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The MCC Newsletter aims to be a venue for sharing and exchanging news and views from all sectors of McGill about University matters. This newsletter highlights both things relevant to specific groups and broader conversations—through MCC, we work together! Views expressed in this newsletter belong solely to each stated author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, association, or union; the constituent groups in the MCC; or the MCC as a whole.
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In This Issue:
Individual Groups’ Statements Against Racism and Police Violence
Student Column: Adam Gwiazda-Amsel
Member Column, MUNACA: Simon Deverson (Med IT, and MUNACA Shop Steward and Union Council Member)
Union Executive Officer Column: Thomas Chalmers, President MUNACA
Video Interview with Ken Hastings, founding MCC Member
MCC Statements Against Racism and Police Violence
We at MCC are interested in highlighting issues (such as racism) that affect our communities, and in sharing efforts that help build a more just, more equitable McGill community. Many individual groups in MCC (and at McGill more broadly!) have issued statements highlighting the ongoing importance of anti-racist work—including work around ending police violence and systemic racism. Here are a few:
Black Students’ Network of McGill “Black Lives Matter” resource page and statement: https://www.bsnmcgill.com/black-lives-matter
SSMU Statement on Anti-Black Racism and Police Violence: https://ssmu.ca/blog/2020/06/ssmu-statement-condemning-anti-black-racism-and-police-violence/
MUNACA Statement on the Murder of George Floyd: https://www.munaca.com/index.php/2020/06/03/statement-on-the-police-murder-of-george-floyd/
AGSEM EC Statement Condemning Racism and Police Violence: https://www.agsem.ca/post/agsem-ec-statement-condemning-racism-and-police-violence
PGSS Executive Committee, Joint Statement: https://pgss.mcgill.ca/en/joint-statement-regarding-ongoing-systemic-discrimination-and-violence-against-black-bodies
Student Column: Adam Gwiazda-Amsel (former VP External, SSMU, current BA Philosophy, and Economics undergraduate)
There’s a fun scene at the end of National Lampoon’s Animal House where Kevin Bacon, playing a college student working security at the homecoming parade, frantically screams, “Remain calm! All is well!” as Delta House ruins the parade and stirs up chaos. In some ways, the University reminds me of Kevin Bacon right about now.
It’s difficult to summarize the student experience because it is at once frightening and downright wacky. Students are afraid about the quality of their education, the security of their financial and housing situation, and their personal health. We are being inundated with emails from the Emergency Operations Centre, our faculties, and our student associations. A generation that grew up with technology, we too are growing sick of sitting in front of a screen all day in our search for a sense of normalcy and control. Where screentime was once an option, a way to check out momentarily from in-person obligations, we are now faced with the obligation of using interactive platforms to complete our coursework and access basic information. Many of us do not know whether we will be completing the fall semester--many more dread it--but feel they have no choice.
Despite student calls for a tuition rebate, McGill has remained steadfast in their promise of delivering a McGill education. Though it’s generally quite difficult to reach a consensus among 27,000 undergraduates, I think a collective chuckle in response to that statement is as close as we get. Nearly everyone is fed up with McGill’s attempt at transitioning to online education, which stressed out profs and students alike and often amounted to a live-streamed version of a lecture, complete with extended deadlines. Though we hope this Fall’s delivery includes a more innovative style and a variety of learning activities, I for one am not holding my breath.
For me, this means more time for community organising. With its added leisure time, the world is waking up and asking the crucial, “what can I do?” question on the issue of police brutality and anti-racism work. I will be encouraging my Zoom-avoiding peers to start looking at the causes that they care most deeply about; with hundreds of non-profits in Montreal, we will hopefully start to see a more community-facing student population that keeps asking themselves what they can do, and does not accept a “remain calm, all is well!” from a government (or a University) that is trying to convince itself that things are under control, when it is almost laughably transparent how untrue that is.
Member Column: Simon Deverson, MUNACA (Med IT, MUNACA Shop Steward, and Union Council Member)
Hello! I am one of the IT Support technicians working in MedIT. At the beginning of the pandemic we were extraordinarily busy! As well as doing the regular tech support role we also have our service desk role as well. The calls were coming in, thick and fast.
As is normal, when we enter the summer holidays, we do slow down from taking calls and turn more to project work. That will not be happening this year, as our team is still working from home.
Before I continue, this working from home—can I ask some questions? Is it alright if we do not like it? Would I be labelled a problem employee if I struggle with it? I mean if you ask me outright, my answer would be ‘Fine, everything is fine’. It is not really fine but, I am a little paranoid about sharing my real thoughts. Could I really say I really miss the office, the chatter and the buzz of a busy day? The variety of tasks I used to have?
