Squirrel-watching Underreported

McGill Tribune

Describing his main goals on the Students’ Society of McGill University website, President Zach Newburgh writes: “Let’s build community together by being socially-conscious, politically-aware, while vibrant in all areas of student interest.” This is a platform that I as a columnist respect and support. I find it a serious journalistic faux pas when the majority of McGill’s pundits only represent the first two-thirds of it. However, though they are often crisp and eloquent, most editorials and columns on campus depend on material for either controversial new rules or the unquestionably oppressive acts of an authority figure. Sure, this makes for powerful reading, but I think that if the moderate student—which most us are—reads another article about whether or not Jimmy can ride his bicycle to class, or anything along the lines of “Principal Munroe-Blum: Angel or Asshole?”, they will surely start using the Trib or Daily as napkins, not newspapers. There are other aspects to university life, things Newburgh umbrellas under “all areas of student interest,” which our newspapers need to be aware of.

Take the culture of Lower Field, for instance. Have you seen the kind of stuff that goes on down there? Everything from frisbee tossing, to making out in the sun, to remarkably intense staring contests with squirrels. These are events—things that happen in student’s lives that, despite what you might think, can be fascinating. I sat on the Redpath Museum steps the other day for three straight hours, sipping green tea while eavesdropping on conversations around me. Perhaps to the Daily’s dismay, I did not hear one single conversation about immigration laws, the Middle East, or dismantling neo-liberal policies. What I heard included the ups and downs of doing an Anthro major, how to inconspicuously cut the Subway line during peak hours and that this girl Jane kinda, like, you know, friggin’ despises her roommate’s boyfriend. It was enlightening, and mostly non-political.

I am not suggesting that we cut off all conversation that delves into social problems and highlights awareness. I am saying that we are currently off balance. There is so much more to our experiences here than what the UN is up to or where a student club will protest next. And that’s coming from a Political Science student. Ten years down the road you will probably remember the first time a lecture blew your mind or a friend randomly bought you lunch more readily than you will the front page of a newspaper that proclaimed just another “pro-this” or “anti-that” headline.

Our usually healthy political debate has gotten to the point where it has the potential to saturate all other areas of student life. This might excite others, but it does not excite me. There was something exquisitely non-political about one of the Tribune’s most recent covers. Along a sea of red-painted supporters, a McGill student is held aloft at a football game. Megaphone in hand, joy on the face, we see a glorious picture of a university that we are in danger of losing, one defined by camaraderie and community. It contains an unapologetic acceptance of the fun that can bring us together. And don’t be fooled into thinking that this fun cannot be reconciled with fierce discussion and political debate. You vote fiscally conservative? That’s bonkers in my book; let’s chat about it over beer.

The rally to save the Architecture Café was a great example of students from all faculties—and probably from many different political perspectives—gathering to support something they all love. And make no mistake, that’s where that whole situation started: with the loss of love, fun, and community. It’s that community we should seek to protect, not just with fiery words to enhance a stance, but by sharing coffee, trading notes, supporting our sports teams, laughing at ourselves and—if all else fails— collecting a group of people to chase all those damn seagulls off Lower Field.

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