The McGill First Aid Service (MFAS) has reached an agreement with the McGill administration in regard to the use of the McGill name after nearly a year of negotiation.
The group is now renaming itself the McGill Student Emergency Response Team (M-SERT).
Liz Pollen, director of M-SERT, explained that the change was not directly imposed on the service, but was a decision made within the group. Pollen elaborated that, after months of discussions with the administration, campus security and residence services, “It got to the point where we decided that this is what we do, so if all we need to do is to change our name to keep providing our service, then we will do it.”
Along with the name change came other major changes in the group’s relationship to McGill. M-SERT services are now dispatched through McGill Security, giving students a 24-hour emergency line to call for first aid needs.
Services in residence have also expanded. Whereas M-SERT previously serviced the upper residences only, they now have nightly shifts at all residences from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“The executive director of residences is very keen to have them expand their services,” said Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson.
For M-SERT, the negotiations were about realizing mutual gains. By finalizing an agreement on their name, the group was able to expand without losing their autonomy from the University.
“I think it’s nice that [the service is] coming from students. There’s also a trust that comes from students helping students. It’s almost a camaraderie,” Pollen said.
The use of the McGill name and logo has been an ongoing issue since SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement and lease expired on May 31, 2011.
“McGill’s made it very clear that the McGill name issue is a very critical one,” said SSMU President Maggie Knight. “We’re not going to be able to win anything from a legal standpoint; McGill has the copyright and we have no legal claim to it.”
Mendelson explained the goal of the negotiations as an attempt to avoid ambiguity about who provides a given service.
“The University is responsible for safeguarding the name [of McGill], and what we wanted to do is to create a framework within which the groups could use the name in a way that would not create ambiguities,” Mendelson said.
He added that McGill has a need to protect the value of its name. “In protecting the name, which is essentially protecting the brand, we’re protecting something for students,” he said, supporting his belief that “a McGill diploma should mean something.”
The tone of negotiations seems to have strongly shifted since the issue arose last year.
“People weren’t very yielding [last year], which I really admired,” said SSMU VP Clubs & Services Carol Fraser.
“We’re still coming at it from a very strong stance, but we’ve realized negotiating means there has to be some compromise on both sides,” she added. “I’d say that it’s been tough on one level, but there’s been a lot of talk and consultation with student groups on the name change issue as opposed to just an ideological stance.”
Knight and Fraser hope that once these agreements are made, there will be a framework in place for student groups to use the McGill name in the future.
Although M-SERT is the only group that has reached a formal agreement with McGill, other clubs continue to consult with SSMU. Additionally, TVMcGill will now be known as “TVM: Student Television at McGill” after informal negotiations with the administration.