As most (if not all) downtown campus McGill students have heard, read about, or experienced, McGill’s MUNACA (McGill University’s Non-Academic Certified Association) is on strike. The strike apparently started on Wednesday, and the battle is over pension and health care cuts, as well as inadequate pay raises. McGill’s Vice-Principal of Administration and Finance has been sending e-mail updates about the strike (two so far,) letting students and faculty know what’s going on from the side of the McGill Administration. I don’t know all the facts or the issues in this situation, but I do know a few things that might give me an idea of what’s going on.
First, I’ve heard plenty of rumors from faculty and students about so called “cronyism” in the upper echelon of the McGill Administration. I have no factual reason to believe this is true, but I do remember how various student associations were stone-walled when the students wanted to prevent the closing of the Arch Cafe last year. The Administration was unwilling to discuss the issue, much less reach some sort of compromise. At first, they even refused to release the accounting books for the Arch Cafe to corroborate their claims that the cafe was losing money: a pretty clear declaration that the persons involved in the decision expect students to obediently do as the administration instructs, and not question the administration’s judgment. If the administration is using the same tactics when dealing with the MUNACA, I can see why they would be upset.
Second, the e-mails sent by the Vice-Principal are very neutral. Overwhelmingly neutral. The point of view of the e-mails is “this sort of thing happens, we’re working toward a solution, and we just want everyone to be safe while we work this out.” After reading the e-mails, if you haven’t already made up your mind about the situation, you start to feel like the administration is kind and understanding, and that they’re trying to calmly deal with rabble-rousers who are interfering with the school’s normal functioning during hard economic times. The e-mail goes so far as to imply that the protesters might become belligerent, saying that students and employees have the right to cross the picket line, and that students or employees who feel unsafe can call for a security escort. You feel yourself wondering what school will be like today, and if you’ll get into a shouting match with a disgruntled employee. It’s easy to forget that you’ve heard only one side of the story.
Third, having safely and calmly crossed the picket line several times, I haven’t once seen the face of a person who wants to stir up a conflict. I see the faces of mature, thoughtful people who are legitimately angry. That kind of calm frustration and anger doesn’t come from being worked up about nothing, it comes from being all but forced to accept unreasonable terms.
Now, I’m not picking sides yet. On one hand, I acknowledge that I have a bias toward the little guy, but I do have to acknowledge that “the little guy” can be just as greedy and/or pigheaded as the big guy (the demotivational poster about idiocy comes to mind.) From my perspective, the administration hasn’t done much lately to make me feel like a valued member of the McGill community. McGill students are treated, more and more, like nothing but a number, to the point where students using the library are referred to as “clients.” E-mails from members of the administration begin with a notice that they were sent “On Behalf of” the member in question. Whether this means that they wrote the e-mail and it was sent by a secretary, that it was written by a secretary from notes by that member , or if it’s just a formality that McGill imposes on official e-mails sent via mailing list, there seems to be a clear separation between the students and the administration. And it seems that many faculties are unwilling to work with students to help them get the most out of their education.
Please keep in mind that many things in this post are based on feeling rather than fact. I’m not familiar with the inner workings of the McGill administration, the MUNACA, the McGill Student Government, or the issues being discussed at the moment. I can only tell you what I see from my perspective as a student, and that I think the MUNACA employees are probably being absolutely covered in excuses and red tape.