Updated on March 22, 2012.
Four Nursing classes and three Social Work classes were moved from their original locations in Wilson Hall to different locations on campus due to student picket lines around the building.
Picket lines between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. consisted of other McGill students with reports of at least two Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) also taking part in the lines.
The Social Work Student Association (SWSA), representing undergraduate Social Work students, voted last Thursday to join the unlimited general strike. Graduate students from McGill’s School of Nursing are also on strike, as they are members of the Post Graduate Students’ Society, which began a three-day strike today. The two associations share the building, and confusion arose regarding what tactics which representative body voted to support.
SWSA did not vote for “hard picket lines,” in which entry to buildings would be blocked. Anne Blumenthal, Y2 Social Work student and member of SWSA’s mobilization committee, tweeted that the SWSA mobilization committee was not present on picket lines due to many SWSA students not being on campus. Undergraduate Social Work students generally have off-campus stage placements on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
According to a member of the Graduate Student Mobilization Group – who wished to remain anonymous – PGSS did not vote on tactics to be used in the strike. The member said that they have chosen to interpret the lack of direction of strike tactics as the “option for a strike to be enforced by whatever means necessary.”
The member said one of the reasons for the choice to use hard picket lines was based on the location of Wilson Hall near an entrance to campus. “People use the tactics they are comfortable using,” they said.
Tensions arose almost immediately between students and staff arriving at Wilson Hall and attempting to gain entry to the building, while picketing students tired to hold their lines. One Social Work student pushed his way into the building through the picket line while student picketers attempted to block his way.
People within the building held up picketers’ arms to allow gaps for people to get through the lines.
One staff member explained that her undergraduate Nursing class was working towards implementing their projects next week and were missing class time today to consult regarding projects such as elderly suicide prevention and cultural approaches to mental health resiliency. Undergraduate Nursing students are not on strike.
She added that three Japanese scholars had been scheduled to visit today to observe McGill’s approaches to teaching.
Some staff and students have been permitted to cross the picket lines due to appointments with patients inside, by showing that they are SWSA members. Some building staff was also allowed entry.
Associate Dean of Arts André Costopoulos was present for a brief period of time after seeing the picket lines from his office window. “I’m responsible for enforcing the Code of Student Responsibilities and the Charter of Student Rights,” he said.
“We have to respect one another’s rights. Right now we’re in a situation where one group is infringing students’ right, and I have to act,” Costopoulos added. “They can protest, there’s no problem with that, but their protest right now is causing an infringement of rights on others.”
Costopoulos told one student blocking an entranceway that she would be called up on disciplinary charges after refusing to let him enter the building.
At 10 a.m., nearly 30 students and staff who had attempted to enter the building stood or sat in groups around James Square.