful history can repeat itself.

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Use the hashtag #ThisIsNotHelping to join the conversation on consent education at McGill.

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Shawdy Joobbani <![CDATA[100+ days and no justice in sight]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47384 2016-09-17T04:53:42Z 2016-09-19T10:00:58Z After returning to Iran for familial and research matters earlier this year, Homa Hoodfar, a Concordia University professor in the department of sociology & anthropology, was denied permission to leave the country and was subsequently detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison as of June 6 of this year. She has been refused access to legal support and to her family by the government and prison authorities. In addition, Hoodfar suffers from a serious and rare neurological condition known as myasthenia gravis, a condition that requires frequent care and access to medication. She has been held in isolation for more than 100 days now, over which her physical and mental health has deteriorated to the point where her life is being actively threatened.  The process through which Hoodfar has been indicted and imprisoned has been, to put it lightly, a gross miscarriage of justice and a violation of several fundamental human rights.

It’s important to consider that Hoodfar’s role in the Canadian context transgresses the boundaries of the university classroom – she is not only a world-renowned academic, but she is of Iranian heritage and has worked consistently to act as a role-model for the next generation of Iranians. In response to her imprisonment, thousands of people across the world have petitioned the Iranian government for her release.

Access to a lawyer should be a fundamental element of Iran’s due process, which is currently based on a narrow conceptualisation of Islam that is rooted more in a political agenda than a religious one. The government has brazenly been using this version of Islam as an excuse to carry out mass executions as a warning sign to the public to never retaliate against them. Hoodfar’s detainment now more than ever continues to weaken the identities of second and third-generation North American Iranians, because they have now lost the sense of belonging they find in her and her work, which the Iranian state has been unable to provide them.

Nearly a month after her arrest, Tehran’s Public Prosecutor asserted that the reasons behind Hoodfar’s detainment were partially because she was caught “dabbling with feminism and security matters.” Yet, Hoodfar’s publications have never crossed the lines of academia to enter the world of political activism. Her research has been singularly analytical and scholarly. It also, in fact, pushes away from the traditionally ‘Western’ values that Iran has considered a threat for the past several decades. Hoodfar encourages Muslim women to centre themselves in their own narrative, instead of having it dictated by white Western feminists who constantly claim that Muslim women are inherently oppressed.

One can be a feminist and uphold feminist beliefs, but no feminist has the right to speak on behalf of every woman. The fact is that every woman’s circumstance is nuanced, continuously evolving a intersecting at the crossroads of race, gender, sexuality, religion, mental/physical abilities, et cetera. Feminism has formed a pathway for Western scholars and activists to think they have the responsibility to speak on behalf of all women. Hoodfar’s voice is one needed to provide the truths North American feminist academics can not speak on behalf of.

Earlier on this year, I came across Homa Hoodfar’s publications when writing my paper on second-generation Muslim-Canadian women who face the continuous struggle of juggling their a lifestyle that involves multiple cultures, one Muslim-Iranian and the other Canadian. Naturally, I had to come across the topic of the hijab, and this is where I found Hoodfar’s work to be refreshingly nuanced. She rejects the reductionist Western feminist mentality by providing the simple point that the veil is used as a “marker of identity” for diasporic Muslim communities. She takes a neutral stance, writing, “The controversies surrounding the veil and the sometimes hostile attitude toward veiling and veiled women, combined with the insistence of the Diaspora Muslim community in presenting the veil as an Islamic symbol of Muslim identity, have given birth to a political battle where few combatants or onlookers have bothered to re-examine their assumptions about the veil or its implications for the women who wear it.”

The allegations held against Hoodfar are based on gross exaggerations, and sadly, are excuses that ironically are working to perpetuate a prexisting divide between Iran and the West. What is even more unfortunate is that Iran is blind to the fact that within this category they call West, there are millions of lives, like my own, who are dual nationals and are watching our Iranian identity be suppressed by arbitrary arrests like Hoodfar’s. She is a role-model, by the virtue of her experiences as an Iranian, just as many others are to those who share their identity. She  provides a voice to many others, like myself, who don’t want to choose a category in which we have to represent ourselves, we want to live a hybridized life, where I can be Iranian with my family and Canadian with my friends but also allow for these two worlds to connect. How many times have past Iranian leaders reprimanded the West for our societal norms when in fact, it is the voices of second generation Iranian-Americans and Canadians these messages harm most? We deserve the right to a freely lived life where we can be both Canadian/American and Iranian, thus appreciating the good from both worlds and to educating others about the mistakes of both worlds. Our identities are fluid, we are all constantly changing, as are our discourses.

After over three months in prison, we have two options on how to view Homa Hoodfar’s current situation –the former being that we can choose to look at Evin Prison as the death chamber that killed dual nationals like Zahra Kazemi, or, the latter, the death chamber that bread heroes such as Marina Nemat, who to this day continues to be a human rights activist for dual nationals. While the Canadian government currently faces restrictions on this case, having no diplomatic relations with Iran, I write in hopes that the Irish government, of which Hoodfar is also a national, sheds greater light on her case and does everything within the limits of Iranian-Canadian political relations to set her free as soon as possible. Perhaps I will someday have the opportunity to meet a free Homa Hoodfar and thank her for not only her scholarly contributions, but for making me feel more proud than ever to be an Iranian woman.

