On Oct. 24, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Legislative Council debated a motion to ban “Blurred Lines” from being played in the SSMU Building, specifically at SSMU’s annual Halloween party “4Floors.”
Banning “Blurred Lines” from SSMU Building
After much debate, a motion to ban playing the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke in the SSMU Building failed, with seven votes in favour of the ban, eight against, and 11 abstentions.
Science Representative Sarah Southey, a mover of the motion, explained that the song, which is frequently played at SSMU’s student-run bar Gerts, had caused students to complain that its lyrics are “triggering.” The song has been widely criticized for promoting rape culture by trivializing consent to sexual activities.
“A triggering song is when someone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment directly feels a psychological response to that song,” Southey said. “This motion was written with the equity committee, and corresponds to the zero tolerance policy we have at McGill.”
Councillors in support of the motion said that the SSMU Building could not be a true safe space if others were feeling threatened or uncomfortable within the area.
Joey Shea, SSMU Vice-President University Affairs, said that banning the song would determine a clear stance by which SSMU would stand if such cases arose in the future.
“This song has symbolic weight which surrounds it,” Shea said in support of the motion. “I feel like symbolically banning the song would do a lot [….] It shows where we draw a line.”
Other councillors opposed the motion. SSMU Vice-President Internal Brian Farnan said that the ban would set a precedent of censorship.
“This is one of the scariest things I’ve seen in this Council,” Farnan said. “This will set a frightening precedent, when we start to ban artistic content in a student building in a university.”
Farnan added that a unilateral ban on the basis that the song is triggering would necessitate banning a number of other songs based on their lyrics, too.
“Outside of “Blurred Lines,” there are many songs that have equally or more so offensive and triggering lyrics,” Farnan said. “I believe that if you try to do this you have to understand the gravity of what you’re doing, banning a song for its content, and […] you need to ban all songs that have this exact same content.”
Law Representative John Simpson suggested alternative solutions to officially banning the song.
“Others have come up with other solutions that could achieve the same result without the consequences that we’ve been discussing,” he said. “For example, we could ask the Gerts management to just stop playing the song.”
Council did not make an official decision to speak with Gerts management.
McGill Vision 2020
SSMU Sustainability Coordinator David Gray-Donald presented a report on Vision 2020—a project aimed at promoting sustainable initiatives on campus.
Gray-Donald’s presentation was meant to further Council’s understanding of Vision 2020 and to help councillors reach a consensus in the future when choosing which environmental goals to pursue.
He explained that the second phase of Vision 2020, which encompasses the visions and goals for McGill’s sustainability, will include research, education, connectivity, operations, as well as administration and governance. outlined some of the ideas Vision 2020 is aiming for in each of those categories, including hosting student workshops on sustainability, embedding sustainability into course content, and creating networking events to foster collaborative research.
“There is tremendous power in student government and what resources you provide to students,” Gray-Donald said. “I don’t know if SSMU does all in its power to help students and support sustainability. That’s the sort of question that spawned my position three years ago, and that is the sort of question that we should continue discussing.”