Post-#6Party Thoughts

I’m increasingly immersed in my work out here now (yesterday I interviewed Tom Oberheim and Roger Linn–amazing and educational!), so this will be my last post on the #6party occupation, which ended Sunday when the police were called to escort the demonstrators from the building. (Also, I’d like to blog about other stuff.)

1. Regardless of what one thinks of the occupiers’ politics, tactics or tone, their actions were unquestionably brave and based on a clear commitment to principles. I was therefore quite disturbed by Michael di Grappa’s email to the effect that the administration’s first reaction to the occupation will be to find ways to punish the occupiers.

Despite my lefty overtones, I am actually quite law-and-order when it comes to things like wanton plagiarism (which I distinguish from accidental kinds that occur sometimes in the papers of first year students) and other forms of student academic misconduct (an area where McGill is unfortunately quite soft). But in this case, I think distinctions need to be made.

2. The administration’s new unilateral policy on demonstrations (which I am glad will be heavily revised) cannot and should not be applied retroactively to the demonstrators.

3. That policy is much too broad. It appears to allow for political speech so long as it inconveniences nobody and nobody is in any way made uncomfortable or threatened by it. Especially heinous is the idea that perceived threats to property not only trump speech rights but that they can be the basis of unilateral conversion of dissent into a disciplinary matter.

4. Already university security has singled out students and brought them up on bogus charges, this has to stop.

5. While I acknowledge that staff might well be scared of occupiers showing up in their offices, administrators could acknowledge that occupations happen and train staff to handle the situation instead of promoting a climate where staff are encouraged to fear our own undergraduate students. Administrators could also have left most of James admin building open for business and chose not to do so.

6. I also question the usefulness and integrity of casting all protests as potential threats, as the emails to all staff, faculty and students from Michael di Grappa and Jim Nicell have done. Let us not forget that the real, wanton violence done on campus last fall was at the hands of the Montreal police, who beat, pepper-sprayed and teargassed demonstrators and bystanders. As of yet, I haven’t heard reports of people injured by demonstrators.