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Xavier Richer Vis <![CDATA[Marianopolis student union holds accreditation referendum]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47411 2016-09-17T05:30:27Z 2016-09-19T10:00:57Z On Thursday September 15, the Marianopolis Student Union (MSU), which represents over 2000 students who attend Marianopolis College – the only private anglophone CEGEP in the Montreal area – began a referendum (which will end Monday, September 19) asking students to vote on whether they want to accredit MSU.

Accreditation of the union would grant MSU legal recognition as the unique representative association of the student body at Marianopolis College, giving MSU the status of a not-for-profit corporation in Quebec. For accreditation to be granted, a majority of the student body would have to vote in favour of it.

Both the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) went through similar processes in 2003 and 2013, respectively.

“Accreditation of the Marianopolis Student Union means that we’d have the full force of the law behind us, whenever we’re sitting at the negotiating table and whenever we’re trying to get things done,” stated Anthony Koch, President of MSU and second year honours commerce student, in a September press release.

The need for a referendum on the issue grew out of many students’ frustrations with the college’s administration: many felt that there existed an imbalance in power between the administration and the college’s students.

“Accreditation of the Marianopolis Student Union means that we’d have the full force of the law behind us, whenever we’re sitting at the negotiating table and whenever we’re trying to get things done.”

In an interview with The Daily, Koch described MSU in its current state as “structurally deficient.” Since MSU isn’t legally recognized as Marianopolis’ sole student representative association off-campus, the college’s administration has to sign off on everything in order to allow MSU to move forward with any projects.

Speaking to The Daily, MSU’s Coordinator of Communications and second year honours science student, Lucas Szwarcberg, who is mandated to correspond with the government regarding the accreditation process, explained that he felt a slight reluctance from the college’s administration to let MSU have their accreditation referendum.

“When we started moving forward with accreditation, the administration tried to offer some compromises,” Szwarcberg said. “‘Which additional powers would you want?’ [they asked.]”

Szwarcberg went on to explain how the administration’s proposals were not sufficient.

“None of [their propositions] really sufficed to address our issues because there’s only one thing that can give us that power, and it would have to be this legal mandate given to us by the students, in the form of this vote. Even if the school wanted to grant us equivalent powers, they couldn’t, because it’s only the students that can give us that mandate.”

However, while both Koch and Szwarcberg agreed that there might have been some tense moments with the administration initially, student-administration relations have since improved.

“None of [their propositions] really sufficed to address our issues because there’s only one thing that can give us that power, and it would have to be this legal mandate given to us by the students, in the form of this vote.”

“Generally, these things tend to be very hostile, and this time, it was not,” admitted Koch. “I’m going to give credit to Marianopolis’ administration. There were employees in particular that were very hostile though. These individuals, who will remain unnamed, were part of this power imbalance that we sought to rectify through accreditation.”

While Marianopolis’ accreditation referendum was in the works for a long time, it only became a real possibility in the last year, with four to five months of preparation over the summer. Much of this work focused on explaining the concept of student accreditation to the student body.

“Even though people had questions in terms of what [accreditation] was, once they saw all the consequences and implications [of doing so], they seemed to be overwhelmingly in favour,” explained Szwarcberg.

“The majority of Congress [editor’s note: MSU’s executive body] are already elected by the students,” Grace Li, a second year commerce student at Marianopolis who favours accreditation, told The Daily. “They already represent student interests. We had about ten or fifteen candidates [in the last election], so we had a lot of choices, and those were the people that were voted in.”

“Even though people had questions in terms of what [accreditation] was, once they saw all the consequences and implications [of doing so], they seemed to be overwhelmingly in favour.”

“Congress still remains accountable to the students […] and 99 per cent of the students that I’ve spoken to, they’ve all been in favour of the accreditation,” she added.

As of August 2016, no student union accreditation vote in Quebec has failed at the ballot, except for when voter turnout was too low.

Koch, who ran for president of MSU last year on the promise of accreditation, said during his campaign that an accredited student union would assure greater autonomy and independence from the college, as well as an improved cafeteria service, increased autonomy for clubs, and assured students that MSU would be even more accountable to its constituents.

“99 per cent of the students that I’ve spoken to, they’ve all been in favour of the accreditation.”

“Part of the reason we’re trying to get accredited is for accountability purposes,” Koch explained. “because last year, there [were] cases of people who took money, or stuff that was purchased with Congress funds […] and when I came into office, I looked at the financial documents of Congress, and if we were to get audited, it would be a disaster.”

Through accreditation, MSU would be able to hire an accountant to go through their financial information. The financial documents last year were “very nonchalant scrap pieces of paper with scribbles on it,” Koch elaborated.

“[This referendum] is all about the right to self-determination: of students, by the students.,” concluded Koch. “You govern yourselves. Naturally, the college has certain rules and regulations that you operate within, but at the end of the day, you’re the students,” Koch concluded. “You deserve to have [MSU] be accountable to you, and you have the right to push for what you believe to be true, and the only way to legally and properly do that is to get accredited.”

