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Senate adopts Statement of Values for protests on campus

Statement of Values and Operating Procedures adopted

McGill Senate passed a motion to adopt the “Statement of Values and Principles Concerning Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” with an overwhelming majority on Mar. 20.

The Statement of Values was created by the McGill administration in response to a student occupation of the James Administration Building in February 2012. The document is intended to provide guidelines detailing how protests, demonstrations, and occupations may be carried out on McGill’s campuses.

Although Ashraf Ismail, associate professor in the department of food science and agriculture chemistry, moved to table the entire motion and many senators voiced their criticism of the document, the motion passed.

Provost Anthony Masi reminded Senate that there were two consultation periods to discuss the Statement of Values, and said that the feedback received at the Consultation Fairs made it clear it was necessary that the university possess a document that states its principles on peaceful assembly.

Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management Peter Todd agreed with Masi’s statement.

“[It’s necessary to] strike a balance between those who want to study and learn and those who are expressing dissent,” Todd said.

Many of the student senators criticized the Statement of Values.

“[An] attempt to define peaceful expression is ideologically dangerous,” Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Josh Redel said. “Peace is personal, [and] defining it in two sentences lacks in empathy.”

Associate Professor of Political Science Catherine Lu, who has been a long-time critic of the Statement, told Senate she thinks that the Statement of Values is unnecessary.

“If we were the University of Tehran we would need this, but we aren’t, so I don’t see why it is needed,” Lu said.

Following the motion’s approval, Senate discussed the Statement of Values’ accompanying document, known as the “Operating Procedures Regarding Demonstrations, Protests and Occupations on McGill University Campuses.” The Operating Procedures outline the measures that the university and Security Services will take in the event of a protest or demonstration. Unlike the Statement of Values, the Operating Procedures are not subject to Senate approval.

Associate Professor of Political Science Derek Nystrom asked why Senate was not allowed to vote on the approval of the Operating Procedures. Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa explained that normal Operating Procedures for campus security services do not require Senate approval.

The Statement of Values will need to be approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) before coming into effect, which will likely happen at the Apr. 26 meeting of the BoG. The Operating Procedures are currently in effect.

 

edX and mental health discussed

Another major topic of debate at Wednesday’s meeting was McGill’s participation in the edX consortium—a not-for-profit enterprise comprised of several universities that offer free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). EdX was founded by Harvard and MIT. McGill joined edX on Feb. 20 without approval from Senate.

Provost Anthony Masi explained that approval from Senate was not required to join edX, as Senate had already approved the Achieving Strategic Academic Priorities (ASAP) plan, which had an entire section on technological pedagogy, under which edX falls.

Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson also led a discussion on both student mental health at McGill and student-professor interactions.

Mendelson said that mental health issues at the university are on the rise, citing the fact that last semester there was a 20 per cent increase in drop-in visits at the McGill’s Mental Health Services Clinic.

He also noted that 14 students were hospitalized at the McGill University Health Centre last semester due to mental health issues—a number much higher than the average two hospitalizations that usually occur in a semester, on average.

Wait times are also a concern, according to Mendelson, as students sometimes wait weeks or months to see a counselor.

“Mental health should be the top priority for student services,” said Mendelson.

Mendelson said that his team has explored several solutions in order to curb mental health issues. One would be to restructure the calendar so as to provide for a longer winter break to alleviate stress, while another option sought to create a mental health work group, which would “advance the overall health of students,” according to Mendelson.

 

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One Comment

  1. SlawomirPoplawski

    Ha, ha!!! “guidelines detailing how protests, demonstrations, and occupations may be carried out on McGill’s campuses”. It is like instructing angry men how to fight in Pubs (as for example: “first shout and only after it is allowed use of the right fist with …. ….”).
    Issuing such regulations shows that McGill behaves as a typical regime what clearly described Associate Professor of Political Science Catherine Lu at the last Senate’s meeting.

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