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On September 20, 2011, Provost Anthony Masi and Vice-Principal Michael di Grappa issued a communiqué concerning classes being held off-campus during the MUNACA strike. This followed an incident a week earlier in which a McGill professor was threatened with suspension for carrying out her academic duties by teaching off-campus so that she and her students would not have to cross the MUNACA picket line. The message from the Provost and the Vice-Principal was clearly intended to justify this threat in the eyes of the McGill community, and to intimidate other faculty members who might be contemplating similar action in support of their MUNACA co-workers.
In presuming to express “McGill’s position” on this issue – as if the senior Administration were identical with the University—the Provost and the Vice-Principal selectively invoked regulations which they interpreted as requiring that academic duties be performed on campus. They also suggested that professors who teach off-campus during the strike are failing in their obligation to students by inconveniencing them and exposing them to unsafe learning conditions.
We reject all of this.
Teaching off-campus during strikes is a practice with a long and noble history at North American universities, one that allows faculty members and students to respect their co-workers, and their own consciences, while still meeting their obligations to each other. The Administration’s aggressive disregard for the integrity of this practice displays the very same lack of respect for the University’s diverse constituents that has characterized its treatment of McGill’s unionized support staff.
We, the undersigned, call for the immediate removal of the threat of suspension against professors who teach their classes elsewhere while the campus is being struck and picketed. Our commitment to our students demands more than providing for their immediate convenience; it requires that we also commit to each other to protect the university as a space free of arbitrary authority and coercion.
We are members of the McGill community who believe in academic freedom, freedom of conscience, decent working conditions and fair compensation for everyone who works at the University. We respect the dignity of our co-workers. We believe in collegial governance. We are McGill.