Familiar Territory

McGill Administration Building Occupied—Again

The James Administration Building at McGill University Photo Pierre Chauvin
Photo Pierre Chauvin
Photo Pierre Chauvin

Approximately 20 students occupied the 6th floor of the McGill administration building Feb. 7, calling it a “surprise resignation party” for Deputy Provost Morton Mendelson.

Occupying students also called for the administration to overturn a decision to invalidate the recent referendum.

“They had cake and they were wearing hats,” said Robert Ray, a McGill student. “For the past couple hours they’ve been dancing upstairs and trying to get him to resign.”

Following the original occupation, around 60 other students decided to occupy the lobby of the Administration Building. Security immediately shut down the elevators and blocked access to staircases, leaving the lobby accessible from the outside only.

According to several of the occupiers, the action stemmed from a growing discontent on the part of students, most recently aggravated by a decision by McGill administration to not recognize the results of a referendum over funding for CKUT and the Quebec Public Interest Research Group.

The administration maintained that the referendum questions put to students by the two organizations were vague, and that they would not accept the results.

The questions, both of which passed, would have allowed the groups to not be a part of the online fee opt-out system, which makes it easier for students to get their money back from student groups.

“The main frustration stands from [the fact that the] McGill administration keeps making decisions that we don’t agree with and are not in our own interest,” said Ray. “They closed the [student run] Arch Cafe, they’re privatizing space, selling big contracts for food.”

The student-run Architecture Café was closed by the administration in September 2010 after it was deemed to be financially unsustainable.

Around 2:00 p.m., Greg Mikkelson, a McGill philosophy professor, taught his regular class in the lobby of the Administration Building, next to the occupiers.

“I came here because all of my students decided to come here. We didn’t come here as a class,” said Mikkelson.

An hour later, McGill security delivered a written warning to the occupiers. The letter, signed by Provost Anthony C. Masi, informed students that they may face complaints by the administration if they didn’t leave.

The Provost warned of possible police action, writing that the “occupation of the premises may also be a violation of the law, and the university has not excluded any option regarding what actions it will take.”

The students in the lobby decided to continue the occupation in solidarity with the 6th floor occupiers.

On Nov. 10, McGill students had occupied the James Building, resulting in riot police entering the campus and forcefully dispersing students with pepper spray, leading to an investigation into the incident by Dean of Law Daniel Jutras.

This occupation, however, was quite different from the one in November.

“I think we both learned. This time we came in with music, we came in a much less hostile way,” said student Ariel Prado. “At the same time, I think that the McGill administration learned that you can’t make people shut up with physical force, especially on a university campus. It’s kind of a second home for a lot of us.”

Negotiations with the 6th floor occupiers were ongoing at press time, according to Director of Media Relations Doug Sweet. While Sweet did not wish to comment on the occupiers’ resignation demand, he did made clear the administration’s position on the CKUT and QPIRG referendum controversy.

“What was very clear was that the questions asked were not clear, because they were asking two separate things at the same time,” said Sweet.

“Did yes mean support for the organization, did yes mean a change in the opt-out formula?”

Stay tuned for updates, and search ‘#6party’ on Twitter to keep abreast of new developments.