The Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Education was launched on Sept. 22 by Provost and Vice Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi. Its mandate is to propose initiatives that are aimed at integrating indigenous perspectives into academic curricula and research, as well as improving the retention and recruitment of indigenous students and faculty. The Task Force has hosted open forums to discuss its progress and gather input from members of the McGill community. Its final report will be made in June 2017.September
In September 2016, McGill combined Mental Health Services and Counselling Services into a single service. Students no longer choose counselling or mental health services, but rather proceed through a single booking process for evaluation by an intake clinician, and are then directed to the appropriate service for their needs. The new “stepped care model” is meant to shorten wait times and increase the accessibility of services.
Initial concerns were raised over the decrease of student autonomy in choosing a service, as well as student awareness of the new process. In December 2016, former director of the unified Counselling and Mental Health Services Nancy Low was suspended, allegedly due to resistance related to the new model. On March 31, 2017, the student-run McGill Mental Health Working Group released an open letter outlining concerns with the stepped care model. The working group’s chief criticisms included the lack of student and staff consultation in the implementation of the model, the reduction of specialized services, and inefficient allocation of clinical resources.
Services across campus were disrupted on Oct. 29, when the Association for McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) went on five-day strike. AMUSE is a labour union that represents more than 1,500 casual and temporary employees on campus. The strike came following AMUSE’s efforts to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreement with the university, which expired in April 2015. Their main negotiation demands included equal treatment of casual workers, accurate job descriptions and pay, seniority and benefits for casual workers, a living wage, and improvements to the Work Study job posting system.
On Jan. 9, AMUSE finally secured a new collective agreement with McGill. While the new agreement did not meet all of their demands, it was nonetheless a major step forward for the union and its relationship with McGill.
On Nov. 23, McGill Senate unanimously approved the Policy against Sexual Violence. It was passed by the Board of Governors (BoG) on Dec. 1, 2016. In September 2016, the administration released a draft of the policy, which was based on feedback collected from various groups on campus. The draft was the result of a consultative period that had taken place as of April that year. Following the release of the draft, the administration collected feedback via an online form.
The university had previously rejected the policy proposed by the Sexaul Assault Policy Proposal (SAPP) group in April 2016. The draft policy was initially met with criticism for not having sufficient focus on anti-oppression. The final policy is considered survivor-focused and will address sexual violence on campus through education, survivor support, and the creation of the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support, and Education (O-SVRSE), which opened on March 27.
Controversy erupted on campus after Arts Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Board of Directors (BoD) member Igor Sadikov tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” on Feb. 6 on a personal account. The comment led many students and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) to call for Sadikov’s resignation. Sadikov initially ignored the requests, and votes to impeach him at the BoD and the AUS subsequently failed.
The SSMU Executive called for Sadikov’s resignation on Feb. 17 after a meeting between the Executive and Principal Suzanne Fortier and other members of the administration. The timing of the meeting drew allegations concerning administration interference in SSMU affairs. On Feb. 23, Sadikov resigned from his position on the BoD. He then resigned from SSMU Council on March 8, after allegations of abusive behaviour in a previous relationship surfaced online.
David Aird stepped down from his position as SSMU Vice-President External on Feb. 22, 2017, following a statement released by the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) calling for his resignation. The statement brought to light Aird’s alleged history of sexual harassment and sexual assault, highlighting the testimonies of survivors of this violence. The CDN came together as a network of survivors and allies who aimed to provide anonymous channels of disclosure for those who were threatened by Aird.
Aird released an official apology via his Facebook account, which was deleted along with the account on Feb. 23. SSMU President Ben Ger maintained that he was not aware of the severity of the allegations against Aird, and that complaints of harassment made in October 2015 against Aird were dealt with internally, through a series of ‘check-ins.’ SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat corroborated this account, stating that removing Aird would have been too difficult without an official allegation of sexual assault. The handling of this situation was met with severe criticism from many SSMU members, especially after student groups NDP McGill and McGill Against Austerity came forward stating that they had removed Aird from their executive teams due to similar instances of sexual violence.February
On Feb. 15, 2017, Universite Laval became the first Canadian university to declare its commitment to divesting from fossil fuel-related companies.This action came after pressure from a student campaign called “ULaval sans fossiles,” which had garnered support from much of the Laval student body, as well as the David Suzuki Foundation. The historic decision reinvigorated discussion around McGill students’ own divestment campaign, Divest McGill. Divest McGill first submitted a call to divest from fossil fuels to McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) in Feb 2015. On March 17 2016 McGill’s Board of Governors decided not to divest, based on CAMSR’s report which stated that actions of fossil fuel companies themselves did not cause “social injury,” and that divestment would not be an impactful movement against climate change. On March 7 2017, after Laval’s decision, CAMSR met again, while Divest McGill held a protest outside.March
On March 9, SSMU President Ben Ger resigned from his position, citing personal reasons. At a Legislative Council meeting later that day, it was revealed that Ger had been the subject of allegations of gendered violence. The remaining SSMU executives acknowledged that Ger’s own history of gendered violence had made him improperly equipped to handle the allegations against Aird. As with Arid, Ger’s responsibilities were divided up among the remaining executives, and SSMU VP Student Life Elaine Patterson was made Acting President.March