On March 19, The McGill Tribune ran a commentary titled “Stand with Indigenous students and vote ‘No’ to the Athletics Facility Improvement Fee,” arguing that students should vote ‘no’ to the proposed Athletics Facility Improvement fee renewal scheduled to take place March 26-29. This response is a call to action—to understand the distinction between activism that pressures the administration and activism that hurts students.
I respect Tomas Jirousek’s and other Indigenous students’ continued dedication to the #ChangeTheName campaign. Jirousek’s ability to rally such a large group of students at McGill behind this cause is admirable. However, the renewal of the Athletics Facilities Improvement fee is independent from the #ChangeTheName campaign.
If this fee were to be renewed by the undergraduate student body it would improve the athletic facilities that all students use, such as the fitness centre, Memorial Pool, gyms, Forbes and Molson Field, and the McConnell Arena among other facilities. In the past, this fee has been used to develop Rutherford Field, install private fitness pods, build three gender neutral bathrooms in the McGill Sports Complex, and expand the fitness centre by adding an upstairs component. The renewed fee would help to refurbish men’s and women’s locker rooms, install air conditioning in the gyms and fieldhouse, and resurface the Tomlinson Fieldhouse, according to Tia Lore, Varsity Council president. The vote is of immense consequence for the future of the Athletics program and its facilities.
The improvement fee affects everyone who uses the Athletics and Recreation building and other athletics facilities, including athletes who represent the university, and those who exercise recreationally. A ‘yes’ vote would allow for the facilities we all rely on to improve in accommodating the McGill community.
At this point, I have no desire to convince anyone about changing the name or keeping it. It is a matter of conscience that ought to be left to the decision of individual students. However, it is important to understand that the fee renewal does not have an impact on changing the name. Trying to connect these two disparate issues may hurt students and with little payoff: It is entirely possible that Fortier will choose to keep the name regardless of the student body’s stance. The outcome of a vote concerned solely with the maintenance and expansion of athletic facilities will play no role in Fortier’s decision on the men’s varsity team name.
I am a varsity athlete. I have played basketball at McGill for five years and I understand my inherent bias regarding this issue. However, I am not speaking out on behalf of my fellow athletes: I am speaking for the people who love intramurals and enjoy friendly competition outside of the classroom. I am speaking for the thousands of people who work out and appreciate the facilities they use regularly—voting ‘no’ will hurt all of these people.
Students should consider voting ‘yes’ on the renewal of the Athletics fee March 26-29. Those who are upset about the men’s varsity team name should direct their anger and dismay to those who have the power to affect change: Fortier and the administration. In the meantime, they should keep this particular fee—as well as the people it affects—out of the crosshairs.