Commentary | We are all liabilities

Over 130 student clubs and services were forced to change their names last week. This happened because SSMU Council voted to sign its Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the administration. The Daily wishes it hadn’t.

The administration’s main concern is that having the McGill name attached to student clubs like the McGill Global AIDS Coalition and TVMcGill will make the school liable if the groups break the law.

It is insulting and alienating for students to be told that they are a danger to the reputation and pocketbook of a school that exists, above all, for their education and improvement. Along those lines, The Daily wonders who is fit to use the McGill name, if not its own students?

We imagine the administration will have an easy time answering this, given how often, and how reverentially, they speak of the “McGill community” – and how often they show off the activities and accomplishments of the very groups whose names they are now forcibly changing.

The “McGill community” just keeps getting smaller it seems. Since the start of school, the administration has villified striking non academic workers with propgandistic emails and the pursuit of injunctions that push these workers further and further away from McGill.

Then, the administration threatened students who spoke out in support of these community members with disciplinary action – based on erroneous and incomplete information.

Now, students with the temerity to include the name of their University in their clubs title are being told to keep their distance, too.

Pretty soon, the “McGill community” will consist of the James Administration building and the bank of security TVs in Ferrier.

In the hands of the current administration, the fertile concept of a McGill community is withering into the dessicated notion of McGill as a “brand.” One of the few concessions McGill made in negotiations with SSMU – the preservation of club names such as the McGill Debating Union and the national champion McGill Quidditch team – seems aimed at strengthening the school’s brand with the smallest possible risk. But, The Daily does not believe that McGill student life should be governed by fears of imaginary lawsuits or by attempts to keep the Martlet logo sellable.

Unfortunately, students have lost this battle. Coming into office with an already expired MoA, and facing an administration unwilling to compromise, the SSMU executive was in a bind. However, with inadequate publicity of the Council vote itself, the executive ended over a year of negotiations without making students fully aware of the sweeping changes they were about to make.  They failed to capitalize on their strongest weapon in negotiations: McGill students. 130 groups adds up to thousands of affected students that SSMU could have called on to influence negotiations and lobby their Councillors to vote against the MoA. Although the SSMU Executive has been keeping clubs updated on negotiations since the summer, the Executive failed to directly inform these groups when the crucial vote would be taken.

We believe that SSMU representatives could have done more to mobilize students on this issue. SSMU had a chance to show the administration what the McGill community really looks like – and they missed it.

Furthermore, the Engineering Undergraduate Society has been battling the administration over the McGill name in their logo, and it is now a battle they will almost certainly lose. SSMU’s decision to sign the MoA has sacrificed any leverage other student groups would have had going into future negotiations with the administration.

Indeed, we should wake up and realize we attend a university whose administration is embarrassed by the activities of its students and that sees liability when it should see community.

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