Notes from the Underground Campus

An anonymous source recently contacted me with a decidedly scandalous email subject line: Big Brother is on campus. I hurriedly answered back, and my correspondent replied that we should move our conversation off of the McGill email network. Someone might be looking, they said. Wow, I thought, this must be serious. The messages quickly began to pour in. Secret memos, clandestine on-campus meetings, international monetary rings, cyber-surveillance. I was overwhelmed and for the life of me couldn’t make sense of it all. McGill University was a leading progressive institution in the public sphere, but invested in fossil fuels? Our campus promoted religious diversity while secretly promoting oppressive governments and dubious advisory groups? But the most heinous of all was a single sheet memo, which I believe tells of a far more insidious situation. Below is a purported copy of the introductory tip-sheet for new campus tour guides. Read it and weep.

Bonjour Hi. Welcome to Montreal.

We’d like to welcome you to your new position in the McGill Information Control Society, better known as the campus greeter! It’s our job on these guided tours to help prospective McGill students get an inside (but not too inside!) look at the campus they’ll be calling home for four years (and paying dearly in tuition for). Here are some suggested tips.

  • Smile! This is very important, especially during finals season when you don’t see too many smiles on campus. Plus it’s a critical part of our mental health initiative (fake it ‘till you make it!)
  • Routes. You should always begin and end at McLennan Library. It’s very easy to point out any number of studious worker-bees hunched over their laptops, who all serve to glorify our academic rigour.
  • Keep an eye on the parents. These kids don’t know what they’re in for, but the adults have been around the block. They want to see concrete examples of academic prestige and what’s better than a bleary-eyed U1 student in Redpath who avoids going outside because it’s too damn cold and the once-famous tunnel to the Arts Building is closed indefinitely.

Construction. Let’s go over a few key points.

  • Try to shape SSMU’s complete closure as a good thing. Gerts no longer exists to distract unruly undergrads. Most of the student groups have found perfectly acceptable temporary locations (except for the Musicians Collective and the photography society’s darkroom. But how much space did those groups need anyway?
  • Avoid entering Leacock. For that matter, don’t even walk past it. No one knows how long that renovation will take, or why the hell it’s even happening. Instead, point out the many other beautiful architectural achievements, such as the neoclassicalism of the Redpath Museum, or the overbearing brutalism of Burnside Hall.
  • Speaking of which, you should plan your routes to avoid as much construction as possible which may entail not actually entering campus at all. We’re currently exploring alternatives: Consider how popular a guided bus tour up and down University street would be? Or some kind of sightseeing trip via helium balloon?

In general, describe McGill as a utopian environment devoid of conflict

  • Don’t mention the protests which occur in front of numerous university buildings. It will confuse teenagers as to why students at a supposedly progressive institution would protest at their own school instead of in front of a Quebecois government building.
  • Boast about the awesome cafe in the McConnell Engineering building.
  • Boast about the awesome Subway restaurant in the Arts building.
  • Do not mention samosas.

If someone brings up the eco-graffiti tags which were sprayed on the steps near Leacock last year, or the dumping of red paint over Queen Victoria’s statue, chuckle and explain that it only took a team of five sanitation workers two days to get rid of the paint, and that the spray-painting was an act of a lone anarchist whose threat has been neutralized.

  • Little white lies are your friend. Don’t be afraid to embellish the truth. Just say that McGill is in the process of divesting from fossil fuels.
  • It’s important to not let students know how powerful they are if they actually do fight back in a cohesive and large scale manner, so just be supportive enough to make them think we’re willing to have a dialogue.
  • As a diversion, share the classic video of flood girl being swept down McTavish street in the rain.

If someone in your tour keeps bringing up McGill’s shady fossil fuel and militarization deals, tell them they’re welcome to talk more indepthly to another representative after the tour.

  • If possible, record that person’s name and submit it to our character evaluation database.
  • Also, try to snap a picture of this potentially undesirable student. We have recently partnered with a surveillance software group which utilizes our on-campus cameras in tandem with facial recognition software to keep an eye out on everyone and everything in our university. This is, of course, for your safety.