Commentary | Letters

Divisive GAs should use clickers, not placards

As I waited in line with hundreds of other students to enter Thursday’s General Assembly (GA), I was filled with enthusiasm. SSMU’s public stance on the Gaza conflict had appeared to bring students together in a seemingly democratic fashion to make their voice heard and cast their vote. Two and half hours later, I left the havoc of the SSMU cafeteria feeling more upset and uncomfortable in an educational facility than I ever have, and I have yet to talk to someone from either standpoint on the issue who is pleased with the outcome.

What went wrong? Aside from the obvious problems that arise when holding a three-hour event for approximately 700 people with 100 chairs and little space, the entirely open voting system was very detrimental to SSMU’s idea of creating a tolerant debating environment on an ideological topic. In order to cast their votes, students were told to line up in rows on opposite sides of the room.

What had started as a group of students standing amongst others with various backgrounds and opinions ended with a physical divide between two dominantly ethnic groups in opposition of each other, provoking cheers and boos reminiscent of a sporting event. The hostility in the room became most evident when the Speaker then requested that everyone mix together again before the debate started. Nobody budged. This left the brave debaters to face not a group of students together, but two opposing forces who were either with or against them.

Should similarly personal or ideological debates surface at future GAs, SSMU should relocate to a larger venue like Leacock 132, where students can vote anonymously with clickers or to any other setting where students can vote on paper and not be physically divided. But, seeing the rush of frustrated students leaving the GA immediately after this motion, I would expect it would be difficult to achieve quorum again.

The bottom line is that this meeting created a greater conflict on campus than had previously existed. And the problem lay just as much in the voting process as it did in the underlying issue itself. No student should have to face off and stand divided to get their vote counted.

April Engelberg

U2 Arts

Thank god we’re all united now

I have to admit that, at first, the results of the General Assembly (GA) baffled and angered me. It wasn’t the fact that “my side” was in the minority – such is life in a democracy – but rather the fact that I took four hours of my day to cast a vote for a motion that had importance to me and was barred from voting on that motion, along with any other person who attended, regardless of their position.

Ultimately, two things are clear from last Thursday’s events. As the opposition said, the issue of Israel/Palestine is very divisive (even the issue of Palestinians having any rights at all, apparently). It is also clear how the opposition wants divisive issues to be handled: they should be ignored.

I wish governments and institutions around the world could pay attention to the fine example set by the opposition. Why bother discussing or legislating “divisive” issues like land reform or representation? That sort of thing really only causes conflict and makes people feel excluded.” We can’t have that.

In the GA of the UN, this is exactly the kind of mindset we must stress. War in the Congo? Repression in Tibet? Inequality? Poverty? Human rights? Too divisive, I say. It’s much easier to forget about our problems and our differences and pretend like we all agree. It worked in the Soviet Union for over 70 years.

I salute the People’s Commissars for keeping with the tradition of saving us from having to debate anything. Thanks to them, I can now get back to more cheerful things, like gardening and light reading, instead of having to worry about something as silly and inconsequential as human rights.

After all, maybe if Israelis just don’t think about the “problem” of Palestine, it will just quietly “go away.”

Eduardo Doryan

U2 IDS and Economics

Hey Daily, support your artists

I expected more from The Daily. Your paper positions itself as a publication that supports artists, thinkers, and people who want a safe place to say something different. That’s great. Too bad you can’t walk the talk.

When it comes to advertising for your Art Supplement, you chose to use an artist’s work without giving any sort of credit. I love the piece of art that was used in your full-page colour promotion, and I was interested in contacting the artist about a collaboration.

However, while I was able to see the work reproduced all over campus (and Facebook), it was impossible to find any mention of who might have created it. If McGill has hammered anything into the minds of its students, hasn’t it been the importance of citing sources and the ills of plagiarism? Written right on your web site, under your commenting policy, is the statement that “The Daily prohibits…any comment The McGill Daily knows to be plagiarized.” When you fail to credit the artists who contribute to your paper, the above rule sounds like a double standard to me.

