Francis (Danji) Buck-Moore, a Solin Hall floor fellow, had his position terminated on Wednesday. His dismissal was due to participation in the occupation of the office of Morton Mendelson, deputy provost (Student Life and Learning), in the James Administration building for five days in February.
Buck-Moore, a U3 student who has been a floor fellow for two years, was informed in a meeting with Michael Porritt, executive director of McGill Residences and Student Housing, that his position – and the benefits package that accompanies it – was “terminated, effective immediately.”
Porritt refused to comment on Buck-Moore’s dismissal because it was a personnel matter.
A second Solin floor fellow, who wished to remain anonymous, also occupied the sixth floor of the James building. The floor fellow had a meeting scheduled for Wednesday with Porritt, however, he was unable to attend. At press time the floor fellow still retained his position. The meeting has been rescheduled for this morning.
Both floor fellows were told in separate meetings with Porritt on February 14 that their positions as floor fellows were at risk.
The dismissals come after a consultation process with McGill’s residence community, which began on February 16.
Porritt sent an email to all residence councils and floor fellows calling for individuals to “speak now or forever hold your peace” in respect to “the current issue regarding our floor fellow team and the residence community related to the James occupation.” The email was also shared with all residents on the two fellows’ floors.
During and after Porritt’s consultation process, two petitions calling for Porritt to drop proceedings against the floor fellows were prepared. Members of the McGill community, including 11 professors, signed the first petition. The second peition, presented to Porritt today, has signatures from 61 floor fellows, dons, and MORE fellows.
Prior to his dismissal, Buck-Moore was presented with a letter outlining his options. The first mandated that he turn in his keys and remove his belongings from his Solin Hall apartment before Friday. It also barred him from entering any McGill residence for the remainder of the academic year, but ensured him a place at Greenbriar Apartments at regular rental rates.
The second option would allow him to stay in Solin Hall for the remainder of the year, but require him to pay regular rental fees, and would strip him of his duties and responsibilities as a floor fellow. Although Buck-Moore is required to answer by Thursday, he explained that he plans to dispute the legality of the action.
In an interview with The Daily prior to his dismissal, Buck-Moore said he had consulted with Legal Aid. “It’s a little bit unclear as to what labour codes or standards we fall under or into, given our nebulous condition as student academic staff,” he said, adding that he will likely file for wrongful dismissal. “We’re definitely employees though, that’s for sure.”
There is no official termination clause in floor fellows’ contracts with Residence Life. Guidelines within the contract under the “Responsibilities of Floor Fellows, Dons, and MORE Fellows” include being a “positive role model,” and also require that floor fellows, who are not paid for their work but receive free room and board, are “vigilant at all times of how their behavior…might affect their position and reflect on the residence community.”
Another Solin floor fellow, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern in an interview with The Daily that, “If you can be fired by the discretion of whoever is in power, then there needs to be a clear and defined set what you can and cannot do because, as it stands, the contract is incredibly vague.”
“If I were to reapply this year, I would feel very differently about what it means to be a floor fellow,” the floor fellow continued.
Buck-Moore described the action as “completely discretionary,” adding that “Porritt’s boss is Morton Mendelson, and Michael Porritt is my boss. The other people that were on the sixth floor don’t have that direct employment connection [to the administration]… It’s easier for him to get to me.”
One of the initial demands made by students who occupied the sixth floor was for Mendelson to resign. Occupiers presented the action as Mendelson’s “surprise resignation party.”
In an email to all McGill students and staff on February 9, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa stated, “Complaints will be lodged against the protestors under the Student Code of Conduct.” Disciplinary procedures within the University are confidential at the discretion of the individual charged.