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Strikers’ request for accommodation rejected

Deputy Provost: “The semester will continue on schedule”

The McGill administration will not be accommodating the requests of striking students for extended deadlines, according to an email obtained by The Daily yesterday from Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson.

The email was sent to the Graduate Student Mobilization Group (GSMG). The email was in response to a letter delivered to Principal Heather Munroe-Blum by almost two dozen students last Friday requesting accommodation for striking students during McGill’s exam period.

“The University’s position has been stated early, repeatedly and clearly: the semester will continue on schedule,” Mendelson wrote in the email. “The consequences for incomplete or late academic assignments and missed examinations depend on individual, not collective, circumstances.”

Mendelson’s email added that professors may accommodate students regarding class requirements based on individual circumstances.

The letter – signed by 41 McGill students, professors, and employees, and endorsed by six campus student groups and unions – was originally addressed to Munroe-Blum and Provost Anthony Masi.

The letter requested that the administration push back the submission date for graduate theses by three working days in respect of the three-day graduate student strike, which lasted from March 19 to 22; that they push the extended deadline for grade submission back by one week across the University; and that they publically encourage professors and course lecturers in striking departments who have scheduled exams to work with departmental strike committees “to determine alternative ways of completing coursework.”

Mona Luxion, a PhD student in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design, and who helped deliver the letter last Friday, said in an interview with The Daily that the letter’s requests are “not unreasonable, or any sort of disruption to really all of students at this University.”

“We’re not asking for extensions for particular students, we’re asking for extensions across the board for professors to be able to hand in their grades later, so that they have some room to negotiate on an individual basis, as Professor Mendelson suggests,” said Luxion.

Luxion said the striking student associations will continue to bring the issue up in their meetings with the administration. There is also a rally scheduled for tomorrow afternoon in front of the James Administration building to reiterate the students’ request.

Over 500 students are currently on strike at McGill in protest of scheduled tuition increases of $1,625 over five years. There are approximately 170,000 CEGEP and university students on strike in Quebec in what is now the longest student strike in provincial history.

“There’s going to be ongoing discussion and negotiation to the extent that the University administration is open to it,” said Luxion.

“We’ve made it very clear that we’re happy to meet with them, and so the challenge of course is that their position is a fixed and unchanging one, so there isn’t really much negotiation to be done,” continued Luxion.

Mendelson wrote in his email that providing the extensions would create “undue burdens” on those involved in the evaluations, submission, and processing of grades. He added that it would be “unfair to the vast majority of students who have fulfilled their academic responsibilities and who have worked to meet the deadlines set out in the Calendar and in course outlines.”

“The overwhelming majority of McGill students have continued to attend classes, complete their assignments, and prepare for exams,” wrote Mendelson.

“A comparatively few students have boycotted classes and are now seeking extensions of academic deadlines and leniency regarding the completion of academic requirements,” he continued.

Luxion said all the students currently on strike “understand and accept that there are consequences to their actions.”

“People have gone into this knowing full well that there may be repercussions, and believing that the fight for accessible education is worth the risk that they’re taking. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also – as members of the University community who support that fight – that we shouldn’t be arguing for some leniency and for some recognition of the fact that this is a legitimate form of political engagement,” said Luxion.