Commentary | Welcome to the University at McGill

“The University has the copyright of its name and it holds the brand on the name and the logo,” Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Morton Mendelson told The Daily this week. “The University has to protect the brand and the logo very vigorously so that it has true meaning, in the same way that Nike would do everything possible to protect its swoosh.” In its quest to purify its brand from anything it can’t control, the administration has been cracking down on student groups that use the word “McGill” in their name. Most recently its ire has fallen upon TVMcGill and McGill First Aid Service.

The administration has demanded that the two groups (among others) remove “McGill” from their names. The move is part of a larger campaign by the administration to control and monopolize both the University’s name and space on campus, and fashion our school into a brand, rather than an institution of higher learning. This strategy delegitimizes student groups, both on campus and when they interact with the world outside of McGill.

As we have stated repeatedly in these pages, the University is a place for student learning, expression, and exploration. The administration, it appears, disagrees. They would rather deny students the opportunity to associate their collective efforts with the school they attend. For the administration, they are not “McGill students,” but simply “students at McGill.”

The cutting of connections between “McGill” and its student groups doesn’t just hurt students: it also hurts the administration. What the administration seems to forget is that the University already has quite a well-established “brand” in Montreal and Quebec – and for many, its stock is fairly low. For decades, the name McGill has represented an anglophone bastion of power in the heart of a francophone city, a throwback to pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec. Groups like TVMcGill and McGill First Aid provide students with positive, constructive outlets, helping foster an image of McGill the admin should want to project. By strong-arming these groups into dropping the McGill name, the administration seeks to dissociate itself from them and redefine McGill as something wholly owned by themselves – and severed from the student body.

While deployed with increasing frequency, these uncouth tactics are not new. In 2007, the administration illegally withheld student funding from McGill’s campus radio station, CKUT (then known as CKUT McGill), until they dropped the University’s name. CKUT provides the most powerful example of students building bridges with the communities they live in. Through its community programming like Sigaw ng bayan, a Filipino radio show, and Native Solidarity News, CKUT connects itself more tangibly and effectively to the Montreal community than the administration does in any of its endeavours.

So deeply offensive is the administration’s desire to disown its students, we are forced to ask: What, exactly, is McGill? McGill is the students, teachers, and staff that make up our school; and we should be allowed to identify ourselves as such.