Protest-related disruptions

Dear members of the McGill community,  

Over the past several days, individuals and groups on campus have been calling on the University administration to sever ties with Israeli institutions and cancel courses and educational opportunities connected with Israel. In the face of this situation, McGill’s leadership has heard multiple, competing perspectives expressed in sharp and often absolute terms.  

Concern about the violence and human toll caused by the devastating war in the Middle East is widely shared. Many of us—especially Palestinian and Jewish members of the campus community—are living through this difficult period with a deep sense of sadness, anger, and worry. I continue to urge everyone to think carefully about the deep impact of our words and actions on others and to engage as much as possible with one another with care and compassion. I also urge anyone who feels they may need it to reach out for support; resources are listed below.  

In this context, I wish to underscore the following points, which I believe are critical.  

First, as the University administration has expressed clearly and unequivocally on many occasions, McGill will not unilaterally sever its research and academic ties with Israeli institutions. Moreover, McGill will not interfere with the academic freedom of individual members of the university community to engage or partner with an institution simply because of where it is located. To do so would be wholly opposed to our institutional principles.  

Secondly, the University, and indeed Canadian and Quebec law, afford members of our campus community wide latitude to express their political views, including through words and actions that other members of the community may find offensive. However, that latitude is not unlimited: the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures is violated when the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly knowingly obstructs University activities such as teaching, research, and studying. The University’s protocol for dealing with protest-related disruptions and misconduct, where non-violent, calls first for efforts to de-escalate the situation through a dialogue between a university official and the protesters. In most cases, these efforts are successful; however, if protesters or demonstrators refuse to allow university activities to continue, the University will not hesitate to call on civil authorities to take action as they deem appropriate.  

In recent months, McGill has seen many demonstrations and other forms of protest centred on the same demands. These have remained within the bounds of our University’s policies and the law. Last Thursday’s protest outside the Bronfman Building was different. It forced all courses scheduled there to be moved online for the day, as protesters had blocked physical entry points and sent messages to instructors that morning announcing that Desautels Faculty of Management classes would be canceled for the day. While protesters did not, based on all available evidence, engage in illegal speech, their activities obstructed University activities, which is unacceptable. Over the course of the day, a counter-protest began, escalating matters further.  

In that situation, McGill de-escalated matters in accordance with the protocol referred to above. Our university cannot successfully operate with unpredicted interruptions that disrupt our activities. Such a situation compromises the rights of members of our community, notably those of our students who must be able to count on a campus climate that affords them a peaceful learning environment. Accordingly, I must stress that in any future instance where obstruction to University activities, or any other breach of our policies occurs, the application of the protocol for addressing campus disruptions referred to above will be swift.  

I recognize that this is an exceptionally fraught time, which makes it difficult to see beyond our own perspective on an extremely divisive and painful topic. Yet it is imperative that we all attempt to do so, and that the actions we take and the language we use on campus show respect for each other and for McGill’s academic mission.  



Deep Saini
President & Vice-Chancellor
McGill University

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