McGill’s highest decision-making body adjourned five minutes after beginning an open session to discuss the Jutras Report last Tuesday.
Following opening remarks from Principal Heather Munroe-Blum and Board of Governors (BoG) Chair Stuart Cobbett, a group of students in the gallery, most of whom were dressed in pirate costumes, stood and began to sing a rendition of “Barrett’s Privateers.”
After several attempts to call for order, Cobbett adjourned the meeting.
Speaking to The Daily, Munroe-Blum said the goal of the open session was to encourage discussion on the Jutras Report and to incorporate the feedback into her own report.
Munroe-Blum has announced that McGill accepts all recommendations made in the Jutras Report, and that a report concerning the implementation of the recommendations will be forthcoming.
“What we were supposed to have [at the meeting] was lost, and that’s unfortunate,” she said. “I won’t get the benefit of consultation before responding, though I would encourage various communities to engage in conversation.”
Minutes after the students’ singing started, members of the BoG began to leave the room.
According to one student who participated in the action, “I acted to hijack the proceedings and plunder the macadamia nut cookies of the BoG. We committed mutiny and vanquished the scurvy scoundrels of the captain’s chambers.”
Several administrators and board members remained in the room to discuss the demonstration with students who participated.
Sunci Avlijas, a biology graduate student, spoke to reasons behind the action.
“[BoG] is a place where we don’t have real input – we just come here to listen and watch them make decisions for us… The point of the action was to delegitimize their power to make decisions for the rest of the University without any accountability to the student body and rest of the community.”
Gallery members do not have speaking rights in BoG meetings.
SSMU President Maggie Knight, one of two student representatives to the BoG, spoke to The Daily after the meeting was adjourned.
“I guess I’m not surprised, because [the students] want to pressure the system, and this was their way to voice their opinions,” Knight said. “But [the administration] didn’t have to hold an open session.”
BoG meetings are comprised of a public open session and a closed session in which only BoG members are permitted. On Tuesday, the closed session of the meeting took place before the open session.
PGSS President Roland Nassim, the other student representative to the BoG, said he was disappointed that the meeting was interrupted. “This is not the student voice – 19 people hijacked the student voice; they eliminated it for thousands and thousands of people.”
“How am I going to approach the principal tomorrow and tell her we need to have open conversation [when] she asks me: ‘Are [students] going to come and sing again?’” Nassim continued. “This is the ramification of these kinds of things: it loses our credibility as student leaders.”
David Kalant, administrative and support staff representative to the BoG, said he understood the students’ concerns but had reservations.
“I was elected to represent similar concerns – to open things up, make things more transparent, but I don’t think this is going to achieve that,” he said.
Philosophy professor Alison Laywine, who is not a member of the BoG but was present for the open session, said that she felt energized.
“I think [the action] drew attention [to the need] for the conversation between the Board of Governors and the constituents in the University,” she said.
It was the second BoG meeting in a row in which students have staged protests.
At the time of press, it was unknown if an open session to discuss the recommendations of the Jutras Report will be rescheduled.
—with files from Queen Arsem-O’Malley