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Commentary http://mcgilldaily.com <![CDATA[Indigenous awareness: not just a week]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47376 2016-09-19T05:03:13Z 2016-09-19T10:00:52Z Today marks the beginning of McGill’s Indigenous Awareness Week, an annual event series organized by the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE). The events are presented by Indigenous scholars, leaders, and elders to engage the McGill community on topics including environmental pollution, ongoing settler-colonial violence, and instances of racial segregation such as the pass system and residential schools. Although raising awareness is a crucial step in tackling oppression, the McGill administration does not provide enough support for Indigenous initiatives and education on campus year-round, perpetuating the colonial values in which the university is rooted.

McGill, as an institution, is founded on colonial violence. James McGill’s ownership of the land is said to be a violation of the Kaia’nere:kowa, the Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee, who were the original inhabitants and keepers of this land. He is also known to have been a slave owner. Despite being aware of these facts, the administration still thought it appropriate to name the new bookstore “Le James” as if there aren’t enough reminders on campus of his idolization.

In addition to an oppressive institutional history, the administration continues to prioritize profit over the demands of Indigenous community voices. Last year, the McGill Board of Governors refused to divest from fossil fuels, alleging it poses no social injury. Fossil fuel extraction, aside from being a detriment to the environment, has also been the subject of global protest by Indigenous and Native peoples, who recognize the severe harm it causes to the original inhabitants of the land, and to traditional kinship ties with sacred cultural territory. Instead of feigning ignorance, McGill must end its complicity in the violation of Indigenous rights, and listen to the wishes of those affected.

This blatant disrespect for Indigenous voices is illustrated further by the insufficient number of Indigenous classes and faculty members according to a 2015 SSMU investigation into equitable hiring practices, only 0.3 per cent of the staff at McGill identify as Aboriginal, while 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population identify as such. Additionally, McGill has no Indigenous studies major, only a minor program that was implemented just last year.  

Indigenous Awareness Week sets the stage to promote greater knowledge and understanding of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit experiences and histories. It is now up to students to engage with these initiatives, and show support for their Indigenous peers, as well as a desire to give more room to Indigenous voices on campus. McGill University must make space for Indigenous voices and rights throughout the year this responsibility ultimately falls on the community and administration in our roles as settlers.

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Kuku <![CDATA[Bridging oceans of identity]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47391 2016-09-25T22:02:54Z 2016-09-19T10:00:45Z It’s my fourth year of university. Add drop hasn’t ended, but I’ve already become well re-acquainted with McLennan. Then there’s a Holy “S” Trinity –  not a 90s girl group, but the unattainable triangle of sleep, school, and socializing. Truth is, you only get to choose 2 of the 3 points. In a nutshell, that’s how I (and I bet the price of my entire degree, a lot of other students) feel as we either sweat or freeze through McGill’s campus.  

Of course, life is a lot more complicated than this – people juggle work, family, relationships, health, and extracurriculars to boost their CV. In my time working with McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office as the Communications Coordinator for Community Engagement Day (CED), I’ve found that CED – an initiative to help students, staff, faculty, and alumni get involved with different communities – has provided great opportunities for peopleto break out of the academic routine and do other meaningful work. Sure, not everybody is going to be interested in Community Engagement Day. But I’ve thought long and hard about what makes a community, what it means to engage, and frankly, why it’s of any relevance. And I really do think acts of community engagement are not only relevant, but important for everybody.

On ‘community’ – the common factor(s)

A friend of mine believes that humans are inherently social creatures. I’m not so sure about that – we all have days when we have no interest in being social. But over time, we’ve built communities. As a wise old white guy once wrote, no man is an island. When I say we need our communities to survive, I don’t necessarily mean life or death – although sometimes that truly is the case, especially for marginalized groups. When it comes down to it, community is a sense of belonging: a sense of solidarity, of kinship, of knowing these people share an experience or identity.  

For the longest time, I thought I was a hypocrite. I’m encouraging people to go out and volunteer, to explore Montreal, to dedicate their time to well-deserved charities – when I’m not even doing that myself. But this is a limiting view of community engagement. It doesn’t have to mean volunteering at your local soup kitchen. It doesn’t mean donating regularly to charity, which while admirable, can often be the easy way out. There’s nothing wrong with these methods of community engagement – but they’re certainly not the only ones.

For instance, the Pulse nightclub in Florida (which was attacked by a gunman earlier this summer) was a place for a largely racialized queer community. You wouldn’t think to compare that community to, say,  the theatre community at McGill, formed by people who simply enjoy theatre. These are very different kinds of communities, with very different reasons and needs for existence, but they are both legitimate communities all the same. There may be factors of intersection, but no two communities are the same. Volunteering at a local soup kitchen is just as legitimate a form of community engagement as writing a script for Player’s Theatre, or going clubbing at Skyy. You’re creating bonds between yourself and the people in your community.

