News | Twenty students occupy Mendelson’s office

"It's a party, not a protest"

Click here for the latest coverage of the Feb. 7  James Administration occupations

Students occupying the sixth floor of the James Administration building have begun negotiations with McGill administration. Reports from the sixth floor state that Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell is involved in the negotiations. Around 5:45 p.m. students and faculty occupying the lobby sent a representative – Mob Squad member Amber Gross – to join the negotiations.

As of 5:20 p.m. there were nearly sixty students and faculty in the lobby.

Following a rally this morning in support of CKUT and QPIRG, twenty students occupied the office of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson. The students occupying Mendelson’s office are holding a “suprise resignation party” for him in protest of the administration’s decision to invalidate the results of the fall 2011 existence referenda for CKUT and QPIRG.

Students have outlined two demands: that the McGill administration recognize the referenda and that Mendelson submit a formal letter of resignation. Mendelson was with occupiers in his office for a brief period of time, but reports from the sixth floor say he is no longer with the occupiers.

At 3:30 p.m., students occupying the building in both the lobby and sixth floor were requested by Provost Anthony Masi to leave. Students in the lobby received a written notice stating that complaints will be addressed in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.

“Your occupation of the premises may also be a violation of the law, and the University has not excluded any options regarding what actions it will take because of this,” read the statement.

The group on the sixth floor released a statement soon after their occupation began this morning, stating that, “We stand in solidarity with CKUT & QPIRG. We are a group of Students acting independently to defend these community organizations we love.”

A second group of students and faculty moved to protest outside of James, and gained entry to the front door despite attempts by security guards to secure the entrance.

Once protestors gained entry to the lobby, guards blocked both the stairwell and elevators, and eventual shut off elevator service.

Provost Anthony Masi joined students in the lobby and responded to students’ inquiries regarding the invalidation of the vote.

Gross interrupted the discussion to restate the aims of the protest.

“Just so everyone knows, where they [the sixth floor occupiers] are at: so we’re on the same page, we’re here for a party, not to talk to administrators,” said Gross. She explained that occupiers were present for the two reasons outlined previously.

Mob Squad member Micha Stettin explained the reasoning behind the decision not to speak to administrators. ”We have these discussions over and over… The point is that all these decisions come to nothing. Everybody knows we’ve done this repeatedly, so we’re not going to do this again,” he said.

“We came to have a party. This party had certain objectives. If they want to talk about those two specific objectives, specifically meeting those two specific objectives, then we can talk a lot. If not, we don’t have very much to say,” Stettin continued.

Security guards then allowed Masi to access the stairs as he exited the lobby.

“The questions that I was asking him don’t actually matter. It was just a way of taking his argument apart to show that it was not about them making a decision in the benefit of students, it was about them using their authoritarian role to basically override student democracy on campus,” said student Galen Macdonald after Masi had left.

As Masi left, he told The Daily, “I chose to come down to talk to students. They don’t want to talk.”

At 11:54 a.m., Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa sent an email to all staff and students announcing the occupation. The email called the occupation “peaceful” and stated that “McGill Security personnel are on the scene.” The email stated that Di Grappa would send updates, but as of 1 p.m., there was no follow-up, despite the fact that a group had gained entry to the lobby of the building.

“The people upstairs are prepared to stay for a couple of days if necessary,” Gross said. “They have sleeping bags and food.”

The statement from the sixth floor said that the group “will not leave” until their two demands are met. “We are here to party, and to stay,” the statement read.

Carrie Rentschler, professor of Art History and Communications and director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, arrived in the lobby of the James building at 1:30p.m.

“This is a big topic of conversation on campus today, again everyone got an announcement that it was happening and, in light of the former student movements and the need for occupation here on campus, there’s a lot of conversation. It’s on people’s minds – memories of last fall.”

Rentschler said she found out about the occupation from the mass message sent by Di Grappa. She left at 2:15 p.m.

When asked this afternoon for a comment on the nature of the McGill administration’s response to the occupations, Director of Media Relations Doug Sweet told The Daily, “We’re not going to discuss that. We’re just not going to discuss that. You can’t reasonably expect that we are going to discuss that. We’re in a situation that’s still developing.”

Midnight Kitchen served food to occupants of the building lobby at about 5 p.m. Students in the lobby are preparing to remain in the building in solidarity with the sixth  floor occupiers.

 

A previous version of this article quoted Doug Sweet as stating “…we’re in a situation that’s still devolving.” In fact, the word used was “developing.” The Daily regrets the error. 


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