See, I’m working at home with four kids under the age of 14, one with a handicap. That is a tough one. There are fights and tears. Handling that and Zoom meetings can be hard. If my workload slows down too much, what will happen? My supervisor has not spoken to me for a while, what does it mean? In the office you could ask directly, you could read body language.
The phrase ‘ça va bien aller!’, it used to be comforting, it has more of a wartime propaganda feel to it now. It is up there with ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ and ‘Careless talk cost lives.’ It is—more of a question: ‘ça va bien aller?’
Union Executive Officer Column: Thomas Chalmers, President, MUNACA
I hope you are well, safe and under the circumstances, as happy as you can be. One impact COVID-19 has had on our language, even if not spoken out loud, when you reply to a question regarding your well being with ‘ok’, it always comes with ‘under the circumstances.’
This global pandemic has thrown us all for a loop. Some of us have dealt with it better than others but we all have had our lives turned upside down.
Since the very onset of this pandemic the McGill Communities Council has met weekly, instead of the usual monthly meetings. We also have met with the Administration, until recently, on a weekly basis. One thing we have learned from our meetings with the Administration is that we differ on the meaning of communication. Most of us believe communication needs two parties to listen and reply, exchange ideas and positions. For the Administration, it only requires the other party to listen. This paternalistic attitude has been evidenced many times, and only leads to frustration on the part of the unions and associations and will only lead to discord in the future. Talk down to people at your own risk. By not collaborating effectively with the unions and associations, the Administration is missing an opportunity of utilizing our collective experience and problem solving skills. The myth of McGill being a number one employer is a house of cards. If that is true, why are more and more employees unionizing!?
What have we learned? Other than that the Administration does not understand the meaning of communication or collaboration, we now know:
To no one’s surprise, certain groups are treated better than others. For example, Course Lecturers do not have access to McGill’s Professional Development Fund to help with the COVID-19 crisis and remote lecturing; whereas Professors do.
Essential staff, who have been risking their health in keeping our university running since the beginning of the pandemic, have asked for some recognition and received naught.
The Administration is more concerned with ensuring that they get their money's worth from employees at home than community health and safety. They would rather risk the health and safety of all by bringing them back to work.
The COVID-19 Parental Leave, which allowed staff who could not work AND simultaneously fulfil their parental responsibilities following the closures of schools and daycares, has come to an end. The employer is not certain of the number of employees who are taking advantage of this program, but claims ‘it is only a handful.’ And yet, the McGill Administration is obliging those staff members to return to work at a time when it is difficult to find alternatives such as open daycare and day camps for their children.
The University would rather circumvent collective agreements by hiring graders to perform some of the functions that rightfully belong to TAs.
Despite the fact that things seem to be going better up north the second wave is coming. We are sitting on top of a country where things are deteriorating day by day, yet the Administration insists on moving forward with opening up! SERIOUSLY??
We recognise that all have had to deal with this pandemic, although it is easier for some that have the economic advantages that most do not.
Many staff are living from paycheque to paycheque; we cannot hire others to watch over our children or elders while at work, whether it be on campus or virtually.
We also recognise that we are in this together; however, does it not make sense to create an atmosphere of real communication and collaboration?
We ask the Administration to seriously reflect on their decisions and work closely with McGill’s unions and associations to the benefit of all.
Video: MAUT Officer, Renee Sieber, interviewed founding member of MCC, Ken Hastings
Watch it on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/aPXZtnzLXSc
What is MCC?
The McGill Communities Council (MCC) was formed, under the initial name McGill Citizens’ Council, in early 2013 following the tumultuous campus events of November 2011, and on the basis of a recommendation in the March 2012 MAUT Report on Governance, Protest and Security.
MCC is the only place where the whole campus community can come together in the absence (except by specific invitation) of the McGill administration. MCC is an intergenerational and interdisciplinary council. It comprises representatives of the various constituent groups that make up McGill: professors, lecturers, undergraduate and graduate students, administrative staff and managers, trades people, researchers, casual employees, and student employees. Our goals are to foster open communication across all sectors and to collectively consider issues that affect everyone in the university community. We don’t always agree, but we can use this venue to find common purpose on issues that affect some, or all, of our organizations. We are in this together!
MCC in the Time of COVID-19
Regular meetings of the MCC are held once a month. Since the shutdown of campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, the council has met once a week. This weekly meeting has been an important venue for associations across the University to discuss the central administration’s response to COVID-19, raise collective awareness of matters that may not appear in official statements from McGill, and build solidarity across associations and unions.