On identity and (dis)comfort

Engaging with communities you’re unused to can be hard. While arranging visits with the many wonderful organizations working with us for CED, I came across the Prisoner Correspondence Project (PCP). The PCP provides penpals and resources for “gay, lesbian, transsexual, transgender, gendervariant, two-spirit, intersex, bisexual, and queer inmates in Canada and the United States.” Their mandate is to connect LGBTQA+ inmates with people outside of prison who share their gender and/or sexual identity. It’s situated near Concordia, where the sense of community seems more prominent than at McGill. While we’re surrounded by skyscrapers, European buildings, and never-ending construction, the Concordia area is visibly ethnic and unapologetically diverse. Being East Asian myself, my heart fluttered at all the All You Can Eat Korean Barbecues, sushi places, dumpling restaurants, and general east Asian goodness. So, in terms of location, the PCP provided me with an immediate sense of comfort.

This changed as I entered the organization itself. I’m not in any way trying to discourage people from visiting the PCP – everybody was friendly and sweet, the room itself was welcoming, and accessible via an elevator. But this was not a community I felt inherently comfortable with. I can pick up a Korean menu and recite it with ease, the words familiar and lovely in my mouth, a language weakened by years of speaking English but not forgotten. Yet, as I read through English letters from inmates requesting for literature resources – zines like Fag Punk and Corpus – I felt out of place. I read each aloud, clinical and proper, nothing like the way 갈비 or 냉면 could effortlessly roll off my tongue. And it made me wonder why I was so at ease with one part of my identity – my Korean ethnicity – but so distant from another – my queerness.

My relationship with the queer community is opaque. Robert Nozick said being in love with someone is going from “me” to “we.” I think of being in a community in the same way. Identity is the world’s oceans, and water touching Montreal can connect to anywhere we imagine. There’s a queer community in Montreal, and there’s also a queer community that transcends geography, and the PCP proves this fact.

It took me a while to become comfortable with my queerness. I’m still not out to my family – and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. I’ve only had serious relationships with men, and that has also made me doubt my own queerness, my own connection to a queer community. I wonder whether I could classify as an ally or member, if I’m stuck in the limbo between “me” and “we.”’ Visiting the PCP has made me realize that I want to be part of a “we.” I plan on visiting the PCP again and engaging further with the queer community. I am not an island, and we can share more than one nation – I’m Korean, I’m queer, I’m a lot of other things, and a solitary “me” has long ago transformed into an ocean of “we’s.”

Approaching the full circle

Let’s re-visit the Holy “S” Trinity. How can we fit community engagement in 3 point geometry? Honestly, we can’t, because the Trinity was flawed from the beginning. Whether or not we realise it, community engagement is something that is present in everybody’s lives. If you exist in the world, you are engaging with a community.

Community Engagement Day is about providing an accessible entry point to communities – especially communities that you may not have been aware of, communities you identify with but didn’t even know existed. Getting out of your comfort zone can be a good thing, and it’s a necessary process for growth. Working for Community Engagement Day and immersing myself in these ideas has let me become more comfortable with my discomfort. I hope others will follow suit.

 

To know more about CED, check out www.cedmcgill.com (English) or www.cedmcgill.com/fr (French) for links to project registration (including PCP!), a YouTube explanatory video, and resources for learning about issues relevant to CED.

 

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Coco Zhou <![CDATA[Cold revenge and sweet love]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47342 2016-09-20T17:01:58Z 2016-09-19T10:00:34Z The Handmaiden]]> In a scene from Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016), the titular maid meets her Lady for the first time. “Damn,” the maid thinks to herself, “she’s got me completely flustered.” I am reminded of all the times I’ve been overwhelmed by the presence of other women and femmes. “Damn,” I would think to myself in those instances, “I’m so gay.”

Inspired by Sarah Waters’s Victorian-era crime novel The Fingersmith, Park’s film is a psychological thriller set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s. The protagonist, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), is a Korean pickpocket masquerading as the personal maid of Japanese noblewoman, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). She’s on a mission to help Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), a Korean con man, steal Hideko’s heart and inheritance — but what she does not anticipate is falling for Hideko herself.

The film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, and was most recently shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is expected to be released in Canada by Halloween. Already, many American and Canadian critics have criticized the film for the sex scenes between Sook-hee and Hideko, saying that they were overboard, pornographic, and unnecessary.

I want to see those who have objectified and belittled me fall at my feet and beg to be forgiven.

Two East Asian women are having sex on camera and it looks hot – it must be exploitative, right? Many reviews remark upon the similarities between The Handmaiden and Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013), which won a Palme d’Or at Cannes and is heralded as a milestone in queer cinema. Considering Blue is a terrible film, I’d argue that it deserved neither the awards nor the praise. It employs some of the most tired tropes for depicting queer people, tells us that our love must always end tragically, and gratuitously includes excessive and voyeuristic sex scenes that even made the actors feel uncomfortable to shoot. It was porn for the straight male director and viewer, with the queer women characters enacting their fetish and fantasy.

I was hesitant to watch The Handmaiden because of the comparisons to Blue. As a racialized queer femme, I am tired of having to choose between invisibility and fetishization in media. I am sick of dying on screen. I am traumatized, and I am vengeful. It’s no longer enough that I see myself survive and make peace with my oppressors. I want to see those who have objectified and belittled me fall at my feet and beg to be forgiven.

