Friday, November 11, 2011

McGill Sucks at PR and Then Some UPDATED

Given my stance on the tuition strike, I should make clear that I am not thrilled with how the police and McGill handled the protest.  I don't really have enough information about who started what, how much violence was used by the police and so on.  But, as Jacob Levy has tweeted, universities are places for free speech and that the students' safety (on campus anyway) is the university's responsibility. 

Yes, there might have been provocateurs in the crowd on Sherbrooke St, but as far as the reports indicate, the students on campus were just that--students on campus.  Would it have been that hard to ask for student id if they really wanted to separate the off-campus people from the students have a right to hang out on campus, go to class and protest?

The funny thing is that McGill is obsessed about its reputation, to the point that they are making all of the student orgs change their names to distance them from McGill, but the institution tends to over-react quite badly at times, doing more damage than a McGill Ultimate team ever could.

Again, I am pretty obviously opposed to tuition freezes/reductions, but they have a right to protest such stuff.  The university has a responsibility to make sure that whatever response occurs needs to weigh the risks carefully so that students are protected.  Seems to me that they probably fell short yesterday.

 Update:  Principal of McGill Essentially Blames the Cops (direct quote, only emphasis added)

Message on behalf of Principal Heather Munroe-Blum

I write to you following the disturbing events of yesterday. I was not on campus and did not witness the events firsthand.

Based on what I have been told, I have today asked our Dean of Law, Daniel Jutras, to conduct an independent investigation of the events and to report back to me on his findings by December 15, 2011.

I am taking this action based on the following information provided to me today:

Late Thursday afternoon, a group of protesters entered the unlocked James Administration Building and forced their way from a reception area outside the offices of the Provost and the Principal, pushing staff in the process. Some of them were masked and hooded. They refused to identify themselves.

Security personnel were called to deal with the situation. Over the course of a few minutes, they ushered most of the protesters back to the reception area, but a few refused to leave my office. These individuals were carried out to the reception area under protest, where they were then left undisturbed.

As a protest grew outside the building, apparently encouraged by social media messages from the protesters within, all exits to the building were effectively blocked by protesters, and employees who were trying to leave the building to go home could not do so. It was clearly a tense, stressful situation.

Security personnel called Montreal police. Four officers arrived to survey the situation. Police in the building did not speak with the occupying protesters or interact with them in any way. At no time were the protesters detained by McGill staff.

I understand that the Provost and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) spoke with the protesters more than once asking them what they wanted, and, about their plans and, ultimately, their desire to have the event end peacefully and safely. In exchange for a promise to leave immediately, quietly and peacefully, the Provost and Deputy Provost assured the protesters they would be allowed to leave the building with no consequences, including criminal charges, identification to police or disciplinary action on the part of the University. After consultation amongst themselves, they agreed and were escorted out by the Provost Anthony Masi and Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson.

The situation outside, and the presence of the riot squad, which dispersed the protesters by its usual means, was entirely directed by the Montreal police service.  

The presence of riot police on our campus is shocking.

We as a community, need to fully understand the events and the responses to them and I trust Dean Jutras will conduct a thorough, impartial review.
Hmmm.  Quick action to investigate.  And I would not be surprised if the escalation was out of the hands of the McGill folks.  Of course, the timing of the report, amid finals, is a bit problematic but it is really a short time from now.  Probably the best that can be done.  Interesting times ahead.


Anonymous said...

Any idea how much McGill had to do with it? I mean, obviously they called the police in the first place, but that doesn't seem unreasonable. The riot police only showed up after the normal police had been run off by protesters, and I have no idea how much (if any) communication there would have been between the police and the administration at that point.

Anonymous said...

Judging by exhibit a)
I'd say the University had a reason enough to suspect a riot. The actions of the riot police themselves notwithstanding I don't think it was an overreaction. You can't expect to intimidate the cops into drawing back and not expect a response.

Steve Saideman said...

Thanks for the video. I have to question the deployment of bike cops. While they are as armed as regular street cops, they reek of weeniness and so serve as a lousy deterrent.

Anonymous said...

True, it all seems like an exercise in mob mentality.

Steve Saideman said...

I am also struck by the fact that the protestors were shouting in French. Yes, a sizable portion of McGill students speak French, but it does suggest that the protestors outside were not McGill students. Or not.

Anonymous said...

The protests will have included some McGill students, but keep in mind this was the culmination of a long protest with ~10K participants at the end, and from what I saw of the people getting on the metro, they did not represent the people I see at McGill when I walk through campus. You don't grow dreads and punch metal spikes through your jacket overnight. There is no way to know exactly how many McGill students were involved in the violent part of the protest, but when you walk around the McGill campus, you do not see large politically-oriented cliques of people associated with each other. And definitely not a lot of anarchists. Even the Student Union folks are WAY cleaner cut than at the schools I went to in Ontario and BC. People at McGill are really serious about their education. Some get involved with things like this, but I'd say fewer than should get involved, because most people are too busy trying to pass their courses or exploring the city in what spare time they have. So, just saying, there was FOR SURE a large non-McGill delegation represented on Thursday.

Anonymous said...

If you watch the news for Nov 9th, the students who were preparing for this strike are mainly CEGEP students and students from UQAM. I am a student at McGill and all my classes were as normal as usual on Nov 10th and I don't know much abou the Strike until someone showed me the news from Nov 9th.

Moreover, people can strike on McGill Campus without any problem. MUNUNCA (some McGill staff union) is still on strike now around McGill. They started at the first few days on McGill campus without any problem. After a few days of making lots of noise and disturbing students' convenience, the court ruling made them to go around McGill campus. So there would not be any problem for students' strike on campus as well. What they did is that they went into the building and disturbed the work of the employees. That's the reason why McGill had to call the security and later the police for help.

If I were at their age, I would probably join those protesters as well. So much fun! No classes, no study. Who cares about those things, and who cares about your own future. It's the culture and society that makes students lose their responsibility for their actions.

Anonymous said...

How can an insider conduct an "independent" investigation? Holy oxymoron, batman.

Anonymous said...

How can an insider conduct an "independent" investigation? Holy oxymoron, batman.


It's wrong to assume that the Dean of Law is not capable of conducting an impartial investigation no matter his connection to the administration. Anything seen as less than objective on his part will greatly affect his credibility.