Commentary | Let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard

An open letter from the SSMU President

In the article “Board of Governors adjourned due to student protestors” (News, February 2, Page 3), my comments regarding the option to not have the BoG meeting in open session were taken out of context. The point of noting that McGill did not have to hold the discussion in open session was to raise the concern that the actions of pirate-costumed students in shutting down the BoG provide an excellent rationale not to hold important discussions in an open session forum, and consequently to point out that these actions do a disservice to students and to the McGill community as a whole.

In my role as SSMU President, I attempt to support the efforts of students of many different opinions to express themselves; however, I also find it frustrating when students engage in protests that limit the ability of other students to engage in important campus issues and simultaneously fail to effectively communicate their concerns. From the comments I heard (both from administration and from other students), the singing pirates appeared to many to be childish bullies, which I assume was not their intent. There are other forms of protest that communicate legitimate critiques while allowing others to express their own views. It is frustrating to see students choosing not to use them, to the detriment of others, including those who had travelled from the Macdonald Campus to hear the discussion.

I endeavour to understand that the intended aim of the protestors was to  draw attention to what they see as structural flaws in the Board of Governors. However, the BoG is unlikely to change because fewer than twenty students shut it down. Rather, discussions about making the BoG more accessible to students and creating stronger understanding between the student body and individual Governors are made drastically more difficult, and future access may be restricted due to fears of disruption. Ends do not always justify the means, and in this case the cited desired ends of a democratic BoG were sought through a decidedly non-democratic action by a small group of students apparently on behalf of many. I think we can do better. Let’s exchange ideas, endeavour to understand each other’s perspectives, and advocate for specific practical changes, not bulldoze over each other without warning or apology.

Maggie Knight is the SSMU President. She can be reached at president@ssmu.mcgill.ca


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