In The Handmaiden, the two women protagonists destroy their male abusers. We see Sook-hee and Hideko become closer through conversation and play, their intimacy captured by a single glance, a gesture, a word. Count Fujiwara, the person Sook-hee is supposed to convince Hideko to marry, is entangled in this relationship — not as the common love interest of the two women, but as both obstacle and key to their romance and happiness. It is by manipulating Fujiwara — who deceives Sook-hee and tries to take advantage of Hideko — that the two women are able to escape from their predicament and be together.

A significant portion of the film delves into Hideko’s experiences living with her misogynistic uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), who has groomed Hideko to perform readings of lewd stories in front of other noblemen. Scenes that portray these readings position the men as pathetic, repulsive voyeurs who get off on elegantly staged pornography. The dynamics here are similar to the ways in which, since the Renaissance, male European artists have been exploiting the nude female figure for the appetite of an elite male audience under the pretense of high art.

Apparently, people cannot watch a film about queer women of colour without presuming it to be the antithesis to feminism.

The Handmaiden not only illuminates these relations of power by exposing the male characters as abusive and unethical, but also builds up to a cathartic sequence of Hideko and Sook-hee wrecking Kouzuki’s library. We see Sook-hee tearing up the books — fragments of obscene drawings littering the ground, while a hesitant Hideko shuffles in the background, both unsure of Sook-hee’s defiance and empowered by it — a painfully relatable portrayal, for me, of a person coming to terms with the possibility of surviving abuse. “The one that saves me,” sings the voice-over, as Hideko watches her lover rip up the last book, “my Sook-hee.”

It is the emotional intimacy between Hideko and Sook-hee that makes their sex scenes seem more genuine than spectacular. Park navigated the filming with care and respect, establishing boundaries and negotiating camera angles with the actors before the shoot, vacating the space during filming, and letting the actors rest away from the crew after. These measures alone distinguish The Handmaiden from Blue Is the Warmest Colour, for which the filming of a single sex scene lasted for days on end.

As a result, the performances in these two films convey vastly different senses of intimacy. There is warmth and joy in the way Sook-hee and Hideko each give and receive pleasure, and details such as eye contact, hand-holding, and funny dirty talk demonstrate both earnest happiness and pure physical fun. Unlike Blue, which has its actors fake moaning and shows nothing close to actual enjoyment, The Handmaiden shows, on a basic but crucial level, that its heroines are happy to be together, their passion a result of each other, not a function of an assumed male viewer.

The Handmaiden shows […] that its heroines are happy to be together, their passion a result of each other.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour shows that a film about white women — no matter how predictable the storyline, and how horrendous the working conditions — will get lauded as the most important LGBTQ film of the decade. Meanwhile, The Handmaiden, which shows two women getting justice against the abusive men in their lives, with every effort to ensure the comfort and safety of the actors, gets dismissed as “too male-gazey.” Apparently, people cannot watch a film about queer women of colour without presuming it to be the antithesis to feminism — a mainstream, white feminism that sees non-white cultures as inherently anti-feminist.

As they say, revenge is best served cold, aimed toward your abusers, and fuelled by your love for your girlfriend. The Handmaiden is the seminal queer film we deserve: a phenomenal work that deserves not only more credit by critics and viewers but also analysis not filtered through the white saviour complex.

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Zoë Vnak <![CDATA[Too submissive, no sass]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47348 2016-09-17T04:12:13Z 2016-09-19T10:00:29Z On September 9, Montreal-based band The Submissives launched their latest album, “Do You Really Love Me?” via Fixture Records. It’s replete with campy and colourful illustrations and curious descriptions — their music is described as being “warped lovesick pop tunes” and the band itself a “subversive girl group” according to their Bandcamp page.

Formed in early 2016 by prolific Montreal bedroom producer Deb Edison, the all-women sextet, comprised of mostly non-musicians, has successfully strummed their way through the local scene over the course of the past year.

These static depictions of heartache […] become rather repetitive.

Playing at a variety of local dive bars and house parties — most recently at Club Balattou — the band has conjured up a bit of a cult following, always delivering an entertaining show. Their “ritualistic” sets, as described on their Bandcamp page, include “monochrome outfits, hand-painted backdrops, ornate flower arrangements, and candid monologue recitations.”

In “Do You Really Love Me?,” every track, each less than three minutes long, stayed true to a lovesick and listless, slightly offbeat sound. A nice collection of songs for a late summer romp on the beach, perhaps. It is immediately clear that the band is going for an ironic concept, with lyrics that could have come straight out of a lovesick teenager’s mouth, but taken to extremes (“It’s true that I’d be better off with you than without you […] I’m nothing without him and I need him to speak for me.”)

[The] band has conjured up a bit of a cult following, always delivering an entertaining show.

These static depictions of heartache, though charming, become rather repetitive. Nearly every song paints a picture of a lonely girl longing for the love and support of a man. In trying to be subversive, the band has, it seems, fallen more deeply into the traps of convention.