Annik Babinski

U2 English

Running that GA wasn’t easy

Re: “No gains in dividing McGill” | Commentary | February 9

Dear Yael Greenberg, I realize your time is very valuable, but do you actually think that SSMU Council could have just canceled two motions to make your evening more convenient?

Should we have the power to cancel General Assembly (GA) motions as we see fit? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of direct democracy? Are you actually suggesting that the old GA motions wouldn’t have been on the agenda if we didn’t expect high turnout? Do you think it is easy for the Speaker to run a meeting with over 600 students when many of them are yelling obnoxious comments out of turn?

There was a lot of disrespectful behaviour at the GA, but suggesting that Council or the Speaker should have cancelled two of the motions on the agenda is disrespectful to the people who gathered the signatures to bring those motions to the table. If you are concerned with the way SSMU conducts GAs, you have plenty of opportunities to provide your input. Anyone is welcome at Council, the GA committee created a survey which you can fill out to give us input, and we’re all generally open to new ideas.

Stas Moroz

U1 Economics and Political Science

SSMU GA Committee member

Motion meant to divide

Re: “Stifled discussion breeds division, not unity” | Commentary | February 9

The author of this article may be right in claiming that “if the motion did not involve the words Gaza and Israel, it would have passed with no debate.” In fact, SSMU already has legislation to this effect, the Motion Regarding Solidarity with Workers’ Struggles, which calls on SSMU to defend students’ rights when they are in jeopardy anywhere.

Nobody on the “no” side of that room wanted to suppress the rights of Palestinian students to have an education. The thing is, we didn’t think condemning Israel was the way to go about obtaining educational rights.

As implored, I’ve read that resolution, and I’ve noted two things: (1) The “Whereas” clauses are deliberately inflammatory and deligitimize Israel, and (2) the blame laid out in the “Be It Resolved” clauses is misallocated.

The UN said last Thursday that the UN Relief and Works Agency school was not hit by Israel, and the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the Islamic University are pending investigation. If it turns out that Hamas was using the university for military operations, it would seem that, as a body that nearly kicked out Canadian military recruiters from our school, it is them we should be censuring.

Let’s not pretend that this was an objective motion for students’ rights. If it was, the motion would not have condemned one country for acts it may not have even committed. And since the country in question is one to which the authors know many people hold strong emotional ties, demonizing it could do nothing but unleash torrid and divisive emotions.

Mookie Kideckel

U1 History

It’s “Gandhi,” assholes

Re: “Religious Studies class was without a professor until yesterday” | News | February 5

For a newspaper that makes much noise about its commitment to social justice and equity, The Daily does an awful job of spelling the name of one of the foremost men in this field: Gandhi. That is G,A,N,D,H, and I, and the order isn’t negotiable. I gather from your advertisements that you have no copy editor, but come on, whatever happened to due diligence and spell-check?

One or two is a typo, but four in the same article (including the proper name of a film) is sloppy, ignorant, and disrespectful. This isn’t even “Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai” from the book 2001: A Space Odyssey (who had to become the boringly named “Langley” in the film). It’s “Gandhi,” with six letters and two syllables.

I have a lingering feeling this would not happen with the name of a Western political figure. You probably wouldn’t even miss the cedilla in François or the umlaut in Schröder (or the accent on darling Ché’s name). Some care in watching what you type would be much, much appreciated.

Manosij Majumdar

U2 Chemical Engineering

Sustainability Office is McGill’s filet mignon

Why, when we are facing a $10-million deficit, are we adding to it by opening a new Office of Sustainability? Does this bring us closer to or further from Principal Heather Monroe-Blum’s stated goal of eradicating the deficit?

I could care less about the existence of the Office, but the fact of the matter is that it is a luxury. During difficult economic times, luxuries should be cut back. When you are strapped for cash, do you go out for a filet mignon dinner? Of course not. Why should the McGill administration be treated any differently?

Adam Baginski

U1 Engineering

Check your stereotypes

Re: “Does sexuality age well?” | Features | February 9

I resent Scott Baker referring to my Nana and Papa’s coitus as “wrinkled, gray-haired, denture-laden grandparent sex.” First off, they make love not sex. Second, my grandparents have great original teeth (a genetic trait) and I do not appreciate the suggestion of fake dentures.

