Get Your Shit Together, McGill

Graphic: Cairo Justice

McGill, if you’re going to give a free conference with an internationally known figure, you should taken steps to ensure that it doesn’t collapse into a shitshow.

The Association of McGill University Support Employees—the workers who would normally organize conferences like this one—were on strike for a higher wage and benefits. They had volunteers to replace them, they said, but I didn’t see one all night.

I got to the Leacock building around 1:45 p.m., for the talk at 7 p.m. The closer it got to 7 p.m., the more chaotic it got. Hundreds of people poured inside and sat wherever they saw fit while students shuffled around them to class.

With no organizers, the line in front of us got thicker as more and more people cut and shoved. By 6 p.m., little stampedes ensued as the funnel-like-line lurched forward.

Someone posted online that a public livestream would be made available, and I gave up and left the mass to find a calmer place to tune-in. The majority of people stayed put in the horde that stretched all the way to McTavish St. All this happened in two hours with no word from McGill—from anyone.

People finally started filing into the room around 7:45 p.m. (3:45 a.m. for Snowden in Russia), and the event didn’t start till around 8:10. I’m told there was a scramble to set up an overflow room.

Organizers didn’t even hide the Google hangout URL, so the video call was interrupted repeatedly. Snowden even had to ask interrupters to mute their computer microphones.

For the grand finale, a screen took over the conference showing the arm and chest of someone lying in bed. It popped up three times before McGill cut connection with Snowden, who looked like he was struggling to stay focused.

After making him wait more than an hour over schedule, their control of the chat was cringe-worthy. McGill should’ve held the event in a larger venue, communicated with AMUSE, announced a live stream before the day of the event to save thousands of people time and energy, and created an environment that made the lecture as smooth as possible for a person as important as Edward Snowden, who literally gave up everything to share information about the U.S. government.

He deserves a little respect, nahm’sayin?