The album is also lacking in terms of musicality. The monotone vocals could’ve put any listener to sleep, and the underwhelming musical riffs lack complexity. A live performance might have made this album more enjoyable — the band’s concerts come well recommended.

However, music should be capable of standing on its own. The Submissives’s balladic feminist tunes are too vague to act as actual critiques of compulsory heterosexuality. The band will do well against the test of time in the chaos that is the Montreal music scene, but only if they manage to mix it up with their next album, throw away the sweet and simplistic facade, and give some real slap-in-the-face sass.


Check out “Do You Really Love Me?” on limited-edition cassette or via Bandcamp.

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Yllom Musk <![CDATA[In case you missed it]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47399 2016-09-19T05:03:48Z 2016-09-19T10:00:23Z Mass name change takes place on campus

Students with names professors can’t be fucked to learn have discovered that the names given to them at birth by loving parents are no longer functional. Instead, countless Sarahs, Roberts, Stevens, and Lilys are taking the place of names with personal and cultural meaning, for ease of pronunciation by people who are nonetheless willing to learn and echo names like Daenerys, Ygritte, and Hodor. When asked for a statement, Andy (formerly Adjatay) informed the Weekly that he is slightly comforted, however, by local students’ display of solidarity when they complain about Starbucks baristas getting their names wrong.

McGall Mental Health Clinic logs shortest wait times ever

Students and administrators are in rare consensus, agreeing that a miracle has taken place in the form of the McGall Mental Health Clinic’s new efficiency. One student who called to schedule a consultation on September 9 immediately received an appointment for September 8, whilst another was told “it gets better”, “turn that frown upside down”, and “depression is a state of mind”. The budget has also been diverted to provide free bananas to students, because “yellow is a happy colour.”

Problematic professor stunned as students drop out en masse in protest

A long-time McGall professor was shocked Monday morning to find her class’s numbers decimated after a particularly controversial statement made during the add-drop period. When asked for a statement, students explained that the professor had said some questionable things in the past: “British colonialism united India,” for instance, or “as a white woman who lived in South Africa, I can identify as African-American”. The response to these statements usually consists of nervous shifting in seats and singular beads of sweat appearing on foreheads, but no more response than the bystander effect prescribes. The now former students explained that the professor crossed the line, however, when she told the class she had revised the syllabus to include “too many group projects”, thus compelling the show of dissent.

White man takes over Students of Colour Association

The whitest man since the Pillsbury Dough Boy has breached the ranks of the Students of Colour Association (SCA), to the delight of the Diversity Photo Acquisition for School Websites and Brochures Committee and some SCA members. The Administration is touting the shakeup as a win for diversity on campus, as the SCA, historically made up of mostly marginalized students, has long been viewed as exclusionary and reverse racist. Its new president has already proposed sweeping changes, including revising the constitution to include white as a colour. The SCA’s male executives of colour are just excited by the prospect of more white girls joining the group’s ranks.

And finally, Harambe is still relevant…

…somehow.

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Maya Keshav <![CDATA[The good life is jazzy rhythms]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47349 2016-09-17T04:11:40Z 2016-09-19T10:00:12Z Jean-Vivier Levesque doesn’t want his band, Groenland, to become super famous. “I’d like [our band] to be popular, but not too big,” he explains. “Go to nice festivals in the summer […]. Just, the good life.” Listen to Groenland, and you’ll know what he means: the good life is jazzy rhythms, lilting electronic melodies, a bumping bass line, and rich, powerful vocals shining through it all like the beaming summer sun.

Jean-Vivier Levesque and Sabrina Halde lead Groenland, a Montreal indie pop ensemble, alongside members Jonathan Charette, Ariane Gruet-Pelchat, Simon Gosselin, and Mariane Bertrand. The band weaves together vocals, electronic rhythms, and stringed instruments. Their second album, “A Wider Space,” drops on September 16 via Bonsound.

The Daily sat down with Halde and Levesque to talk about their music, Tim Hortons, the Montreal pop scene, the end of rock and indie music, the explosion of Do-It-Yourself music, and dancing on stage.

The McGill Daily (MD): So you’re about to start your tour?

Sabrina Halde (SH): Yes!

Jean-Vivier Levesque (JVL): The thing is, we always eat at Tim Hortons. All the girls [in the band] are against it, then somehow on tour we’re like, there’s Tim Hortons! And all the girls are like come on […]. I still like it after all these years.

MD: What is the music scene like in Montreal?

JVL: It’s a small place where you know a lot of bands […]. There are only a few venues. I don’t know if you know le Quai des Brumes? It’s a place we go often, and there’s a lot of musicians there […]. Casa del Popolo is another place where bands go. It’s a nice scene.

SH: Our friends work there. But there’s still a French side and an anglophone side.

MD: Do you think the music scene is different here than in Toronto, for example? Because you worked there for a while.

JVL: We like to go to Toronto, but we don’t know the scene there, really. We go to some venues, but they are very far apart […]. It’s tougher to go to a venue in Toronto.

MD: Has anything [interesting] ever happened on tour?

