McGill hosts second annual Community Engagement Day

Over 600 students, staff, faculty participate in 44 projects

Correction appended October 8, 2013.

For the second year, McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education office (SEDE) is pushing students and staff to break out of the McGill bubble with Community Engagement Day (CED).

Dan Moczula, CED Communications Coordinator, explained that CED provides “a taste of what community groups are doing, and different tangible ways [that] people can enact change.”

“Hopefully this one event turns into a larger commitment [for participants], or a larger awareness of [Montreal] that isn’t bordered by Pins, University, Peel and Sherbrooke,” Moczula added.

CED was created as a student-administrator initiative in 2012 by SEDE, in partnership with the SSMU Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The CEC administers a $0.50 per person Charity Fund fee for student initiatives that connect McGill with the external community.

Its current budget of around $15,000 was cut down from around $25,000 last year in a bid to be “financially sustainable,” according to Emily Boytinck, CED Coordinator, and it is funded by the Sustainability Project Fund, the CEC, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, and SEDE.

“In its initial stages it was […] something that would be different from a day of service,” Boytinck explained. “We’re really focusing on the reciprocality of it all. We’re trying to promote that we’re really engaging with our community, trying to break down borders [… and move] from a charity model to one of solidarity.”

This year, there are over 40 projects – double the number offered last year – ranging from “Sitting Volleyball” hosted by the Physical and Occupational Therapy Undergraduate Society, to a workshop on decolonization by the Native Women’s Shelter and Kanata.

The number of participants has also shot up along with the projects – there were around 600 participants registered as of press time, compared to around 260 participants registered last year, according to Boytinck and Moczula. These participants weren’t only students, but also staff, faculty, and members of the administration.

One such project is the “Milton Park Community Clean Up and Community Barbeque.” Organized by the Milton Parc Citizens’ Committee, the activity is part clean-up, part historical walking tour, and part barbecue for both volunteers and residents.

SSMU VP External Samuel Harris, one of the student leaders for the project, explained that the project aimed to move away from the notion that McGill students are the main residents in the community. “McGill students, believe it or not, are in the minority in the neighbourhood,” said Harris. “There [are] families, there [are] older residents [… some residents] have lived there in some cases for about 40 to 50 years.”

The clean-up project was a small part of a long-term plan to better the relationship between the neighbourhood and McGill. Harris sits on the Milton Park Citizens’ Committee throughout the year as part of his portfolio of VP External, and SSMU has two Community Ambassadors who also help mediate the relationship.

“[The project had] a lot of student-resident interaction, so this is another way of kind of easing some tensions, which quite frankly exist between residents and students,” said Harris.

An earlier version of this article stated that CED was created by the SSMU Community Engagement Committee (CEC). In fact, CED was created by SEDE in partnership with the CEC.