Editor’s note: The McGill Tribune compiled a list of the top-10 most read Opinion articles of the 2017-18 year, reflecting, among other things, a year of controversial Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) action, growing discussion around the pervasiveness of sexual assault on university campuses and beyond, and continued criticism of the McGill administration’s shortcomings when it comes to student mental health.
1. Commentary: McGill students need a Fall reading week to maintain mental health
At Western University, two high-profile suicides led to the creation of a Fall reading week in the 2017-18 year. Meanwhile, McGill Health Services reported increased student demand for mental health support in October and November. In light of this evidence of stress that comes with midterm season, contributor Johanna Cline argued for the necessity of a Fall reading week. A month later, on Nov. 21, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens quashed the idea in an interview with the McGill Reporter, claiming that good “hygiene de vie” is all that students need to maintain their mental health. Subsequent student backlash to his comments—and SSMU’s adoption of the Policy on Implementation of a Fall Reading Break following a Winter 2018 referendum question—demonstrate the continued relevance of this article, and the rising demand for a Fall reading week at McGill.
2. Letter to the Editor: I work for SSMU. I’m giving the record some context
October 2017 saw drama among SSMU executives reach a climax: At the October 19 Legislative Council meeting, the rest of the executive team announced a position of no confidence in President Muna Tojiboeva, prompting Tojiboeva to write a letter to The Bull and Bear on October 20 to defend herself. Alison Gu, one of the 2017-2018 SSMU sustainability commissioners, provided context to the situation, elaborating on the challenges she faced while working under the President: “Tojiboeva never treated me poorly or unfairly; in fact, she was often very nice and understanding,” Gu wrote. “My concern is that it takes very little to be nice. A good SSMU President needs to be more.”
3. Commentary: The lesson of Lindsay Shepherd
Adding fuel to the fire of the campus free speech debate, Wilfred Laurier University teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd’s supervisor reprimanded Shepherd for screening part of a Jordan Peterson debate on gendered pronouns in her communication studies class. Contributor Keating Reid pushed back against Laurier’s perceived need for censorship, arguing that, in fact, university classrooms are some of the safest spaces to have these difficult conversations.
4. Off the Board: The guilty male conscience in the age of #MeToo
Since October 2017, the #MeToo movement has swept across Facebook newsfeeds and into campus conversations. A babe.net expose of a woman named Grace’s unsettling experience with actor Aziz Ansari sparked particularly divisive discussion around how society ought to understand consent, with some columnists coming forward in defence of Ansari. News Editor Domenic Casciato reflected on these skeptical, largely male reactions to the Ansari case, and to #MeToo moments more broadly: “I have never met Ansari nor has he ever been my role model, and yet, while discussing the article, I felt protective—almost as if I was being personally attacked,” Casciato wrote. “I later realized that this is the exact opposite of how I, and other young men, should have responded to Grace’s experience.”
5. Commentary: Who does SSMU serve?
In November 2017, following increasingly public divisions within the SSMU executive team, former vice-president finance Arisha Khan stepped down from her position, citing mental and physical health reasons. In this op-ed publicly announcing her resignation, Khan discussed her reasons for leaving, her experiences with fellow executives and on the SSMU Board of Directors, and the consequences of a student society that serves individual personal or political interests at the expense of those of the student body. “Recent history at SSMU has shed light on its failures: A lack of oversight, and blatant abuses of power,” Khan wrote. “SSMU can be better, and should be better.”
6. Editorial: Student mental health needs admin support, not “hygiene de vie”
The McGill Tribune Editorial Board
In a November 2017 McGill Reporter interview, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens attempted to assuage rising student mental health concerns and calls for a Fall reading week. It backfired. Horribly. In response to Dyens’ appeal to “hygiene de vie,” the Tribune editorial board gave the McGill administration a reality check on its hands-off approach to student mental health: “The Student Life and Learning Office exists to ‘support students inside and outside of the classroom.’ To that end, it is insufficient to divert attention to the logistics of implementing a Fall reading week, or offer self-care tips, in lieu of providing adequate—and desperately needed—resources.”
7. Laughing Matters: The agonies of email etiquette and prof dudes
Technically, emailing a professor is a menial task. Yet, as any stressed-out McGill student can attest, it is also an elaborate, gruelling mind game. So when Dean of Students Chris Buddle chided students for lazy email etiquette in February, contributor Isaac Berman set the record straight: “Based on my own enduring struggles, I can only assume that the entire McGill student population is already a neurotic, over-analyzing mess when it comes to using electronic mail with our professors,” Berman wrote.
8. Editorial: If SSMU Council won’t stand up for student press, students must
The McGill Tribune Editorial Board
In November 2017, controversy ensued after SSMU Council endorsed a “No” vote to the Daily Publication Society’s (DPS) existence referendum, putting the fate of two campus newspapers—The McGill Daily and Le Délit—into question. The referendum provoked a heated “No” campaign, with many students voicing disagreement with the Daily’s anti-Zionist editorial slant. The Tribune editorial board urged students to look beyond political divisions and continue to support their student press. “Regardless of current views on SSMU, the Council’s failure to endorse the DPS’ existence is shameful. It is a failure to endorse a diversity of independent publications—and, by extension, a critical, balanced, and representative campus press, an essential tenet of SSMU’s democratic legitimacy.” Ultimately, the DPS referendum passed with 65 per cent of students voting “Yes”.
9. Commentary: Why students don’t care about SSMU
In the lead-up to the 2018-2019 SSMU executive elections, contributor Kyle Dewsnap addressed the age-old question: Why don’t students care about SSMU? According to Dewsnap, SSMU’s lack of “political efficacy”—in other words, its inability to engage voters—is due to its executives’ incompetency and unprofessionalism. “SSMU is in desperate need of an overhaul: It must shift from being a playground for political-wannabes to a legitimate, necessary, and functioning governing body,” Dewsnap wrote. “Like in any democratic system, this kind of political shift requires cooperation between both the electorate and the elected.”
10. Commentary: “What were you wearing?” And other questions to stop asking rape victims
CW: Rape and sexual assault
Contributor Phoebe Balshin eloquently illustrated the harm victim-blaming inflicts on survivors of sexual assault.
“Words cannot describe the shame, regret, loneliness, fear, and sadness a person who was raped feels. It is of utmost importance that university communities and society at large do not further contribute to the problem by engaging in questions that offer perpetrators an excuse. Upstream administrators, as well as friends and peers, need to realize how their questions affect victims, and (prepare to) be there for support, rather than interrogation. Instead, ask a victim what you can do to help them. It is difficult to know how to support someone during a traumatic event, but it is essential to think before you ask questions, and realize that certain questions may haunt a victim for years to come.”