McGill to implement Jutras recommendations, Senate told

Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Senators call for further measures

By McGill Reporter Staff

The McGill administration accepts and will implement all six recommendations in Dean of Law Daniel Jutras’s report on the events surrounding the campus protests of Nov. 10, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum told Senate at its meeting Wednesday.

Before confirming detailed plans for implementation, however, the administration will take into account the Senate’s discussion of the Jutras Report as well as any additional feedback from the McGill community, Munroe-Blum indicated at the outset of the Senate session – the first since the report was published on Dec. 15.

Jutras told Senate he hoped his report would mark “the beginning of a conversation” about the issues touched on in his recommendations. Those issues include open debate on the meaning and shape of peaceful assembly on campus; the mandate of McGill security services, particularly with regard to civil disobedience; and the need for continued dialogue with Montreal police and other off-campus emergency services concerning their appropriate role in on-campus disturbances.

Several senators praised the report for providing a clearer understanding of what happened in and around the James Building on the afternoon of Nov. 10, when 14 protesters occupied the building’s fifth-floor administrative offices and riot police used shields, batons and pepper spray to disperse a large crowd of protesters outside the building.

Some senators called for measures beyond those recommended in the report.

Sen. Darin Barney, the Canada Research Chair in Technology and Citizenship, cited a letter sent to Munroe-Blum last month by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which urged her to lodge a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner “so that the matter of the police presence on campus and the action they took can be properly investigated and dealt with.”

Systemic gaps and failures implied by the report’s recommendations, Barney added, are “inexcusable in the context of a university campus, where political protest is – or should be – understood as normal and healthy, especially in a city with a long tradition of political activism.”

Senator and Law Prof. Richard Janda said the University shouldn’t shrink from examining “difficult questions” raised by discussion of the report, including accountability for “collective shortcomings” in how security was handled and how the “securitization of the campus” prior to Nov. 10 may have contributed to the events of that day.

Senator and Architecture Prof. David Covo noted that, in addition to its formal recommendations, the Jutras report touches on the need for “substantive and symbolic gestures” to rebuild mutual trust between all constituencies of the McGill community. The report mentions “the social construction of space” within the campus, and particularly the removal of student services from the James Building. That transformation has reduced the opportunity for “chance encounters” between “a first-year student or a new hire and senior members of the administration on campus” – an issue that deserves further exploration, Covo said.

Student Senator Matthew Crawford, who was among the fifth-floor occupiers on Nov. 10, said the action was intended not as a “traditional occupation” with a list of demands, but as a way to “break down the alienation that apparently exists between members of the administration and the student body.”

The six recommendations in the Jutras report call for:

– an open forum for members of the University community to discuss the meaning and scope of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly on campus;

– revisiting the standard operating procedures of McGill’s Security Services;

– establishing fixed lines of communication between Security Services and the various constituencies on campus, particularly student groups and University community organizations;

– a review by university authorities of their immediate response to the events of Nov. 10 from the point of view of emergency management;

– establishing clear guidelines allocating authority to call for police assistance in the context of demonstrations, occupations and other forms of civic protest

– efforts to continue developing a working relationship with the neighborhood police stations and the authorities of the SPVM, to establishing a shared understanding of the role to be played by the police in the context of civic protest on campus.

To view the webcast of the Jan. 18 Senate discussion of the Jutras Report visit: http://bcooltv.mcgill.ca/Viewer1/?EventID=201201101279

 

 

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