Campus Conversations

Below we have compiled a list of conversations happening on campus. The intention is not for this to be a comprehensive list, but instead to serve as a way to provide context for some of the social issues that relate to safety and equity present within the McGill community. The entries are presented alphabetically, not in order of importance or priority. This list was compiled through consultations with many McGill clubs and services, as well as through information and opinions found in the McGill student-run newspapers and the students themselves. While we find this information important, as it represents actual concerns expressed by students, we also recognize that amazing work is being done by students, staff, faculty, and administration on campus already in response to these issues. We hope that this section will be a reference not only students, but also for professors and members of the administration who want to look at McGill from a student’s perspective. After a short description of each topic, we have included some resources born of this work. Head to our empower section if any of these topics inspire you to create a more equitable McGill culture.

 

It is important to note that all these conversations are complex issues, the views and information presented do not reflect necessarily reflect the views and opinions of all groups on campus.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

​Amorous Relationships Between Professors and Students

Professor and student “amorous relationships” are considered to be conflict of interest, as defined by McGill’s Conflict of Interest code (see section A1 for more detail). Some students have claimed that McGill’s policy does not go into enough detail about the problems which arise from relationships of this nature. Many students are of the opinion that the policy should be implemented more strictly to prevent these relationships from happening.

 

While this is an issue that is very openly discussed between students, some claim that the McGill Administration and faculty are less open about discussing the matter. Considering that these relationships are unhealthy and non-consensual by nature, in that they are based on unequal power dynamics, steps should be taken to prevent these relationships from happening. A professor holds significant power over a student, and could very easily use this power in order to take the relationship into places where the student is not comfortable going. Professors have the ability to grade students' work, give references for graduate school and for jobs, and the ability to mentor students. The student’s vulnerability at the hands of the professor and their desire to please the professor can make student-professor relationships exploitative. These kinds of relationships may also allow certain students to get preferential treatment. Read about the cases that have occurred on campus in the links below.

Related Information:

If you need support:

If you are currently in this situation with a professor, you may not feel trusting of any professors, even those that you have had good relations with in the past. This is understandable; however, other professors may have an understanding of your situation and may be able to offer good advice about what to do. Do not be afraid to turn to professors for support.

Contact a “Harm Assessor” — their jobs are to assess and support individuals who have experienced instances of harassment, sexual harassment, and/or discrimination within the McGill context.


Go see the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (O-SVRSE) or the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). You can also see our Alternative Resources List to see other resources in Montreal, or check out our Clubs and Resources list to see other options for support at McGill.

​Erasure of Trans People

The way that campuses are constructed and the policies that structure them can make everyday life difficult for trans or gender non-conforming students and staff. McGill is working to make more gender-neutral bathrooms and, through the efforts of groups such as the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) and the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE), clearly labelling those that exist. Gender-segregated residence halls and gym locker rooms are also being eliminated due to the way that they can alienate trans students. When universities enforce gender binaries in the physical space of the campus, in classroom conversations, and in bureaucratic documents, they can alienate non-binary and trans students and put forth the message that they don’t belong on campus. Additionally, many faculty and staff members at the Health and Mental Health clinic are not trained to offer the specific support that trans people need, which can lead to a failure to offer the same services supposedly available to all students. However, the McGill University Sexual Identity Centre (MUSIC) exists to offer specialized mental health care to individuals, couples, and families who want to discuss sexual orientation.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Check out Queer McGill or the UGE, or see our Alternative Resources List.

 

SEDE provides a list of gender-neutral bathrooms and you can check out our interactive map of gender-neutral bathrooms for more visual information.

​Indigenous Rights

As an institution with a history of colonialism continuing to exist on unceded territory, McGill has the responsibility of recognizing its participation in the colonization of indigenous territory and other manifestations of colonization and that the campus stands on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka people. Land acknowledgements occur occasionally and there is an Indigenous Awareness Week at the start of each fall term, but more needs to be done to create a space for indigenous peoples on campus, to support indigenous students at McGill, incorporate indigenous perspectives and histories into the classroom, and work towards recognition and reconciliation with the indigenous community. The Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education, which was submitted on the 21st of June 2017, is a step in working towards these goals.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Indigenous Students Alliance

 

First People’s House runs COUSINS, a mentoring program for new indigenous students who want to be paired with a senior First Nations, Inuit, or Métis student.

