We are writing to offer our solidarity in the aftermath of the events that occurred on your campus on Nov. 18 and to express full support for the general strike you called for Nov. 28. Like so many others around the world, we have followed the stories, photos and videos that emerged from your university and are horrified by the police brutality you endured as well as the inadequate response to it from your administration. At the same time, we are heartened by your steadfast actions and the ways in which you continue to mobilize as a community.
The struggles you face — massive tuition fee increases, cuts to public education and other social services, the securitization of your campuses and the criminalization of student dissent — are struggles that we face here too. On Nov. 10, 200,000 university and college students across the province of Quebec staged a one-day strike and 35,000 marched in Montreal against a proposed 75 percent tuition fee increase.
This demonstration was followed by a student occupation of the James Administration Building at McGill University to protest McGill’s unfair labour practices and central role in lobbying the Quebec government for higher tuition fees. The 14 student occupiers were beaten by campus security personnel and two hundred supporters demonstrating outside were clubbed, pepper sprayed, tear-gassed and ultimately forced off campus by riot police.
As you know, similar scenes have recently taken place at UC Berkeley and CUNY’s Baruch College, and these recall earlier confrontations in Puerto Rico, Chile, the United Kingdom, Greece and elsewhere. The students affected by these events all stand for the same principles: freedom of speech and assembly, accessible post-secondary education and the democratization of all facets of university life. Increasingly, crucial decisions about our universities are being made by a small but interconnected group of administrators whose primary allegiance is to the corporations that direct their governing boards, not the students, faculty and staff who make up our communities.
We have just learned that our own principal, Heather Munroe-Blum, sits on your Chancellor’s Board of Advisors. We are also aware that your Chancellor, Linda Katehi, has served as an advisor to the Greek government, which recently abolished the nearly 40-year old law that had banned police from entering university campuses upon her recommendation. These are not mere coincidences.
Given the international context of the challenges we collectively face, our student movements cannot remain isolated from one another. As we strive to build strong relationships across national borders, we can learn from each other’s experiences and continue our struggles knowing that we stand together in solidarity. The students of McGill University are with you, now and always.
The students of Nov. 10
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec