Corrections appended – Monday, Sep 24
Last Thursday, two undergraduate students began a disciplinary hearing for alleged involvement in a Mobilization Squad (Mob Squad) demonstration in solidarity with the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA). The demonstration took place on October 11 at the Y-intersection.
The students, Arts Representative to SSMU Micha Stettin and SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault, were informed on October 14 that they would be presented with evidence supporting a case of a breach of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
The notice came a day after Stettin confronted Provost Anthony Masi at SSMU Council about the administration’s “systematic intimidation” of students and professors supporting MUNACA.
On October 20 the students were presented with a report which included evidence of their alleged breach of the Code of Student Conduct. Associate Dean of Arts Andre Costopoulos is the disciplinarian for the case, and a private interview with the students will take place this Friday.
According to Stettin, the evidence included “a security report filed by McGill head of security, saying that there were a group of students who were on campus at the Y [intersection] and were chanting calmly, and that we were causing a disruption and disturbing traffic.”
The report included a third student whose name had been crossed off of the document, and whom neither Stettin nor Pedneault identified. The third student was not present at the interview on Thursday.
The McGill Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities states that “nothing in this article or code shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, lawful picketing, or to inhibit freedom of speech.”
Stettin explained that the report cited he and Pedneault as being in violation of sections 5a and 6 of the Code of Student Conduct.
These sections state that, “No student shall, by action, threat, or otherwise, knowingly obstruct University activities,” and, “No student shall, contrary to express instructions or with intent to damage, destroy or steal University property or without just cause knowingly enter or remain in any University building, facility, room, or office.”
Stettin confirmed his presence at the demonstration but denied that it had been disruptive or damaging to the University.
Pedneault, however, explained that he had been in a SSMU Executive Committee meeting at the time of the demonstration.
“I wasn’t even there,” Pedneault said. “So I think it’s interesting that we’re basically guilty by association through our involvement with Mob Squad.”
“I think [the case] is definitely pretty arbitrary,” he added.
Although Stettin and Pedneault are both administrators on the Mob Squad Facebook group, Stettin explained that there exists no system of hierarchy within Mob Squad.
“The [McGill administration] can go after any three people in Mob Squad, and the entire Mob Squad is going to be affected,” he said. “We don’t operate based on leadership structure. They picked out three people who they thought could be seen as leaders, and they tried to make them leaders and entrench a hierarchy, but there is no hierarchy.”
Stettin explained that, “There have been many encounters in the past with Mob Squad and the administration. This is part of a process of intimidation. The other parts of the process didn’t work, and this surely won’t either.”
“We will continue to express ourselves, continue to struggle for the things we believe in,” he said. “Their intimidation tactics just fuel that.”
In an interview with The Daily, SSMU President Maggie Knight explained that the case wasn’t entirely without precedent, though “it is the first time I’ve heard of it in the specific context of the strike.”
When asked whether the case breached student rights, Knight explained that, “I think we’ll have to see what the outcome is and how exactly it is brought forward. In the case where students feel as though they will be pursued in this manner if they speak out against something the University has done, I don’t think that’s really creating the kind of culture we want to see at McGill.”
“We want to encourage students to think critically about everything that happens on campus, everything they encounter,” she continued, “whether it’s McGill decisions or SSMU decisions.”
Stettin and Pedneault were uncertain as to what action would be taken following the meeting with Costopoulos, and have sought counsel from Student Advocacy at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill.
Costopoulos was not available for comment at press time.
In the printed version of this article it is incorrectly stated that the students had a private interview last Thursday. In fact the students were allowed to look at the security report for the case last Thursday. The Daily regrets the errors.