This year echoed with ghosts of the past. Student strikes popped up across the province, recalling the militancy of 2005. The food-services debate of 2004 returned as McGill took over the student-run Arch Café. And as always, student politicians sleazed their way through various underhanded dealings. Here, The Daily presents a brief look back on 2007-2008.
University tries to shut down Architecture Café
Over the summer, McGill informs the Architecture Students’ Association (ASA), which operates the Architecture Café, that the popular hangout would have to close down or be taken over by McGill Food Services. Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Morton Mendelson cites a desire to centralize campus food provision in his explanation. Students and alumni react furiously, and fight to keep the Café autonomous.
Opt-out controversy begins
Over the summer, McGill unilaterally puts opt outs for autonomous student services online via Minerva, igniting a controversy that continues to this day. The affected student groups argue that the move robs them of their right to control their own finances, and point out that they were planning to move opt outs online to their own web sites.
Travel policy restricts sports teams
After receiving formal complaints from parents and students about the safety of athletes driving to and from out-of-town games in teammates’ cars, McGill Athletics implements a new travel policy that requires all teams traveling more than 75 kilometres to take just one vehicle. The policy effectively forces teams to rent buses, leaving teams not funded by the University scrambling to fundraise thousands of extra dollars.
Infighting at CFS-Q
Vicious infighting at the Quebec branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-Q) leaves the provincial lobby group out of commission while the Superior Court deliberates the case. Opposing student union coalitions elected parallel executive teams to CFS-Q, pitting the Concordia Student Union, McGill’s PGSS, and part of the Dawson Student Union against SSMU and the other Dawson reps.
SSMU execs encourage GA walkout
A SSMU General Assembly (GA) comes to a grinding halt after a walkout breaks quorum, interrupting debate on a crucial motion calling on SSMU to condemn McGill’s fundraising campaign. SSMU executives Imad Barake, Adrian Angus, and Jake Itzkowitz are accused of encouraging students to leave the GA for fear of upsetting the administration. Angus later apologizes.
University launches capital campaign
The University officially kicks off Campaign McGill, an ambitious fundraiser with a $750-million goal. Principal Heather Munroe-Blum announces a $10-million donation from Hydro-Quebec and two $5-million private donations amid protests from campus activists that the capital campaign undermines publicly-funded education.
Student strike movement begins
Anthropology students at Laval University are the first to go on strike against the provincial tuition defreeze, although strike momentum lags across Quebec.
Compromise sees Arch Café reopen
The Architecture Café reopens after the ASA and McGill reach a compromise that sees the Café incorporated under Food Services while retaining some autonomy. In September, between 75 and 100 students had rallied in support of the Café remaining fully student-run.
Haven Books faces hurdles
Haven Books, which SSMU bought the year before, faces slow sales and a low profile. The bookstore will soon become a source of campus controversy, with underfunded clubs accusing SSMU of prioritizing Haven.
Students fail to show up for strike General Assembly
A 600-person SSMU GA fails to attract enough non-Arts students to reach quorum, making it too poorly-attended to vote on a potential strike against the defreeze of Quebec tuition. Attendees instead mandate SSMU to call on its members to participate in that week’s rally for free education. Students also vote in favour of SSMU censuring Principal Munroe-Blum for arguing for higher tuition.
CFS kicks SSMU out
CFS member unions vote against extending SSMU’s prospective membership status until it could hold an affiliation referendum in the spring, terminating SSMU’s membership in the lobby group. Fellow Quebec student associations accuse SSMU of acting in bad faith during the ongoing CFS-Q implosion, while the Students’ Society condemns the CFS membership for not allowing McGill undergraduates to decide whether to join.
100 arrested in CEGEP occupation
Around 100 students are arrested at the CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal, when hundreds of students barricade themselves inside and battle with riot police at a sbed-in marking the beginning of the school’s three-day strike against Quebec’s rising tuition fees.
Four arrested at Bouchard-Taylor hearings
Four protestors are arrested when the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation come to Montreal. Migrants’-rights group No One Is Illegal organized the protest, attended by several McGill students, to condemn what it considers the racist discourse surrounding “reasonable accommodation.”
Students occupy principal’s office
Ten students peacefully occupy Principal Munroe-Blum’s office for four hours to call for free postsecondary education. After a tense standoff with Provost Anthony Masi, administrators carry on their business while the students discuss education policy and listen to music.
University cancels Biomed major
Despite resistance from student representatives, the University decides to eliminate the Bachelor of Arts and Science major concentration in Biomedical Sciences as of the summer of 2009.
According to Dean of Science Martin Grant, the program was cancelled in part because the interdisciplinary degree does not allow students time to take enough upper-level courses to prepare them for graduate studies.
Military contract funds McGill research
The Faculty of Law’s Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL) launches four fellowships funded by Boeing, each worth between $18,000 and $20,000 as part of the aerospace and defence company’s deal with the Canadian military.
The creation of the Boeing Fellowships comes in the wake of a $1.5-billion contract that the Canadian government awarded to Boeing last February for the purchase of four C-17 military transport planes.
The C-17 deal raised eyebrows long before McGill was involved due to the non-competitive nature of the contract between Boeing and the Canadian government. “The process was about as competitive as saying that if your name starts with ‘Boe’ and ends with ‘ing’, you get the contract,” says Stephen Staples, Director of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs.
Province caps ancillary fees
The Quebec Ministry of Education announces a proposal for strict regulation of ancillary fees that requires all increases to be approved by consultation with students – be it referendum, general assembly, or some other process. If students do not approve ancillary fee increases, the increases are capped at a nominal rate, depending on the amount already charged.
“Of course [these regulations] are unhelpful. Anything that limits the University’s ability to generate needed revenue is a problem,” Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson says.
Students defrauded at Bookstore
Students report a card-cloning scam at the McGill Bookstore after having amounts up to $1,000 extracted from their accounts when using their cards at the bookstore between January 2 and January 18.
Card cloning is a common fraud practice that occurs when a debit card is processed through a machine that electronically accesses and stores the card’s information. Someone later retrieves and abuses the information.
Bike collective gets rolling
The SSMU bike collective finally opens its doors in the Shatner basement, helping students learn bike repairs.
“It’s about demystifying the bicycle, taking it apart, knowing how it works, not being scared of it,” collective member Sarah Todd says. “It’s really cool to find out how simple the machine really is.”
Daily survives, Turner wins presidency
After the McGill administration forces the Daily Publications Society to referendum just to reconfirm its current fee, undergraduates vote overwhelmingly to continue funding The Daily and Le Délit. In the SSMU executive elections, SSMU VP Internal Kay Turner wins the Students’ Society presidency over Arts Undergraduate Society President RJ Kelford by 15 per cent.
Acclaimed SSMU exec resigns
Acclaimed SSMU VP Finance & Operations Peter Newhook resigns almost immediately after the Students’ Society elections, citing personal reasons. SSMU calls a by-election to fill the position, but Tobias Silverstein is acclaimed after no other candidates step forward.
SSMU forces Trib into independence
SSMU Council votes to set The McGill Tribune on the path to independence. Tribune editors, who were not told of the impending vote until 48 hours earlier, argue that SSMU should have consulted them earlier.
The Tribune, the Students’ Society’s official publication, is now slated to be fully independent by 2010.
TAs gear up for strike
Teaching Assistants (TAs) vote overwhelmingly to give their union the mandate to strike following months of unproductive negotiations with McGill. The union’s contract with McGill expired in June, and TAs are demanding better pay and formal training.
Although negotiations with McGill are continuing, a TA strike appears likely.