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Beni Fisch

Elections SSMU holds its candidates’ debate

The Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its debate for candidates for this years elections last Tuesday. The debate highlighted recent tensions and turmoil on campus, and was widely followed by many students.  The positions which the candidates were debating for are those of the President and five Vice-Presidents: Finance and Operations, University Affairs, Clubs and Services, Internal, and External of the SSMU executive council.The first position to be debated was VP External -- a contest between environment and women’s studies student Robin Reid-Fraser, and political science and history student Raphael Uribe. Both candidates emphasized the desire to build more bridges between McGill and the broader Montréal community, as to allow students to “burst the McGill bubble”. Fraser expressed the desire to do so by encouraging the learning of the French language and having external Montréal organizations participate on campus events, while Uribe focused on promoting more exchange programs in order to increase the ties between the McGill community and other universities around the world.The debate became more heated when the topic switched to the ongoing Québec student strike. Both candidates pledged to continue SSMU’s ties to the broader Québec student movement, but acknowledged that things will most likely be different next year, in the absence of a strike.  Controversy among the audience arose when U1 Economics student Diego Zuluaga asked the candidates whether they would uphold students’ right to attend their classes in the event of a strike at McGill.Uribe stated that “it is a student’s right to decide whether or not to go to class”, and that right should be respected. Fraser on the other hand emphasized the necessity to encourage students to attend General Assemblies, but that a GA decision should be binding upon all.The debate then switched to the position of VP Clubs and Services, disputed… Read More

“Spread the Net” challenge brings Rick Mercer to McGill

The McGill campus had an illustrious guest this past Monday, March.  On March 26th, Rick Mercer, host of the CBC’s popular comedy show The Mercer Report, spent the afternoon engaging with students at the downtown campus. After serving burgers as part of a barbecue organized by the Engineering Students’ Society (EUS), Mercer took to James Square and had students participate in the shooting of a segment that will be on this week’s show.The visit came as the prize for McGill having won the “Spread the Net” challenge – an initiative set up by Mercer himself and Belinda Stronich. The challenge has students from elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions across Canada battle to raise the highest sum of money to buy mosquito bed nets, which are considered perhaps the most cost-effective way to combat malaria in developing regions.After a twenty-minute break following the barbecue, Mercer re-emerged from the McConnell building with his camera crew, ready to shoot the opening segment of his show. Students raised a giant mosquito net – symbol of the project – and chanted in unison “You’re watching the Mercer report on CBC – spread the net!”Remy Ventura – one of the co-organizers of the Spread the Net project at McGill – explains that this was the first year McGill has ever participated in the project. “We started fundraising with an email campaign to our friends and family. However, the bulk of the money came from McGill. We did a lot of smaller fundraising events to raise awareness: samosa sales, selling popcorn at Bar des Arts (a weekly event held by the faculty of Arts), collecting in classrooms and International Development Studies conferences, coat check at Blues Pub (a weekly event held by the faculty of Engineering), etc.Upon learning of McGill’s victory, Ventura organized Mercer’s visit alongside Monique… Read More

Police and the University in Canada and Brazil: A response to the McGill Daily

Needless to say, this month has been one of the most tumultuous in our university’s recent history. Support staff and students striking, protests against tuition hikes, the occupation of our administration’s building and the presence of riot police on campus for the first time in 41 years. I will not delve into the issues of whether the MUNACA strike is justified or whether tuition hikes are necessary or not – those have been dealt with enough times already. Rather, I want to focus on another aspect of the debate that has been largely ignored: the role of the police within a university setting.I was outraged when I read the article posted by the McGill Daily’s Editorial Board on 12 November (ref: Changed, changed utterly). In this article, the Daily claims that “The SPVM was using physical force, pepper spray, tear gas, and forcibly removing demonstrators from campus  – a space that is rightfully theirs.”Dear Daily Editorial Staff: never mind your over-simplification of a story that, as we have all learned, has many sides to it; never mind your drawing of a clear black-and-white, right-and-wrong distinction; and never mind the fact that you fail to even acknowledge the fact that there were some amongst the protesters who were in fact inciting violence - not to mention the fact that they occupied the private office of the university's principal. No, I won't go any further into these issues, for plenty of articles on the subject have been written on campus newspapers, blogs and other forms of media.Rather, I want to approach the issue of the police presence on campus through a comparative analysis between similar situations that have erupted here in Canada and in Brazil as of late.I find this debate especially relevant in light of recent events that have unfolded at… Read More

The unholy fight for the Holy Land

Last Wednesday evening (7 December) was the latest installment of the symphony of horrors that has been the GOP nomination race - this time with a Jewish twist. Gathered at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum, six devoutly Christian candidates fought over who loves the Jews and Israel more. Though exam-studying frenzy prevented me from watching the full debate, the highlights were more than sufficient to re-emphasize some long-running themes of this campaign. Rick Santorum bragged about the fact that his kitchen has “one of those tiles that said ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem.’” Rick Perry – the man who’s not ashamed to admit he’s a Christian – claimed he’s been to the Western Wall multiple times. Michelle Bachmann (the same one who has denounced Barack Obama as a socialist) recounted the story of how she left for Israel the day after she finished high school to work in a kibbutz - that combination of socialist and Zionist ideologies that developed in the late 19th century. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman also did their best to match such a laudable set of accomplishments.And through it all, where was Ron Paul? The Republican Jewish Coalition opted to exclude him from the debate over his “misguided and extreme views on Israel” – namely, his calls for an isolationist foreign policy, which would massively reduce foreign aid expenditures across the board (not just with regards to Israel), and his claims that Israel can fend for itself (which it has effectively been doing for decades). “He's just so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organization,” claimed the RJC director Matt Brooks. He is right – after all, what is the point of even having a debate if it’s going to be a ground for moderated and respectful exchange… Read More