EUS ban of QPIRG a hasty overreaction

Editorial/Opinion by
McGill Tribune

At their council meeting on Tuesday, the Engineering Undergraduate Society banned the Quebec Public Interest Research Group from using any promotional tables in the McConnell Engineering Building for one year. This ban came in response to the September 23 confrontation between QPIRG and the QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign, which resulted in torn flyers and an allegation about the improper use of physical restraint by an Opt-Out member. It is understandable that EUS wants to ensure there are no further disturbances within its jurisdiction. The Tribune wouldn’t want outside groups causing trouble in our office. However, while EUS acted within their rights by passing the motion, the yearlong ban appears to be both somewhat presumptuous, given the differing accounts of what exactly happened, and an overreaction, as nobody was actually physically hurt.

We don’t want to exaggerate the importance of either what transpired in September or the EUS tabling ban. It is after all only for a year (or less, if EUS deems that the issues between the two groups have been resolved), and QPIRG will not collapse just because it cannot promote itself in one specific building.

But we find it strange that EUS chose to only ban QPIRG from tabling, without regard for any role members of the Opt-Out Campaign may have played in the escalation of the conflict. Because each side has its own story of what took place, and its own witnesses to corroborate their version, it would have been more appropriate for the EUS to ban both groups, rather than to pick only one to blame and punish. In any event, the Tribune feels that any ban, even one affecting both groups, is a hasty and overheated response to the September 23 incident.

As we argued last week, the behaviour exhibited by both sides in McConnell that day was not appropriate for a university setting. Nonetheless, there was little risk of somebody getting seriously hurt, and we doubt there is a significant possibility this will happen in the future.  However fervently we may disagree with other students on this or that issue, and however frustrated we are when they forget basic decency in the heat of the moment, we should concede that our fellow students are not fundamentally violent or dangerous.

We sympathize with the EUS’s desire to set a precedent that disruptions in its domain will not be tolerated, but the Tribune believes a stern warning—to both QPIRG and the Opt-Out Campaign—would probably have sufficed.