Controversy over floor fellow dismissals

Last Tuesday, the Executive Director of Residences Michael Porritt met with residents of the first and second floor of Solin Hall to discuss the recent dismissal of their floor fellows, Francis (Danji) Buck-Moore and Drew Childerhose.

The floor fellows were dismissed from their positions nearly two weeks ago due to their involvement in the occupation of the sixth floor of the James Administration building in February.

The decision to fire Buck-Moore and Childerhose was made after a period of consultation with the residence community, which was conducted by Porritt over reading week.

In response to the decision, two letters were delivered to Porritt, one signed by over 300 members of the McGill community, and the other by 61 of the 67 floor fellows.

The first letter states, “While we, the undersigned, understand that there are consequences to the actions taken on campus, we do not believe that the current option being considered by McGill administration is in the University’s best interest.”

Porritt told The Daily in an email that “I do not expect everyone to agree with controversial decisions of any kind, but I do hope people respect the extent of open consultation that I try to make a part of all of the important decisions in residence.”

“I gave the Rez community open access to share their thoughts and feelings and hundreds of people did so with a wide variety of viewpoints. All of them factored into the decision,” he added.

The meeting at Solin Hall, which media was not permitted to attend, took place at 10 p.m. last Tuesday. Around thirty students, Porritt and Acting Associate Director of Residence Colleen Lewis were in attendance.

Although Buck-Moore and Childerhose received invitations to attend – which were also emailed to students on their floors that morning – neither took part in the meeting.

Porritt told The Daily after the meeting that “I had the chance to talk with a lot of them over the course of the consultation period, so this was a chance to follow up with some of them…and let them know the exact details of what the situation is now so that they know, because they’re the ones that are most directly impacted.”

According to Caitlin O’Doherty, a U1 Arts student and resident of Solin Hall who attended the meeting, Porritt provided the students at the meeting with two reasons behind his decision to fire the floor fellows: their insubordination, and the oppression of the sixth floor staff of the James building.

“It was just really frustrating,” O’Doherty said. “[Porritt] kept saying these two things, and it was pointed out that they were very vague reasons.”
O’Doherty also spoke about the consultation, expressing some skepticism about its relevance.

“All the consultation that the administration keeps saying we’re part of, it’s really just a check box,” she continued. “It’s just a reason for them to say they’ve talked to the students, but they don’t have to ever be accountable to listening and following up from the students, and that’s, I think, the biggest problem we were pointing out.”

The meeting in Solin was not the first between the residence community and Porritt in which the dismissals came up. On the afternoon of Sunday, March 4, Porritt attended the Inter-Residence Council (IRC) meeting in Douglas Hall.

D’Arcy Williams, president of Gardner Hall, attended the meeting at Douglas. He said the meeting was called to discuss a letter that Porritt wanted the IRC to sign, which addressed the dismissal of the floor fellows.

“Porritt approached us to sign off on [a] letter that would be sent out to all the residence students,” Williams explained. “Basically, he wanted to use our signature on it as a way to show that we’re trying to be respectful of everyone’s decision, and to move forward from the decision, because what’s done is done.”
When asked whether the subject of the dismissals of the floor fellows came up at the IRC meeting, Porritt told The Daily, “No, because it wouldn’t. Those are personnel issues, and that’s confidential. That wouldn’t come up.”

A portion of the letter was written solely by Porritt, while the remainder was signed by Lewis and IRC president Sam Gregory, in addition to Porritt. Before the meeting, a copy of the letter was made public on Facebook.

According to Williams, the letter was a draft circulated by Porritt to certain members of the residence community as an example of the kind of statement he wanted the IRC to sign.

He also explained that the letter was not intended to be made public.

The portion of the letter signed by Porritt states that, “there have had to be some difficult decisions made with regard to the residence community in the aftermath of the James Building occupation. I hope that everyone will respect and understand that these decisions were made after an extended and open consultation period with the primary stakeholders involved.”

It also clarifies, “My decisions regarding student employment have nothing to do with the Code of Student Conduct [Green Book]. The Code is a separate process that is administered by the disciplinary officer of the faculty involved or, in the case of an incident in residences the hall director is the disciplinary officer.”
Buck-Moore and Childerhose reiterated this point, emphasizing that their dismissals had nothing to do with the Green Book, a misconception that they said has been circulating around campus. Neither Buck-Moore nor Childerhose have had disciplinary action taken against them by the University.

Williams explained that the IRC decided not to sign the letter at the meeting on Sunday, “Not because we agree, not because we disagree, but because it’s simply not IRC’s place. That’s not our role. Our role is to represent the students, and some people thought this was a little bit inappropriate to be brought in front of IRC.”

Buck-Moore commented on the decision, explaining that “I think one thing that a lot of us were confused and concerned about with that, was that that’s kind of inherently a political action, to ask a representative body of other people to support a decision that’s already been made.”

Buck-Moore and Childerhose have no plans to leave their residence accommodations, and will be remaining in Solin until further action is taken.

“Legally, we feel like we’re entitled to [stay] for the time being,” said Childerhose, “and I feel like most lawyers would feel the exact same way.”