McGilliLeaked publishes McGill documents online

University redaction practices questioned

McGilliLeaked, a website compiling various documents about McGill University – including contracts, security reports, and investments – was launched last week.

Among the documents are the University’s contract with the private security company Securitas and its contract with MIR3, the company in charge of the emergency text alerts for which the University spends a total of $37,220.20 per year.

Students and student journalists from The Daily and The Link obtained the documents from McGill through various Access to Information (ATI) requests.

U3 Economics student Christopher Bangs requested the majority of the documents, and was also responsible for compiling and uploading all documents to the McGilliLeaked website.

“A lot of us have been submitting a lot of ATIs over the last year and a half or so. We had a lot of interesting documents, a lot of interesting security reports…I thought it would be cool if we all had access to all of these documents that we requested,” Bangs told The Daily.

In an email to The Daily, Vice-Principal (External Relations) Olivier Marcil stated that McGill University releases “hundreds of documents” under Quebec’s Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information.

“The fact that these documents were released shows that the University is fulfilling its obligation and that the system is working,” said Marcil.

However, Bangs said the high volume of ATI requests received by McGill reflects flaws in the University’s structure.

“The number of Access to Information requests received by McGill University in the last few years is many times higher than a decade ago. Similarly, the Committee on Student Grievances has seen a huge rise in the number of cases brought by students against the school,” Bangs wrote in an email to The Daily.

“While McGill seems to think that these changes show that the system works, in reality they are indicative of the broad shift in the University…from a collegial, decentralized system with informal, personal conflict resolution methods and more transparency to a system micromanaged by a few people at the top of the hierarchy,” he wrote.

“The fact that so many ATIs are made now shows how few avenues remain to gain access to basic information about this public university.”

In an interview with The Daily, Bangs also mentioned that the University has sent him letters to prevent him from getting access to certain information.

“[McGill] can deny requests [in the case of] security issues. McGill has said that my requests at times were repetitive, systematic and just too many documents for them to handle,” he said.

Bangs and McGill had a mediation session over the summer regarding the ATIs of the Independent Student Inquiry, a group formed last year to investigate the events of November 10. According to Bangs, the two parties met with an employee of the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec.

Marcil also referred to documents which were blacked-out – or redacted – to conceal confidential information.

“Some of the information [the McGilliLeaked documents] contain was redacted in application of exceptions to disclosure provided in the law, or in order to protect the privacy of individuals,” wrote Marcil.

In response, Bangs claimed that University figures use redactions to “protect [themselves] from the consequences of their decisions made on the job.”

“Members of the Board of Governors are responsible for running this university, and the decisions they make are often public and always important, but the University redacts the names of members in the minutes,” said Bangs. “Their privacy is not at issue here, for there is no right to privacy in this case, and I hope that the University will review its policy on redactions.”