The McGill administration has abandoned plans for a permanent protocol regulating campus protests, following a condemnation from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).
The CCLA’s statement reads that the organization has “significant concerns about the extent to which [the protocol] protects freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association on campus and whether it assists members of the community in understanding the limits being placed on these rights.”
“We’re claiming this as a victory for everybody who worked to oppose the protocol,” said Lilian Radovac, the president of AGSEM – McGill’s Teaching Union.
Although the administration’s announcement said that its decision came solely as a result of the consultation process, Radovac believes it was much more likely that “the confluence of the opposition from the unions, the media attention, and ultimately criticism from a national civil liberties group that […] lead to such a dramatic about-face.”
Despite campus unions and student groups raising similar concerns during the initial consultation process, the administration released a proposed version of the protocol reflecting no substantive changes to the university-wide community on November 30.
The administration’s announcement released yesterday states that “the McGill community will be best served by an agreed-upon statement of values and principles, rather than a protocol of operating procedures, which, by definition, must be sensitive to context and determined by judgment,” and that it will now embark on a second consultation process.
Radovac added that for AGSEM, “the issue won’t be fully resolved until the provisional protocol is officially revoked […] there should be no protocol at McGill.”
The provisional protocol was first introduced in February of 2012, immediately following the five-day occupation of Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Morton Mendelson’s office in the James Administration building. According to the email that first released the protocol, it was to “remain in effect until further notice.”
Late Wednesday, members of the administration could not say whether or not the provisional protocol was still in effect.
The CCLA statement was dated January 8, posted to the CCLA’s website, and sent to Provost Anthony Masi and VP (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa via the email address provided during the protocol’s consultation process. According to Cara Faith Zwibel, the CCLA’s Fundamental Freedoms Program director and the statement’s author, the CCLA never received a response from the University.
Last week, the protocol received even more off-campus attention when a Montreal Gazette article reported on U3 philosophy student Eli Freedman’s grievance to Senate about the protocol, and quoted McGill alumnus and prominent civil rights lawyer Julius Grey as noting an increasingly harsh attitude about campus dissent at McGill.
Anti-protocol campus mobilization had been underway since last February and intensified after a revised version was released to campus unions and student groups for consultation in November.
The new version included a definition of what would be deemed a “peaceful” demonstration. Campus unions and student groups published letters in student and the Montreal press, which in turn published critical editorials. Several student associations voted to condemn the protocol.
AGSEM launched a website last week, endorsed by campus unions MUNACA and AMUSE, as well as the Philosophy Students’ Association, compiling information and press clippings about the protocol, and promoting a protest that was to be staged January 23 –the same day that the protocol was to go before Senate.