Commentary | Changed, changed utterly

The Daily, along with many students and staff, is still reeling from the events that took place on our campus on the night of November 10. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and McGill security committed violence against students and professors on their own campus.  The SPVM was using physical force, pepper spray, tear gas, and forcibly removing demonstrators from campus  – a space that is rightfully theirs. Further, many members of the McGill community, some of whom were just bystanders, were assaulted and emotionally traumatized. Whether or not you agree with the demonstrators, these actions were surreal and appalling, particularly in a university environment. McGill is no longer the same.

James Administration is no longer just a building on campus. It is the place where you were pepper sprayed, the place where you were assaulted, the place where your sense of safety was violated. The emotional toll of these events will not soon be forgotten.

For the healing process to begin, the entire campus community must come together. Already, students are standing in solidarity and supporting one another after this traumatic event. A number of students convened in the SSMU office last night, where SSMU employees offered assistance to those who needed first aid. Many other campus organizations – including the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill University, the McGill Student Emergency Response Team, and the McGill Legal Information Clinic –  are offering support to the individuals that have been affected. Students are leaning on each other, and uniting to overcome what occurred.

The administration’s response was as disorganized as it was insensitive. It took 24 hours for the administration to issue a statement, and, when they finally did, it came in the form of  an email from Principal Heather Munroe-Blum to the McGill community. The only reference to the violence that our Principal could muster was that the police dispersed the crowd “by its usual means.”  This is a callous way to refer to the violence that has changed our community.

Students deserve to know exactly what happened that night, and why. The administration must join students in investigating and assessing Thursday’s events. Munroe-Blum announced in the email that the Dean of Law Daniel Jutras will be completing an “independent investigation of the events”, to be completed and sent to her by December 15. This is a necessary, but insufficient, step. Students and faculty must be involved every step of the way and must be privy to any evidence that comes to light, so that the investigation is not monopolized by an individual with vested interests in the University’s reputation. We hope that the inquiry is transparent and fair, and that the results are quickly made public. Moreover, the administration must acknowledge and denounce the brutality that took place Thursday night, and its severe effects on the McGill community.

Campus life should be built on trust between all of its constituent parts –  that trust is now broken at McGill.  The Daily only hopes that the administration, faculty, staff, and students can mutually support each other and rebuild a deeply shaken community.

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