The Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill has been overwhelmed by the show of solidarity from students and their supporters both inside and outside of the James Administration Building on McGill campus since Tuesday morning. While QPIRG was completely unaware that a “surprise resignation party” was planned for Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson, we understand that these students, professors, and workers are committed to the students’ right to determine and vote on the funding for organizations such as CKUT Radio and QPIRG McGill, and to have these decisions upheld by the University.
We are dismayed by the response to these students and their supporters thus far; their demands for discussion regarding QPIRG and CKUT were not met when The Daily went to press. Moreover, the students that were in the lobby had been denied access to leave to use the washrooms and get food; additionally, the shut-down of Internet services in the building has hindered their ability to communicate with supporters or the press on their situation and well-being. One student in the building who was seeking access to his medication was met with violence by a security guard on site. If one thing is clear, it is that the McGill administration continues to take an adversarial stance and punitive measures against dissenting student voices. QPIRG stands in solidarity with the students in the Deputy Provost’s office, their supporters in the lobby of the James Administration Building, and those camping outside of the building overnight.
Ever since the Fall 2011 referendum results were announced in November, QPIRG has been working tirelessly to have the McGill student vote recognized by the administration. The referendum had exceptionally high voter turnout, with 24 per cent of the student body participating in the vote, and 65.6 per cent of these students voting in favor of QPIRG’s continuation. Despite this astonishing turnout and show of support, the administration has continuously refused to implement the results, stating in a letter to QPIRG that our “question was unclear and as such, will not provide McGill’s Board of Governors the assurance necessary to approve renewal of your agreement with the University”.
Contrary to the assertions of the McGill administration, the referendum results were very clear: students overwhelmingly voted to support QPIRG’s existence as an autonomous organization that administers its own fee refunds in lieu of the administration’s Minerva online opt-out system (a system that was unilaterally imposed on us in 2007). Moreover, the QPIRG YES Committee – composed of over 100 student volunteers – worked tirelessly to publicize the referendum and to clearly explain the inextricable link between online opt-outs and QPIRG’s existence. These are the conditions under which students voted to have QPIRG continue to execute its mandate.
Since the referendum, QPIRG has maintained in-person, phone, and e-mail correspondence with the Deputy Provost’s office, urging them to accept the results as proof of the overwhelming demand for QPIRG on campus. Thus far, our requests have been met with staunch refusal.
We sincerely wish to reach an agreement with the Deputy Provost on the referendum results, an agreement that upholds student democracy at McGill and the continued existence of QPIRG on campus. While QPIRG and the administration are continuing to engage in their own negotiations to have the student vote upheld, we urge the administration to also discuss the QPIRG and CKUT referenda with those students currently at the James Administration Building, who are clearly expressing their frustrations at not having their voices heard.
Signed by the QPIRG-McGill Board of Directors.