Most importantly, their sex would be much better stereotyped as a “Viagra-charged, wheelchair-laden, mothball-smelling, soup-stained, creaky, early bird special.”

I do appreciate, however, the assuredly intentional ironic ploy in the article to reinforce stereotypes while arguing for the abolition of the stigmas they create.

Dave Schecter

U3 Arts & Science

One side is right in the Middle East

The other day, I took out a loan to put down my two cents on the situation going on between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (a.k.a.: Tamil Tigers) but before I was able to send in my article, someone told me that only the Israel-Palestine geo-political debate is relevant in the world of academia right now.

I only got a B in the Politics of Middle Eastern States so I won’t add anything that hasn’t already been said. Instead, I’ll just say that Israel is right. I’m also offering up my two cents to anyone – anyone – who can explain to me what’s going on in Sri Lanka. I’ll add a bonus if you’re a someone with no cultural ties to the region, because I’m sure that nothing eats at a university student more than studying an issue and being unable to talk about it because it’s not fashionable to care.

So the new $900-billion-plus Obama stimulus package has a controversial clause stating that any public works projects that require steel will be using American steel.

In other words, the U.S. will be taking a shit on our economy to try and save their own, using protectionist policies that have been historically proven not to work (see: the Great Depression). It’d be easy for me to say that Canada should, in response, cut back on our oil, water, timber, and other exports, but I’m not petty.

Plus, the last time the Canadian government showed that it had anything resembling a set of testicles was when Jean Chrétien had to, in the words of Wayne Brady, “choke a bitch.” This country, on an economic level, has never really aspired to be more than an economic colony to more powerful countries.

All I can say to those Canadians disappointed in Obama is that you should really focus that disappointment on Canada’s post-World War II economic policies that have made us hostage to these sorts of things.

I was only kidding about the Israelis being right, it’s clearly the Palestinians.

PS: Or are they?

Duong Pham

U3 Economics

Close, but no taste

Re: “I could hate the sin, but never the theatre” | Culture | February 5

For the most part, Nicolas Boisvert-Novak’s review of Never the Sinner was a good and informative critique, but calling nudity-free theatre “the cultural equivalent of non-alcoholic beer” was in very poor taste.

Despite the generally positive tone of the review, that one sentence doesn’t only undermine and belittle the entire piece – it is also the type of comment that serves to reinforce the very same cultural apathy which the article would otherwise seem to lament.

Further, it’s of particular embarrassment seeing as only a week ago, The Daily published a cover feature bemoaning the current state of support for the arts in our country. If the arts merit attention in The Daily, (and they do), then that attention should at least be respectful enough to encourage others to give a damn.

Adam Stikuts

U2 Linguistics, Translation, and Music Technology

OMG I can’t wait to read it!

Re: Stifled discussion breeds division, not unity | Commentary | February 9

It is so great to see a student who cares about preventing a humanitarian crisis! You are completely right, the motion does serve to simply encourage the right to education.

I look forward to hearing about your work on the situation in Darfur, where 400,000 Darfurians have been murdered; Iraq, where 10,000 citizens have been murdered, just in the past four years; Zimbabwe…and, I guess I shouldn’t continue listing the many humanitarian crises that you will be encouraging McGill to condemn, right?

Please let me know when you write an article about the lack of education in Africa, where children are starving and dying – yes, without an education, and even in Montreal, with many children unable to access an education – I would love to read it.

I’m proud that you do not want to remain quiet on all these issues. Thanks for standing up for “human rights.”

Vicky Tobianah

U1 Political Science and English Literature

Daily Contributor

Why don’t you just do it inside?

Re: “Why don’t we do it in the road?” | Mind&Body | February 5

At the risk of being labeled homophobic or at the very least un-hip, we would like to bring forward some issues with Julie Alsop’s argument in her article “Why don’t we just do it in the road?”

First, it is a simple fact that publicity invites viewership. Public space is public for a reason, and any actions taken in public are open for the scrutiny and attention of others. By going about your business in a public space, not only must you be willing to give up any assumption of privacy, you also must bear the attention, negative or otherwise, associated with your public activities.