JVL: One time, we were in a hotel in Germany […]. It was like three in the morning, and there was a guy knocking at every door […]. We were waking up, and we were like, what’s happening […]. The guy was stuck in the hotel. He couldn’t go outside because it was locked. He just wanted to get out, and he was just talking in German […]. Finally someone understood him, and got the keys, and he was like, “Thanks!” He was very sweet, finally. We were very afraid, and we didn’t know what to do.

SH: So if it’s the end of the world, I don’t want you to protect me.

JVL: I was like, “Oh no no no no!”

MD: Do you think your time at university prepared you for what you’re doing now?

JVL: I don’t think we used our knowledge that much, but I think I’m still a better musician after all that studying […]. We learned a lot of things, it’s just, we don’t remember what exactly […]. We understand music better than before.

SH: It feels better to go back to something simple. When you learn a lot, but you’re like, I’m still gonna go back to something simple, pop music […]. It feels like there’s a reason you go there.

MD: If you could go back in time to ten years ago, and give advice to yourself, what would it be?

SH: Don’t try to control things so much. Let it go. With the first album, everything happened so smoothly. The people we met, everything.

JVL: I would say, rehearse a little bit more, though.

SH: I would say, listen to yourself. Do what you need to do so you can feel better.

MD: What do you see for the future of Groenland?

JVL: I’d like it to be popular, but not too big […]. I hope that people are going to like the album […]. We’d like to tour, not too much […]. Go to nice festivals in the summer […]. Not the really big venues, but with good people. Just, the quiet life.

MD: You have a pretty big band, with a lot of people. How do you find working together to make the finished product?

SH: Well, [Jean-Vivier and I] start writing the songs together, and we make all the decisions.

JVL: It’s easier like that. We chose that, and the musicians are aware of that since the beginning, and were willing to go in our project like that. They are creative, too, and they bring their own ideas, but in the end we always decide, and everybody’s cool with that. It’s very easy with our band.

MD: How do you think the genre of pop music is changing, right now?

SH: When we started the band, we were listening to a lot of indie music. I feel like indie is getting lost somewhere […].

JVL: It’s the end of rock. It doesn’t exist anymore […]. Now [the trend is] going more to synth.

MD: Do you think everyone’s ‘indie’ now?

JVL: It doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. When you say ‘indie,’ what does it mean? It was more clear up until a couple of years ago.

SH: That’s how the industry is changing. [Indie] became a thing because everyone could make music by themselves, on their computer. Now everybody’s doing that. At first, people were learning, but now, everybody’s doing that, so it’s all indie […]. But I guess there’s still a difference of aesthetic. From really produced pop music, and then like, indie music. It’s more creative.

MD: If you could imagine who’s listening to your songs, who would it be?

JVL: There seem to be a lot of different ages at the shows in Quebec. There are always young people, old people, every age. I was surprised about that.

SH: I hope there will be people like me, listening […]. We’re careful that we don’t make a sort of naïve, poppy music. So children can listen to it, but so can older people.

JVL: This album is less naïve than the first. Maybe the kids will like it less, I don’t know.

SH: I hope not, I hope they’ll still come [to our shows]! We love it when there’s kids dancing.

JVL: Once we said, “come dancing!” and they were like, “okay, we’re coming!” And then there were like thirty kids on the stage, for the whole show.

SH: They were having so much fun! It was like a whole other show for people to watch, just babies dancing together. I was so happy the whole time. It was in a park, outside. It was sunny.

MD: How do your songs change over time?

JVL: A lot, I think, mostly because of what we’re listening to. We’re inspired by different music […]. For us it feels different, this album. But I really don’t know what people will think. Maybe they will find it very similar.

SH: It’s completely different. We had an interview and they said the songs were more ambiguous. I feel like it’s the opposite, I think the songs are more mature.

JVL: We’ll wait for people to say what they think. Then [we] will understand the album more, [ourselves].


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Catch Groenland at Club Soda on September 22, or stream “A Wider Space” on iTunes.

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Natalia Garcia <![CDATA[Big banks take over Activities Night]]> http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=47362 2016-09-24T05:25:43Z 2016-09-19T10:00:11Z When new students walked through McGill’s front gates on the second day of classes, their vision was crowded by the tents, stalls, logos, and glaring advertisements of corporations and banks. This left many students scratching their heads. Shouldn’t campus be a place for students? What are banks and corporate giants doing here? But this shouldn’t really be that surprising; in fact, corporatization is standard practice at McGill.

Seeking refuge from the constant stream of advertisements and corporate manipulation, many students naturally went to Activities Night, an event organized by the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) to help students discover the wide variety of student organizations that McGill has to offer. However, as students entered the SSMU ballroom at Activities Night, they were greeted by Tangerine’s huge orange tent, while the student organizations were pushed off to the sides. The bank’s kiosk occupied a significant portion of the floor, which meant that the student clubs assigned to the shared space had to squeeze next to each other, were limited to two people per club, and had to endure (every 5-10 minutes) the cries of the bank’s employees yelling and applauding whenever someone opened the bizarre door to the “free stuff” vault.

