Commentary | Where do we go from here?

Our campus discourse needs a basis of unity

How do McGill students and staff move forward, past the events of last week? I suggest we take away the positive lessons from recent events and build toward a lasting win-win solution. In this vein, I propose a basis of unity in our campus discourse, consisting of mutual respect, a giving of thanks, and an appreciation for those who care about the future of our University. A basis for those who have differing visions of our University, yet are committed towards collaboratively rethinking and remaking its functions and goals on a level playing field.

Such a basis respects the lessons to be learned changed to learned because “learnt” suggests completed action, not what the author intends from the Occupiers, those who have vocalized staunch criticism of the protest, and the opinions of those caught in between. Beneath the surface of hyperbolic, denigrating language and passionate disagreement, this basis appreciates the effort and sacrifices made by those who strive to make our University progress towards a future of equitable, accountable, and inclusive practices.

It does not, however, condone the unequal power relationships that were let slip [kind of a contradiction in terms; cut most explicitly] in an MRO message sent by Provost Anthony Masi. In that email, the Provost made clear that the administration reserves the right to overturn referenda if it does not conform with their vision of students’ best interests. While empathizing with the work done by senior administrators and their staff, the proposed basis of unity condemns isolated, unilateral, and unaccountable decision-making processes. It pinpoints a lack of opportunities for non-administrators to engage in University governance as a main source of alienation and, ultimately, apathy. It dictates that a level playing field implies putting control of student decisions in student hands – in this case, the right for students to decide opt-out procedures. Similarly, it advocates for pension decisions to be put in the hands of those who are affected by them, namely union members.

This basis of unity envisions a future where those who give a substantial part of themselves over to the University receive a piece of it in return. Where those who pour their hearts and souls into teaching, learning, researching, building community, and ensuring the University’s smooth operations are entitled to make decisions that affect them, instead of the CEO of Telus making such decisions. Where those unaffiliated with the University, yet affected, have their voices heard, such as the victims of asbestos-related diseases intimately related to the wealth of McGill Board of Governors member Roshi Chadha. It sounds so obvious; this basis of unity recognizes, however, that no amount of consultation or dialogue can be substituted for actual change. It calls for Principal Heather Munroe-Blum to stop talking about a united, equal community, and to actually build one.

Finally, this basis of unity calls for civility amongst those who disagree. It is time to end the vicious name-calling and incredibly harmful statements made in the Milton Avenue Revolutionary Press, the QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign, and other places. We are all adults capable of making educated, informed decisions, while also respecting divergent viewpoints and not resorting to hateful tactics. It is time, in our campus discourse, to announce the victories of love, honesty, and integrity over hate, blame, and shame. It is time to unite and make the changes our University needs to remain a special place.

Eli Freedman is a U2 Philosophy student and blogger at bloggingthereclamation.wordpress.com. He can be reached at eliyahu.freedman@mail.mcgill.ca


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