Alsop is right in saying that crude remarks or catcalling are more likely results of homosexual public makeouts. But this doesn’t mean that straight couples are completely immune or that public sex should be designated as “queer.”

Further, this public attention is more likely due to the novelty of your PDA rather than homophobic hatred. Implying that this is hatred removes meaning from true homophobia and continuing homophobic violence.

Our space can be “heteronormative” and also not homophobic – last time we checked the majority of the population is heterosexual. That said, the homosexual community has done a wonderful job at fighting for their inherent human rights; these just simply do not include a right to public sex, to which heterosexual couples also do not have a right.

So with all due respect, Ms. Alsop, get a room.

Stephanie Ränkin

U1 Neuroscience

Hillary Walker

U1 Urban Systems

Academics against the Israel boycott

Re: “Academics petition for Israel boycott” | News | February 5

The Daily describes a petition with 80 signatures from professors and employees at Quebec universities and colleges (about 30 from McGill), urging a complete program of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) directed at Israel, and indeed Israeli universities. (The full statement of that Quebec petition can be found on the website of the Global BDS Movement.)

Writing in our capacity as individual professors, we oppose this proposal for several reasons:

We are in general opposed to academic boycotts, and believe that universities should be places that promote dialogue and debate. Specifically, Israeli universities are places where criticism of Israeli policies has long flourished. Boycotts would also include Israeli academics who were highly critical of their government’s policies.

We reject the facile analogies with South African apartheid. We sense that this drumbeat linking Israel and apartheid results primarily in the demonization of Israel. It is both misleading and pernicious. It certainly does nothing to foster any serious and credible peace process.

Academic boycott attempts in other jurisdictions, like Britain or Ontario, have either been found illegal or foundered, rightly, for lack of support.

The statement by BDS is sadly simplistic and one-sided, for a document signed by scholars that seeks to comment not only on the Gaza violence but on the entire and highly complex Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For example, there is no mention of Hamas missiles on Sderot (especially given that the document speaks of violations of international law), or for that matter Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority, other Arab states, or Iran.

The statement singles out Israel as a target for economic sanctions. Yet there are other states in the region and the rest of the world where the case for sanctions is more compelling but who are apparently of no concern to the backers of BDS. Why are they obsessed with Israel?

Richard Schultz

Professor of Political Science

Axel Van den Berg

Professor of Sociology

Harold Waller

Professor of Political Science

Morton Weinfeld

Professor of Sociology

Excuses shmexcuses

Re: “Literal Divisions over Gaza flare GA tensions” | News | February 9

So people think that the General Assembly (GA) should not be a forum for “external political issues” or a venue for the spread of divisive sentiments. Why not? The GA admirably chose to address an issue that is obviously of importance to a large number of students on campus – hence the cafeteria reaching its maximum capacity – and to dismiss this initiative as outside SSMU’s jurisdiction or as allowing division on campus is to insult what we’re at McGill for.

Let’s face it: we are of the privileged elite in the world, receiving an education that will hopefully make us better people. With this in mind, shouldn’t education foster within us a sense of social consciousness and activism? A feeling of responsibility for issues that are outside our comfortable, mushy, McGill bubble? The condemnation of the bombing of educational institutions in Gaza was one such issue, an issue that obviously inspired enough people to withstand the heat and crowdedness for three hours in hopes of voting on the motion.

Sitting awfully close to others in that cafeteria, I felt proud that SSMU sought to take a stance on an issue that has received so much international attention, but was disheartened with the outcome. Tensions will always be raised about things that matter in the world – and for those of you who have forgotten, McGill is a part of the world. But I guess some are satisfied with leaving the things that matter to our overqualified politicians – let them decide. We here at McGill have more important things to think about, like whether or not we should wear pants on Friday!

Amanie Antar

U4 Education

Even after printing two full pages of the things, The Daily received more letters for this issue than it could print. But don’t fret – they’ll appear soon. Send your non-offensive letters to at 300 words or less, and include your year and program. Please. Proofreading is also encouraged.