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Principal's response

To: Members of the McGill Community

From:  Professor Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Date: February 13th, 2012

Subject: Report of the Internal Investigation into the Events of November 10, 2011 


I write to comment on the Report of the Internal Investigation into the Events of November 10, 2011, by Professor Daniel Jutras, Dean of the Faculty of Law, and to describe elements of the response underway and planned by the Administration. 

Before doing so, however, I would take this moment to reflect on some of the qualities that are key to our McGill community, and which make McGill a special place to learn, teach, research, and work. Since the events of last fall, I have benefitted from hearing the views of a great many of the members of our community including faculty groups, student groups, administrative and support staff, alumni, and McGill’s governing bodies, among others. Many good ideas and suggestions have come forward.

The discussions that I have had with members of the community have reinforced the importance of our University’s culture of openness and respect, where debate occurs freely and where a diversity of views can be and are expressed. All members of the McGill community benefit from this environment and, as individuals, each one of us has a responsibility to promote and to protect it. The senior administration also has a responsibility to the community to promote and protect this culture and, additionally, to ensure the safety, security and well being of all on the McGill campuses.

With this in mind and on behalf of the McGill community, I thank Professor Jutras for his very thorough and thoughtful report. His report provides clarity to the events of November 10th as well as guidance on the actions that we should take to avoid similar situations in the future, and to strengthen McGill and the McGill community.  November 10th was a difficult moment for McGill and many members of the community, affecting people in different ways. Professor Jutras’ report allows for everyone involved in or affected by the incident, and for all in our community to pause, reflect on and draw lessons from it.

Professor Jutras concludes his report with six specific recommendations, all of which I have accepted.  Each of the recommendations resonates with myself and the University’s senior team and my colleagues and I are committed to addressing directly the concerns identified by Professor Jutras. In some cases work has already begun to deal with the urgent issues identified in the report; in others we look forward to consulting further with members of the McGill community. 

In the remainder of this memorandum, I have set out our plans for implementing each of the recommendations, as well as noting some of the actions already taken or underway.

 

Recommendation 1: University authorities should provide and participate in a forum open to all members of the University community to discuss the meaning and scope of the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly on campus.

McGill can only benefit from a dialogue on the breadth of free expression and peaceful assembly by members of the University community on our campuses. As evidenced by the events since November 10th, the latest being the recent occupations of the James building, such a dialogue is both necessary and timely. To this end, I have asked Professor Christopher Manfredi, Dean of Arts, to lead this initiative.

Professor Manfredi will chair an Open Forum and be supported by an Advisory Group.  The Advisory will include members appointed by our governing bodies and by Professor Manfredi himself. As a whole this Group will include faculty, students, administrative and support staff, and alumni or other engaged members of our community.  The Group will advise Professor Manfredi on the development and planning of the Open Forum that will include an academic panel and a series of consultative fora to engage broad participation of the University community, through which we will explore key and timely issues. Members of the senior administration will attend these fora to hear from the community.

At the end of his consultations, Professor Manfredi will report back to me on the proceedings and on the issues raised. I will share his report with the University’s governing bodies and the McGill community. If this report suggests consideration of further changes to McGill’s policies or procedures, these will move forward for deliberation at that time. I am grateful to Professor Manfredi for leading this Open Forum.

A more detailed description of the Open Forum is available on the following site: http://blogs.mcgill.ca/openforum-expression.

 

Recommendation 2: University Authorities should revisit the standard operating procedures of McGill’s Security Services, with a view to articulating clear directives or frameworks in relation to demonstrations, protests and occupations on campus.

As the responsibility for Security Services falls within the portfolio of Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance), I have asked him to review Security Services’ standard operating procedures, and to report back to me by April 15th, 2012. The Vice-Principal and his team are reaching out to McGill’s sister institutions to learn from their past experiences, especially in the Montreal context. He is and will be consulting and implementing changes as necessary.

Professor Jutras identified one urgent concern in his report, as follows:

One of the consequences of the November 10 events is that members of McGill’s Security Services sector do not feel confident about what is expected of them in relation to protests, demonstrations, occupations and other forms of direct action on campus. Mixed messages are coming from senior administrators, faculty, staff and students. Some security personnel may now feel reluctant to intervene or call for external assistance in explosive situations. This state of affairs is potentially dangerous and must be addressed promptly. (p. 42)

The Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) is seized with this issue, and has implemented appropriate clarifications. He will make further changes as appropriate, pending the conclusion of his review of McGill Security Services’ standard operating procedures.

 

Recommendation 3: Security Services should intensify its community partnership activities and establish fixed lines of communication with the different constituencies on campus, particularly with student groups and University community organizations. University Authorities should revisit the lines of authority, chain of command and channels of communication between senior administration and Security Services.

At my request, the Provost and the Vice-Principal (Administration & Finance) are working jointly, and in relation to students groups with the Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning), to develop recommendations for strengthening Security Services’ relationships with University constituencies, in particular with students, faculty and administrative and support staff, and to determine the optimal organizational relationship between Security Services and the senior administration. The Provost and the Vice-Principal are consulting with campus groups as appropriate in developing their recommendations. They will report back to me with their recommendations by April 15th, 2012.

 

Recommendation 4: University authorities should review their immediate response to the events of November 10 from the point of view of emergency management, and publicly address any concerns that may emerge from this review.

Early in January, I formally charged each member of the University’s executive team to review his or her area’s response to the events of November 10th from the point of view of Emergency Management, to take action with respect to any areas that they have determined require attention, and to develop plans and timelines for responding fully to areas of concern. They will report back to me no later than February 22nd, 2012, describing the results of their assessments. 

Some initial steps have been taken, to address concerns raised following the events of the fall, for example: reviewing and beginning to use available technologies to communicate quickly and effectively with the McGill community, and ensuring the capacity of Security officers and other staff to provide first aid in emergency situations.

 

Recommendation 5: University authorities should establish clear guidelines allocating authority to call for police assistance in the specific context of demonstrations, occupations and other forms of civic protest.

The Vice-Principal (Administration & Finance) has defined a provisional protocol to address this issue. The provisional protocol represents an interim set of guidelines, elements of which may be revisited as a result of the Open Forum. A formal protocol will be communicated by the Vice-Principal by end of calendar year.

 

Recommendation 6: McGill senior administrators and Security Services should continue to develop a working relationship with the authorities of the neighbourhood police stations (Postes de Quartier) and the authorities of the SPVM, with a view to establishing a shared understanding of the role to be played by the police, particularly its Intervention Group, in the context of demonstrations, occupations and other forms of civic protest on campus.

To improve communications and strengthen the relationship with the Montreal Police, including our neighbourhood police stations, the Vice-Principal (Administration & Finance) is developing a follow-up plan that will detail the means to achieve this end. He will report back to me by April 15th, 2012 on the full plan. Work is underway, and has been since immediately following the events of November 10th, to clarify the values and aims of McGill with respect to the relationship with police, to enhance effective communication with the SPVM, and to develop together the most effective means of ensuring the safety of McGill’s campuses. Additionally, recognizing that McGill University is a large and complex organization, situated in a major city, the Vice-Principal and I will invite annually the Chief of Police to meet with us on our campuses, in order to facilitate and grow mutual understanding and positive working relationships between the Montreal Police and the McGill community.

The University’s governing bodies and the McGill community will be kept apprised of progress in implementing the six recommendations.