Last Wednesday, a group of approximately 10 student protestors caused the cancellation of a class taught by a McGill professor accused of issuing a death threat against a former graduate student.
The protestors are demanding that the professor’s class be cancelled.
The protest comes after professor Gary Dunphy’s decision to appeal a ruling by McGill’s Committee for Student Grievances (CSG) that his behaviour constituted harassment.
The incident in question comes from an exchange between former McGill graduate student Amr El-Orabi and his then-supervisor, Dunphy, which El-Orabi recorded and sent to Global News.
In the recording, El-Orabi tells Dunphy he is leaving his studies prematurely. When El-Orabi asks, “Is there anything else that you want from me?” Dunphy responds, “Yes, your death.”
After returning to his home in Egypt, El-Orabi filed a grievance against Dunphy through McGill’s CSG. In September, the committee ruled in El-Orabi’s favour, though the university will not disclose the contents of the ruling.
Participants in last Wednesday’s demonstration said they were unsatisfied with McGill’s response to the case. Ten students entered Dunphy’s Insect Biology and Control class with signs calling for Dunphy’s resignation.
“[Dunphy’s] behaviour […] was qualified as constituting harassment and threat of physical violence by university instances,” announced a demonstrator who wished to remain anonymous. “These types of behaviours are one instance of a broader university system imbued with racism and rape culture. It is unacceptable that the university administration does not take this matter seriously and take the appropriate steps to protect its students.”
Due to the demonstration, Dunphy’s class ended one hour earlier than scheduled. The demonstrators chanted and followed the professor as he left the room.
Natascia Borsellino, U3 Science, said she was frustrated that her class was cut short because of the demonstration.
“I think it’s just absolutely disrespectful to do that during class,” Borsellino said. “It’s not okay; we have exams. I get it—they can protest outside his office, they can protest in the streets—but in the classroom, it’s a bit much. I have a midterm today, and I came to this class, and I just wasted my time.”
Dean of Students André Costopoulos said there were other ways by which the demonstrators could have conveyed their message.
“We’re always listening and always wanting to improve our policies and procedures, which are far from perfect,” Costopoulos said. “There’s a question of respect for the rights of others here. We have to respect the rights of others to complete their academic training and to perform their academic duties in a safe, respectful environment.”
Before leaving, the demonstrators announced that they would continue to protest Dunphy’s position at McGill.
“Until professor Dunphy resigns, or until the university cancels his classes, we are going to be taking it into our hands to prevent him from teaching,” one demonstrator said.
Another protestor, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the group chose this method of protest because it expressed their belief that Dunphy should not be teaching at McGill.
“Other types of protests may not have put that belief into action in as effective of a way,” the protestor said. “Protesting outside his office would not have stopped him from teaching. Our intention was to stop him from teaching, and thereby, to achieve the goal that we see the administration [is] totally unable to achieve.”
Costopoulos said the university has no plans to cancel Dunphy’s class, and that McGill is exploring options to minimize the possibility of future disruptions
“We have to respect the rights of the students to complete their semester and to complete their courses,” Costopoulos said. “The course is continuing, and it will be in a safe, appropriate environment.”
Costopoulos added that the demonstrators are being investigated in accordance with McGill’s Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, due to several complaints his office has received about the incident.
“When we receive complaints from members of the community, this could result in an allegation of a breach of the Code,” Costopoulos said. “If disciplinary officers find that there’s potentially a breach of the Code, they will bring formal allegations against students, and that may result in disciplinary action.”