New protocol sets protest guidelines

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012

By McGill Reporter Staff

Just hours after the resolution of the five-day occupation of the offices of the Deputy Provost by student protesters, McGill’s administration issued temporary ground rules for future demonstrations, protests and occupations.

In an email to the University community, Anthony Masi, Provost, and Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finances), wrote that despite the peaceful end to the protest, this “is not the way in which we would like to see differences of opinion expressed on our campuses.

“The events of the last few days clearly indicate the need to issue an interim set of guidelines that outline key issues and elements.”

The provisional protocol, which is intended to clarify what is prohibited on campus and what actions will be taken if the rules are violated, is drawn largely from the existing code of student conduct and is designed to keep a set of rules in place while the McGill community begins a lengthy process of consultation on what is tolerable when it comes to expressions of protest or dissent. Masi and Di Grappa noted that the protocol could well be modified as a result of that consultation process.

The protocol lists seven conditions that future protesters must follow. Demonstrations will be allowed provided they do not “compromise the University’s ability to maintain a safe and secure environment,” “impede the conduct of University activities,” “involve explicit or implied threats to persons,” “pose a risk to University property or assets,” “occur in private offices or spaces, classrooms, laboratories or libraries, or restricted areas,” “obstruct access to, or egress from, buildings,” or “continue beyond the normal operating hours.”

Protesters who fail to comply with these conditions may face “disciplinary measures under McGill regulations and policies covering students, faculty, and administrative and support staff or under civil or criminal law.”

In a statement issued just hours after the end of the James Building occupation, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum acknowledged that a lot of work must be done to bridge the rifts that have developed between various groups within McGill. “It is clear that there are differences of opinion in our community as to what constitutes an appropriate expression of dissent,” she said. “I believe that the unwelcome occupation of private offices and mocking and disrespectful behaviour towards specific individuals is not an appropriate or effective form of protest.”

The Principal maintained that regardless of how much people value freedom of expression no one has the right to take actions that may intimidate others or compromise McGill’s normal activities.

“There is a distinction to be made between the right to freedom of expression on the one hand, and the University’s policies prohibiting activities that hinder the regular functioning of the University, its administration, health and safety requirements, or activities that infringe upon the personal offices of employees,” she said.


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