McGill Student Union Execs Go To Great Lengths To Protect Students From Scary Words

Last Thursday, the McGill student union (SSMU) voted to revoke suspend the club status of Choose Life, the pro-life group on campus. In light of that, I thought I’d revisit their “open letter” from the beginning of October (from just after that sing-a-long sit-in).

The SSMU Executive is incredibly concerned and upset about the response of McGill University to the recent “Echoes of the Holocaust” event, hosted by the SSMU club Choose Life. We feel that McGill University has not only disrespected the rights of the SSMU as the accredited representative body of all McGill undergraduate students, but also failed to protect students’ rights.

The university administration doesn’t share our willingness to impose our political views onto the student body! Shame!

McGill University has not respected SSMU Council and the SSMU Executives as representatives of the McGill undergraduate student population. When the SSMU Council passed a resolution officially and publically censuring the event “Echoes of the Holocaust”, the SSMU Council clearly stated that for Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson to permit it to go forward would disregard the desire of the Council. In response Professor Mendelson argued that this resolution is a tyranny of the majority. Firstly, this is an offensive misrepresentation of the purpose of SSMU Council. The SSMU Council was acting on behalf of all undergraduate students, both in its representative capacity and in reaction to many conversations with students. Secondly, it is worrisome that the Deputy Provost interprets a large percentage of students being outraged and appalled at an event to be a tyranny of the majority. The SSMU had hoped that he would consider the impact as well as content of the presentation instead of ignoring the formal intervention of students’ representative body by using the rhetoric of academic freedom.

How dare you not let us censor student groups! How dare you call our “censuring” a “tyranny!” Acamedic freedom is just rhetoric! If we don’t like something, we don’t want to anyone to hear it!

By ignoring the SSMU Council’s decision, McGill acted as an enabler for a group attempting to violate the SSMU’s governing documents. The resolution regarding “Echoes of the Holocaust” was passed because the subject and format of the planned presentation violated the SSMU Constitution and Equity Policy. Council did not pass judgment based on individual opinions, but on the constitutionality of the event overall. The SSMU did not censor Choose Life’s opinions, but the offensive format within which those opinions were being presented. Moreover the SSMU Council, as the highest governing body of the SSMU, has ultimate authority over SSMU clubs. McGill University must respect the right of the SSMU to govern groups under its jurisdiction according to its Constitution, Bylaws, and Policies.

They put that in the past tense… as if the presentation actually happened. How can they punish Choose Life for the format of a presentation that was never delivered? McGill can respect the SSMU’s role without being complicit in idiocy and blatant abuse of that role through political activism masquerading as “governing.”

The SSMU is also disturbed by McGill’s calloused disregard of its need to protect its students.

Ah! Words! Run! Protect us!

Or maybe it’s the images they want to be “protected” from… lest students witness reality!

The Deputy Provost has argued that the behavior of the protestors was disappointing and appalling. The SSMU understands that the disruptive behavior of the protestors impeded on an event which the University had permitted to happen.

However, the University has failed to address the concern that all other formal avenues had been exhausted, but to no avail.

We’re allowed to break the rules, but no one else!

Vulnerable students tried to communicate their concerns to the University through the available channels: the SSMU Executive, SSMU Council, AUS Council, the McGill Tribune, and the McGill Daily. There were no other avenues through which to stop this event, which they deemed as victimizing, offensive, and stifling of educated debate, from happening.

“Vulnerable” students… vulnerable, I guess, because the no one is protecting them from words?

Furthermore it is unfair to expect these student protestors to calmly watch a presentation and engage with a speaker when such a presentation would make them feel violated, demonized, and silenced.

No one was forced to attend… It’s unfair to expect someone who goes out of their way to attend a talk to respect the speaker?

In his February 27, 2009 article in the McGill Reporter “Free and Open Expression on Campus”, Professor Mendelson said that free speech should be permitted as long as “we do not create a hostile environment for members of our diverse community”. This event created a hostile environment and should not have been permitted.

Watch the videos. The only thing remotely resembling hostility is the protest. Ruba didn’t even get to present! Simply stating something doesn’t make it true.

It is possibly most disappointing that when students’ peacefully engaged in a public response to this hostile environment, they were removed through a police intervention. Administrators did not intervene at all during the height of the event, even after requests from the SSMU Executive to do so. Students felt entirely abandoned by the McGill administration when seeing fellow students removed from the safety of the downtown campus and handed over to the Montreal police and the public media.

They choose to attend an event sanctioned by the university, ruined it, and got kicked out and handed over to the appropriate authorities, and have the audacity to claim that they were “abandoned?” That the source of any hostility was anyone but themselves? Does anyone actually believe this whining and self-victimization?

I thought they were pro-choice. “If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one.” Hey, if you don’t want to hear the talk, don’t sit in the audience!

The SSMU has continually tried to serve and represent McGill undergraduate students in this situation, and will continue to do so.

Except if you’re pro-life…

We will continue to engage in a conversation with the McGill administration concerning their respect for the SSMU and our students’ rights.

And continue to disrespect the rules otherwise, since they don’t apply to us.

We will provide impartial information and guidance to any student defending any action to McGill or initiating a grievance with McGill.

Unless you’re protesting our callous actions…

Most importantly, as the representatives of all undergraduate students, we will hold ourselves to the highest standard of accountability to the SSMU Constitution, Bylaws, and Policies and to our students.

Except when we feel the need to impose our own personal, political stances onto the student body, at which point anything goes.

Seriously, these people are in charge?


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