Indigenous Perspectives workshop given by the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE)

Contact the Indigenous Education Advisor:

Allan Vicaire

Tel: 514-398-3711

allan.vicaire@mcgill.ca

Lack of Affordable Food on Campus

A common issue affecting the lives of many university students is the lack of financial accessibility of university life. From the prices of textbooks, to the lack of work study jobs, and the overall lack of information obscuring more affordable options, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. One of most tangible ways that this manifests itself is the lack of affordable food on campus. The struggle to find a meal under five dollars on campus can negatively affect someone’s day by wasting their time, wasting their money, or wasting their energy if they have to skip a meal to avoid paying for overpriced food or if they have to leave campus to be able to eat. Student health is an aspect of student safety, and getting enough food while spending time on campus is necessary for health, comfort, and safety.  Check out our “Food for $5 or Less” map for some affordable food ideas on campus or nearby.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Check out Scholarships and Student Aid, pick up a copy of the School Schmool agenda from QPIRG, or take a look at our Financial Accessibility section. In addition, check out this list of resources for affordable or free food in Montreal created by Midnight Kitchen.

Lack of Funding for Mental Health/Availability of Appointments

The McGill Mental Health clinic can at times be challenging to access. Students facing mental health problems often have to face added stress in the process of getting an appointment. Wait times to see a therapist can be months long and opportunities for emergency appointments can be rare. In order to improve this, McGill Student Services decided to merge the Counselling and Mental Health clinics, meaning that there will be more practitioners available to consult. All clinicians will be under Counselling Services and all psychiatrists will form a unit called Psychiatric Services. However, this also means that students may not be able to access the specific types of therapy that they need and that students may be separated from the therapist that they were previously working with. The lack of funding towards mental health services also means that the eating disorder program has been cut and that there are no practitioners capable of dealing with students’ specific needs, such as those of trans people.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Get yourself on the waiting list as soon as possible for McGill Mental Health by learning how to book an appointment here. Here are some online apps and sites that offer free mental health services while you are waiting:

 

Check out the McGill University Sexual Identity Centre (MUSIC), which offers specialized mental health care to those struggling with sexual identity issues.

 

Also available is McGill Counselling Service PRIDE Team, which “offers services by therapists who recognize the specific needs and challenges of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans*, Queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals.”

 

Mental health clinics in Montreal with a sliding scale

QPIRG’s list of mental health clinics and locations for active listening

​Lack of Transparency in Cases of Violence Between Students

Various students and student groups have pointed out that McGill has a lack of institutional transparency, especially in relation to how it handles cases of violence between students in terms of the specific measures taken to discipline the perpetrator. This poses an issue and can be distressing to the survivors of incidents of violence, as they are left unaware of whether the perpetrator was punished and what the punishment entailed, and if the perpetrator remains on campus. The lack of transparency can stall community healing, as the community is left with the impression that there were no consequences for the acts of violence perpetrated. While this lack of transparency exists in order to protect the anonymity of those involved, there needs to be measures in place to promote community healing and the survivor’s needs when incidents occur.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Check out the Office for Sexual Violence Response. Support and Education (O-SVRSE) or the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). You can also see our Alternative Resources List to see other resources in Montreal, or check out our Clubs and Resources list to see other options for support at McGill.

 

Contact an “Assessor” — their jobs are to assess and support individuals who have experienced instances of harassment, sexual harassment, and/or discrimination within the McGill context.

McGill Policy Against Sexual Violence

For years leading up to the creation of a Policy Against Sexual Violence at McGill, students and survivors have been advocating and fighting for its creation. In collaboration with students and student groups, the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group developed a comprehensive policy proposal, only to have it rejected by the administration. On September 12, 2016, McGill released a Draft Policy for Sexual Violence, and on December 1, 2016, the McGill Senate passed the new Policy Against Sexual Violence, which was lauded for its pro-survivor focus and the promise of a new sexual assault centre with trained staff. Some criticism was levied against the policy for not having clear punishments for perpetrators, not addressing the disciplinary process past the filing of a report, the lack of measures to ensure that the policy will be followed, and many other concerns. Many responses to McGill’s Sexual Assault Policy express an attitude that it is a step in the right direction, and suggest the importance of continued work and effort to further develop this policy and combat sexual violence on McGill’s campus. Since this policy, the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (O-SVRSE) has been created. This included the hiring of a new sexual violence response advisor who supports all McGill members impacted by sexual violence and who may want to file a report at McGill or to the police. This advisor, called the Senior Equity and Inclusion Officer (SEIO), oversees the operation of McGill’s Policy against Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law. In addition, an adhoc panel has been assembled to compile a survey about sexual violence within the McGill community. The O-SVRSE has also organized a consent campaign, which aims to give students the tools to engage in sexual violence prevention.

