News  Indyclass takes off

Students seek greater role in their own education

Students can expect to see the second edition of Indyclass: Student movements this winter.

The student-run course brings together undergraduates taking independent research reading courses to collaborate and discuss themes relating to their topics.

Joel Pedneault, the current coordinator of Indyclass, said the class allows people to study topics usually not discussed at McGill.

“The idea of this Indyclass is to act not just as an academic forum for discussion, but also as a more open type of seminar,” said Pedneault. “Indyclass gives an opportunity to break out of that mould.”

The course intends to bring together the different perspectives of students performing similar work, though in different faculties. This semester’s theme will focus on student politics and more effective activism.

“[Indyclass gives] a new spin on how student politics and education are done at McGill,” said Pedneault. “[It] will hopefully lead to more focused activism.”

Indyclass founder and U3 Sociology and International Development Studies student Cleve Higgins, heard about a program at the University of California, Berkeley called Democratic Education at CAL (DECAL), which consists of approximately 100 student-run courses.

Higgins found that there was a large overlap between the work done by students for social movements both in and out of McGill.

“[I thought] about the different research and knowledge production that people here at McGill do outside of school for activist groups,” he said. “There was a need for creating more space for people to be able to pursue those type of activities, like academic research and knowledge activities that they are interested in…that are relevant to them within a space at school and within the academic context.”

When asked about the success of the first Indyclass – prisons – Higgins said that although part of its mandate relates to the redistribution of the research back toward activists and organizations working on prison justice, it was difficult to achieve.

“The main advantage, the biggest success we had with Indyclass, was having a class that was only students and therefore that could really end up coinciding with our needs, our interests, and what we wanted to do,” said Higgins.

Professor of Sociology Marcos Ancelovici, who supervised five of the students last semester, thought the class was a useful resource for students.

“I think it’s great if students have the initiative to come up with an idea, and if they can organize, get together, and select a topic they are all interested in,” Ancelovici said. “It’s a great initiative.”

Ancelovici addded that the project would help develop independent thinking.

“I think it’s good in terms of fostering autonomy, allowing students to study something they are really interested in, and fostering self-management as a way to empower students to have more control over the educational process, as opposed to just doing what the professor tells them to do,” he said.

The professor found the project interesting, but it was somewhat difficult to reconcile his responsibility as advisor with the students’ freedom. He added that professors might be reluctant to take on students in another Indyclass due to the increased workload, but he hoped they would.

Higgins agreed.

“I would encourage people to start their own Indyclass. Find something that’s interesting to them and/or people they know and/or an organization they are working with and start one,” Higgins said. “It’s not something that requires any special knowledge. None of us knew about prisons before we did the prison edition.”

Indyclass is also open to students who are not undertaking an independent study course. For more information consult