Jane Everett is the former Dean of Students and is currently a professor in the Department of French Language and Literature at McGill. She sat down on Thursday with The Daily and CKUT’s Gretchen King to discuss the previous year and the challenges ahead.
The McGill Daily (MD): At the end of the year there was a message from the principal that described the year as having a “rock n roll” feel to it. Do you have a welcome back message that follows up to what happened last year?
Jane Everett (JE): I can only speak as a person who is a prof, and a welcome message would be: this is an exciting place to be, where we’ve gone through experiences in the last year that I think sensitized everyone to a number of very important issues. And that we should use that energy going forward as a way to question our assumptions – and by ‘our’ I mean the whole community – and to use this influx of new energies coming from the new students primarily but also the new colleagues to help us gain perspective of all the things that happened in the past year, and in the years preceding that.
Gretchen King (GK): What about your views on the student strike? […] What are your concerns about accessible education at McGill as a prof now, but also as the former Dean of Students in the last five years?
JE: It’s very difficult to answer that question without seeming to take sides, and I truly don’t have a side in this because I don’t feel well enough informed on any of these issues…. It was very difficult to get critical distance from all the various arguments that were coming my way, because I heard all sides or many sides and it was hard for me as just an individual to step back an take a look at what was going on and to make up my mind about things. […] There was also the sense that last year we were so immersed in everything, we were trying to keep the University moving as usual…understanding sometimes that usual business will be disrupted for reasons that we can’t do anything about – and that’s fine – but you still have to do your job […] in my case often questioning whether I had the mandate to intervene from anybody. The term Dean of Students is a bit misleading in some ways…some people see it as someone who has oversight over what students do…others see it as a position of pure advocacy for students…. It’s more of an office that connects all things that have to do with students, whether it’s student affairs, student services, student groups and so forth. […]
GK: As Dean of Students last year, I’m sure you heard students talking about the presence of police on campus. […] Do you feel that securitization is a valid concern among the people that you have been in conversation with over the last year? And as a prof, what are your views of cops on campus and the impact of the provisional protocol?
JE: I don’t think any member of the McGill community supports the presence on a regular basis of police on campus…there is no place for them here. If there was a hostile intruder I would welcome them. This is a different case, so I think it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. The reference to securitization, I heard that concern expressed a great deal and I heard students…worrying about being videotaped just walking around. If you were wearing a red square some people felt that they were targeted there. I heard other people say, I’m very happy to have them here, that way we can be sure that things won’t get out of hand again. […] As to there having been an official University response to that so far, the mills of universities grind slowly. […] There was a feeling that we got plunged into a situation [and] we just hadn’t thought ahead of how things might unfold. So the provisional protocols were kind of an attempt to look ahead a little bit and to provide some clarity […]
GK: …Just last semester there were over fifty [disciplinary hearings] and the semester before we saw a number of students facing disciplinary hearings for their participation in actions to support the MUNACA strike. Are you concerned that these codes, procedures, and hearings are being used against students participating in extracurricular activities such as demonstrations, protests, and support rallies?
JE: That’s not how I view the code [of student conduct] or the Charter. I see them as two balancing documents. The code helps us understand when students have violated the rights of other students or have violated certain university codes…. I would never as Dean of Students…support using the code to suppress dissent. People can express dissent, they can express disrespect, lack of deference, and those are not code offences. You can do it in many different ways. […] I’m looking forward to being a spectator to see what happens with the discussion around the revision of the student conduct because I don’t think it’s well enough known. The suggestion has been made on a number of occasions that we provide something similar to the Fairplay Brochure, [which] gives scenarios about plagiarism, cheating, and things that have to do with what we call academic offenses, but there is another zone which are the non-academic offenses. […] It would be helpful maybe to have a brochure like that.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.