In an effort to incorporate a plurality of voices into the Reclaim Your Campus (RYC) campaign, roughly 20 students met yesterday to set the groundwork for what is to be a year-long initiative to challenge the administration’s hold over student life on campus.
The campaign kicked off last Wednesday with a rally that involved students, bikers, and workers calling for a fair collective agreement for the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA); remuneration for teaching assistants (TAs); more accessible means for student groups to organize on campus; an elected Board of Governors; and greater steps toward democratic decision making within the administration. At the meeting yesterday, an extra demand for better financial accessibility to education was added.
SSMU VP External Devin Alfaro, who chaired the meeting, begun with a critique of McGill’s poor prioritization of issues.
“Across the board there seems to be a lack of respect for people on the ground, and we question where values and priorities of McGill are,” he said, explaining that RYC will try to reverse the trend of students as low-priority by forming a united front of student groups to ensure student autonomy.
Samantha Cook, SSMU VP Clubs & Services, explained that the idea for the campaign came together when many student and independent groups grew increasingly frustrated with the administration’s resistance.
“We were seeing frustration from a lot of corners,” Cook said. “We realized it was really important to channel all of this energy.”
Despite recognizing that the administration’s actions affect all students, the meeting drew only a small crowd, roughly 20 people mostly affiliated with unions or student groups, a smaller turnout than hoped. Alfaro said poor publicization and conlfict with students’ class schedules and Midnight Kitchen – the popular pay-as-you-can vegan lunch – contributed to the low attendance.
Alfaro also noted that less politically inclined students are not aware of how the administration affects their student life.
“Our challenge is to show students who aren’t normally involved politically that these broad and far-reaching trends affect everyone,” he said. “Instead of every group having individual troubles with administration, we should work together.”
Alfaro pointed to rampant under-funding as the primary cause for burdens facing students.
“McGill is under-funded, and the administration’s response to this is to pass down the burden,” he claimed, pointing to the effects this is having on the deterioration of education quality at McGill.
“The point of the campaign is to show that the problem is systemic,” he added, explaining that the campaign will fight long-ranging administrative trends.
The campaign coordinators decided to coordinate their efforts this year under three separate committees – outreach, logistics, and communications – to apply external pressure to the administration, and will likely hold another general meeting for all students before the end of the semester.
Jesse Hahm, U2 Philosophy, stressed that the motive behind the campaign was to return the campus to the students.
“Everything can be derived from the general idea of who does the University exist for, and a university should exist for its students.”
– with files from Alison Withers