The most recent installment of the twice-annual student consultation fair was held last Tuesday to discuss safety and security on campus, in the light of November 10 and the events preceding it.
The consultation fair was hosted by SSMU, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS), and the Office of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).
The concept for the fair resulted from a recommendation by the Student Consultation and Communication Work Group, which was formed last year after the closure of the Arch Café.
The fair – publicized by the SSMU listserv, Facebook, and student senators who dressed up as suggestion boxes – was designed to give students and staff the opportunity to discuss concerns, as well as ideas, with McGill administrators in an open forum. The fair’s organization falls into the portfolio of SSMU VP University Affairs Emily Clare.
“One of the things we’re working on is reaching out to students,” Clare said. “There are actually quite a few more students than last time that [don’t usually partake in student politics], so I think it’s working. I think one of the main problems is that most people just don’t know what a consultation fair is.”
Several tables were set up in the SSMU ballroom, each with a theme, an administrator, a student senator, and a faculty facilitator. Attendees chose a table to engage in a discussion for twenty minutes, and then moved on to another table.
Themes included “Safety and Security on Campus” with James Nicell, associate vice-principal (Student Services), “Community Engagement on the Rights of Free Expression and Peaceful Assembly on Campus” with Provost Anthony Masi, and “Student Rights and Responsibilities” with Dean of Students Jane Everett.
While many students and administrators spoke of having constructive, positive experiences, the mood was, at times, markedly confrontational.
The student senator at Masi’s table, Music senator Emil Briones, said that it had been an “intense” and “sensitive” discussion.
“Obviously, the issues raised here just aren’t the kind that can be resolved right now, or this easily,” Briones added.
At the conclusion of the roundtable discussions, the group agreed nearly unanimously on a suggestion from Nicell’s table to have security guards regularly posted in the same area, in order to make them more familiar and approachable.
Between rotations, SSMU President Maggie Knight and PGSS VP Academic Lily Han led brainstorming sessions in which people were free to shout out answers to questions such as “How would you improve McGill?” Responses included “Governance reform!” and “Respecting student referenda!”