University to adopt permanent demonstration regulations with no approval from Senate

Province-wide union reps attend campus protest

The University will adopt a permanent set of operating procedures regarding demonstrations, despite statements to the contrary made just last week by VP (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa.

Anticipating this, campus unions staged a demonstration outside the James Administration building yesterday, two hours before the announcement was made at Senate.

A proposed protocol regulating campus demonstrations was withdrawn last week by the administration following a condemnation from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and growing attention from the Montreal press, though its provisional version remained in effect.

At the time, administration officials stated in an email to the community that “the McGill community will be best served by an agreed-upon statement of values and principles, rather than a protocol of operating procedures.”

“We’re not surprised. This is exactly why we proceeded with the demonstration we had today. We strongly suspected that the administration was still committed to some sort of protest management policy,” Lilian Radovac, the president of AGSEM-McGill’s Teaching Union, told The Daily. “We knew this was a temporary respite.”

Despite -30-degree temperatures, prominent representatives of province-wide unions joined students and campus unions to protest the University’s recent attempts to police campus protests.

This was more than a simple show of solidarity, according to Sylvain Marois, a vice president of the Fédération nationale des enseignants et des enseignantes du Québec (FNEEQ), which represents over 30,000 professors and teachers across the province.

“We know for a fact that if McGill goes ahead with this, then other universities will do exactly the same,” he told The Daily, noting that similar rules are under consideration at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).

Jérémie Bédard-Wien, a spokesperson for the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), made a similar point. “The brilliant minds in the James Admin did not invent the kinds of repressive politics that are hiding behind this protocol. We are currently facing all across Quebec the systematic imposition of a culture of security on our campuses,” he told the assembled crowd.

Representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the parent union of several campus unions, were also present at the protest, as were members of several Concordia and UQAM unions.

Di Grappa announced at Senate that the protocol had been reshaped into two separate documents – a statement of values, and a set of operating procedures.

The forthcoming “operational procedures” will be guidelines for campus security and disciplinary officers about how to deal with protests on campus. Developing a specific set of procedures was one of the recommendations of a report authored by Dean of Law Daniel Jutras in response to the events of November 10, 2011, when riot police were deployed on campus.

Di Grappa made only passing reference to the controversy the proposed protocol has caused on campus, saying that there was no “unanimity” on campus to the changes the protocol sought.

“Over the period that the protocol has been in place, there have been many protests,” he said.

Both the “statement of principles” and the new rules governing campus protest – expected next week – will go through McGill’s now familiar consultation process, with two consultation fairs next month at both campuses, and a website to be launched next week.

Though the statement of principles will be subject to approval by the Senate and Board of Governors (BoG), the operational procedures will not go before either body. In an email to The Daily, Di Grappa wrote that the new set of rules about campus protests is an “operational or administrative matter.”

For teaching assistant (TA) Sunci Avlijas, “it is completely undemocratic,” that the University plans on adopting these guidelines without Senate or BoG approval. “I don’t see how they think they can get away with this.”

According to Avlijas, AGSEM’s TA unit plans on filing a grievance with the University under their collective bargaining agreement, arguing that these “operating procedures” would fundamentally change their working conditions.