Until now, students who wanted to avoid crossing the picket line in solidarity with MUNACA could not do so because of their required presence on campus. Fortunately for these students, SSMU proposed an “academic amnesty” measure to McGill’s Senate that could offer them some protection from any penalties they might otherwise incur.
“Students can suffer academically in an environment when they don’t feel like they have the support that they need,” Emily Yee Clare, SSMU VP of University Affairs, explained.
This prompted the SSMU caucus in McGill’s Senate to put forth the proposed motion.
SSMU VP Clare believes that students suffer not only from a lack of support because of the MUNACA strike, but also suffer a moral quandry between doing what they believe is right, and attending class.
The motion attempts to address key areas of concern regarding university policy and academic conduct by providing students with the protection and support to express individual perspectives surrounding the strike, at any level of moral and/or ethical conflict. In such cases, an Academic Amnesty would provide students with the choice to abstain from certain academic commitments without penalty.
“Even if the tendency may be for people to use [this motion] to justify more political, moral and ethical reasoning, we really just want the motion to stand on its own merit,” Clare said.
For some students, crossing the MUNACA picket line presents a moral dilemma.
“Whether you cross the picket line or not is a personal choice, but I think it is one that we should be allowed to make and students and professors who do so should not be punished,” Sean Phipps, a concerned U2 student, said.
“I understand the practical difficulties of this amnesty, but I still feel SSMU is right in pushing for it, even if just on the grounds of principle alone,” Phipps said.
There is some concern that the Academic Amnesty policy could be misused. The motion attempts to address these issues with provisions that make notifications of all future absences mandatory 72 hours in advance. In addition, there have been restrictions placed on specific academic commitments from which a student can abstain. These include those that will affect the students’ final grade and opportunity of passing a course.
Despite these provisions, some still criticize the motion as being too far reaching, and even detrimental to students.
“By not crossing picket lines to attend university classes, [students] are ultimately just hurting themselves, not making a great stand for humanity,” Chelsea Gilliam, U3 Science, said.
The motion will be voted on by a secret ballot, which is done to prevent the political dilution of the motion itself and avoid any further disputes which may alter the results in any way. The vote is scheduled to occur at Senate this Wednesday Oct. 19 at 2:30 p.m.