Related Information:

If you need support:

Check out the O-SVRSE or the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). You can also see our Alternative Resources List to see other resources in Montreal, or check out our Clubs and Resources list to see other options for support at McGill.

 

McGill has a policy entitled Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law. Complaints against the policy can be made to a Harassment Assessor — their jobs are to assess and support individuals who have experienced instances of harassment, sexual harassment, and/or discrimination within the McGill context. SACOMSS and the O-SVRSE can also assist someone in filing a complaint.

Here is a list of sexual assault resources on campus compiled by the Office of the Dean of Students.

​Physically Inaccessible Campus

While most of the buildings on the McGill campus have at least one accessible entrance, a lack of physical accessibility of the campus is an important issue that needs to be addressed. There should be more university policies that ensure the mobility of its students with disabilities. Periods of construction can make the issue worse. There is work being done to address this, as McGill is currently reassessing the accessibility of its buildings, and the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) provides resources and support for students experiencing barriers to accessibility.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

OSD’s resources

Universal Design Video

Accessibilize Montreal

Check out our map page to consult the campus accessibility maps created by the OSD.

Racial Diversity

McGill’s academic staff is lacking diversity, with only 14.2 percent self-identifying as a visible minority. Some students feel that McGill should show more commitment to promoting diversity within the McGill community. Diversity in staff and faculty promotes student safety and equity in that academic curricula and counselling for issues such as mental health or financial situations are impacted by diverse perspectives. Among other things, this lack of diversity can result in feelings of isolation or alienation among racialized students. This is seen in class syllabi that often focus mainly on traditional Western thought. McGill faces challenges in hiring new staff owing to reasons such as austerity measures limiting financial resources, Quebec law requiring new immigrants to learn French, oftentimes deterring professors from other countries from applying to McGill, and the fact that faculties are responsible for hiring, making the implementation of normalized hiring practices difficult. Being “othered” on a campus that is primarily white and middle-class is extremely alienating. Instances of racism and Islamophobia against students have been reported on campus and they are unacceptable.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

The Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) has resources and recommendations for various race-based support services on campus and in Montreal.

Contact the Equity Educational Advisor (Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity).

Refer to our Clubs and Resources list in order to find a group that may be already working in light of these issues to make campus safer and more equitable or may be able to offer support.

SSMU Scandal

In the past year, there has been a reevaluation of the way that sexual violence is dealt with within the context of SSMU leadership. When two members of the SSMU executive resigned due to allegations of sexual and gendered violence in the 2017 winter semester, SSMU and the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) hosted an open forum in order to create and implement a SSMU gendered and sexualized violence policy. The CDN is helping SSMU adapt a pro-survivor policy that would train SSMU executives to respond adequately to disclosures of sexual violence. Additionally, they are hosting discussions and workshops for students to discuss sexual violence disclosures. These actions are necessary to ensure that SSMU has the resources and internal structure necessary to support survivors on campus. The CDN declares in their statement that their “goals in working with SSMU are to create a pro-survivor document that protects the SSMU community, and also to ensure that resources and outlines of procedures are made as accessible as possible to survivors without them having to first disclose to someone and/or while remaining anonymous.”

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Check out the Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Harm Reduction (O-SVRSE) or the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS). You can also see our Alternative Resource List to see other resources in Montreal, or check out our Clubs and Resources list to see other options for support at McGill. Here is a list of glossary terms for discussing sexual assault in a way that is pro-survivor.

 

Here is a list of sexual assault resources on campus compiled by the Office of the Dean of Students.

 

Check out Femifesto’s amazing toolkit which provides ways to think about and discuss sexual violence in a way that promotes consent culture and which is pro-survivor.

Student Code of Conduct Reform

Many students have highlighted that the Student Code of Conduct poses issues and fails to adequately protect students as it only gives McGill jurisdiction to intervene when issues arise and/or incidents occur within the “university context.” This vague concept means that McGill can only intervene to protect survivors/victims and punish perpetrators when incidents occur either on campus or at McGill sanctioned events. Some argue that the Student Code of Conduct needs to be amended to broaden the definition of the “university context” in order to better protect students and ensure McGill has greater institutional accountability when incidents between students occur off-campus. The Dean of Students in currently reviewing the Code of Student Conduct. If students want to get involved they can contact the dean directly at chris.buddle@mcgill.ca.

 

Related Information:

 

If you need support:

Consult the Know Your Rights campaign, or you can go to the Legal Clinic for further information on your rights as a student.

Want to do something about these issues?

 

Check out our Empower section for more inspiration and tools to create change on campus and in the McGill community that furthers safety, equity, inclusion, and accessibility on campus.

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