Corporatization at McGill is not new. The ritual tents of various banks and phone companies targeting first-year students during orientation week and the very strategically placed ads in bathrooms across campus are just a couple of examples of it. Companies spend a large amount of money in order to be present on campus. McGill is just another marketplace for big companies, and students are just consumers to profit from. As if big companies weren’t already present in every walk of life – do they really need to dominate our campuses as well?

The reason for corporate sponsorships

This creeping corporatization shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a public institution, McGill is dependent on government funding. But due to the Quebec government’s general austerity program, McGill’s budget has been slashed year after year. Just last year, it faced $10 million in cuts. On top of this, an additional $50 million has been cut since 2012. As capitalism sinks deeper into crisis, governments around the world are burdened with huge debts. This results in cuts to spending, the hiking of tuition fees and the corporatization of public institutions. The long-term result of this trend is a shift toward the  privatization of our public institutions.

Of course, McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) has been quite happy to play along. This is not surprising, considering nearly every member of the BoG also serves as a director of one or more major corporations or banks. These people have a direct interest in granting banks and big corporations access to McGill. Actually, the companies they represent and them would profit massively off of the privatization of McGill, and they continue to profit from student indebtedness.

However, while corporatization of the university in general shouldn’t be that surprising, it is surprising and unacceptable that our student union, which supposedly exists to defend and serve our interests as McGill undergraduate students, is bending to corporate pressure.

Earlier this year, a SSMU referendum proposing a $5.50 increase in the base fee, was rejected by a 50.3 per cent majority. As a result, a ‘Club Fund’ fee had to be instated in the same General Assembly – both of these attempts to increase income were a result of $47,000 worth of budget cuts made to funding for student clubs. According to the latest version of its budget, SSMU estimates that it will bring in over $1.746 million in non-allocated student fees for the 2016-2017 year, in part to make up for the projected $130,000 deficit  and to aim for a $100,000 surplus to begin to replenish the Capital Expenditure Reserve Fund (CERF). The CERF is a section of the SSMU budget reserved for investment, renovation, or funding of student initiatives. As a result of the dearth of funding, SSMU has had to turn to corporate sponsorship and infiltration into student union activities, while at the same time fewer resources are being made available to student clubs. The neglect of students has created poor relations between student clubs and the SSMU, and the giant, orange bank tent at Activities Night is only the latest “SSMU fail.”

Repressing student voices on campus

When we were tabling at Activities Night on behalf of Socialist Fightback, Tangerine employees confronting us over complaints of disruption claimed to simply be a “medium-sized bank trying to help students.” The laughable claim that a bank is trying to “help students” flies in the face of how a bank actually makes money and what the material interest of a bank is – indebting people (in this case, students). On top of this, Tangerine is not a “medium-sized bank,” but has been a subsidiary of Scotiabank since its $3.1 billion acquisition of the ING Bank of Canada in 2012.

As it is usually the case, money comes with strings attached. Who does SSMU now represent? Students or corporations? There is already a long history of McGill trying to silence political activists on campus, including violence during student strikes. The last thing we need is the SSMU becoming intertwined with corporate interest. Ironically, during Activities Night, political activist groups were placed right next to Tangerine’s corporate tent. Feelings of anger and confusion soon spread among the student groups. Due to complaints from Tangerine, SSMU then resorted to calling security on a few groups, an obvious attempt to silence those who were openly critical of Tangerine.

When security arrived, they insisted that Socialist Fightback activists were not allowed to ask for voluntary contributions to help fund our activities and help to pay for the printing of our literature. All this despite the fact that the whole event was dominated by a bank trying to get students to open accounts and sign up for credit cards; we all know what that leads to – debt and profits for the bank. It should also be noted that telling student clubs that they cannot independently fundraise at Activities Night directly contradicts the SSMU website which states, “As clubs are not guaranteed any funding from the SSMU, clubs are responsible for their own fundraising in order to support their events and initiatives.” SSMU executive Elaine Patterson has yet to respond to the conflicting messages delivered to student organisations regarding fundraising.

On top of Tangerine’s obnoxious presence and constant haranguing of students to register for their products, students at Activities Night also had to put up with their jarring presence as they loudly promoted themselves. However, when student activists exercised their freedom of expression by chanting “SSMU is for students, not for banks!” for about a minute, the bank’s event manager accused students of being disruptive bullies. This was a hypocritical complaint, especially after Tangerine had tried to silence and disrupt activism on campus through bureaucratic means, by making complaints and calling security. As members of SSMU, we expect that our representative body will give us a voice and won’t try to silence us.

By condoning increasing corporatization, SSMU violates its anti-austerity mandate, voted for by students, which includes a commitment to protecting and increasing student spaces on campus. This puts into question its accountability to the student body. Instead, SSMU should oppose corporatization and fight against the corporatization of McGill in general, which is directly tied to the problem of austerity.

The fight against predatory banks goes hand in hand with the fight for free and accessible post-secondary education, and this is a fight that the SSMU should be leading. This cannot be attained under capitalism, which regards education as a business enterprise. Only an alternative system where the driving force of the production and reproduction of knowledge is human fulfillment (rather than private profit) will create the material conditions for better quality education, and for free and genuinely accessible education for all.

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