Commentary  Actions speak louder than words

In order to value staff and students, McGill’s principal must show respect and honesty

Dear Ms. Principal,

When you use subjective words like “threats,” “vandalism,” “defacing,” and “aggressive” without describing what actually happened during Homecoming, you are giving us your subjective assessment only, which amounts to nothing more than propaganda. Strikers can level the same sort of accusation against the University. For instance, when they are being spied on and photographed by security guards, they may also feel “threatened” and treated “aggressively”. To add insult to injury, I have myself heard security guards laughing and making fun of strikers, which would not help them feel less disrespected by the University. So both sides are guilty of the same sort of intimidation and belittling tactics. Your message is therefore so one-sided that it can’t even be called information, it can only be called propaganda. McGill security guards were also pointing out Munaca members to the police – at a table the union bought in the luncheon (for which McGill accepted the union’s payment) –were not employees and were just there to cause problems. If you really respect us, then tell us what actually happened, not your interpretation of it. Besides, I’d like to know what you mean by “defacing” and “vandalism.” If you are talking about writing in chalk on the sidewalk, then say so. Since you requested an injunction, you should not have to complain to us about vandalism, you could simply get the union fined. The fact that you didn’t do that says to me that they did not come close enough to the Martlet House to do what you’re accusing them of.

I find it hypocritical when you say that, at McGill, we work out our differences around a table, without threats. You have threatened the strikers and the union with severe fines when you obtained an injunction that restricts their rights. These people are now terrorized if they walk over pieces of duct tape stuck on the sidewalk on their way back home from the end of their picket duty! Don’t tell me they would be so scared if you had not used legal threats against them! Don’t tell me you’d rather negotiate at the table than use threats because this is not what you’re doing. You should know that actions speak much louder than words, and your actions have already spoken!

I also take offence at the statement that, at McGill, people are “free to speak, to disagree and voice their views without harassment, intimidation and insult.” This is not what Mr. Di Grappa told students (when they were protesting outside of James Administration building), despite what the Student Rights and Responsibilities guide says! The students that wanted to attend the Senate meeting were not only prevented from speaking, they were prevented from even attending. Do not tell me that they were going to disturb the meeting, since the very invitation they sent regarding the event stipulated a quiet and non-disrupting presence. Professors who object to crossing picket lines as a matter of conscience are also deterred with harsh punishment, even when they find alternative ways to continue to teach and to guide their students.

When one considers that classes can be routinely moved off-campus because of a lack of classroom space, whereas they cannot be moved off campus when a professor has an objection of conscience, it becomes clear that one is not free to speak and act according to one’s conscience at McGill. It is your very lack of respect for professors, students, and strikers rights to speak in disagreement that led them to get upset and try to disturb the Senate meeting. In addition, one striker was even arrested this past Friday at the Hilton, just before the arrival of Mr. Di Grappa because she wanted the right to speak to visiting alumni about the fact that there was a strike at McGill. This is intimidation; this isn’t the right to voice one’s view without harassment! Again, your actions have spoken!

Finally, how can you say you are trying to resolve the strike quickly when you are not willing to even negotiate on salary, pensions, and wage scale? Talking and negotiating are two different things. When you negotiate, you actually make some compromises. When you refuse to budge from your 1.2 per cent  salary increase offer while upper management received a 3.5 per cent wage increase, which makes your case that you have no money sound very hollow, then you are not working to resolve the strike rapidly. Your actions and your words are again in contradiction!

I have been a proud McGill alumni since 2000. I have given to McGill every year since then, until 2009 that is. I just finished a PhD this summer at McGill, and during the course of my work you chose a new Dean for the faculty of Engineering, I noticed a certain deterioration in the way people were treated, from the professors to the students, to the admin and technical staff. McGill has become an increasingly hostile environment for its people. This is why I stopped donating in 2009; I do not feel the McGill upper administration represents its people anymore. There is no single “We are McGill” anymore. Now there are two: one “We are the McGill upper administration who make all the decisions” and one “We are the profs, students, and staff at McGill who do all the work that makes McGill great”. For that reason, I am still debating whether to go to convocation or not, but, if I go be assured that I will proudly wear at least one MUNACA button, because the respect they are fighting for is what is sorely needed at McGill. I am also not sure if I will give to McGill again in the future, I have found the last few years so traumatizing that I may never regain the respect I had for this institution.

François-Xavier Jetté received his PhD from McGill this past summer.