McGill, News

Queer McGill launches petition demanding removal of Provost and Executive Vice-President Christopher Manfredi

On April 1, Queer McGill launched a petition calling for the university’s Board of Governors to remove Christopher Manfredi from his position as Provost and Executive Vice-President (Academic). The petition came after Manfredi liked a post on X, formerly Twitter, which defended comedian Dave Chappelle for his use of transphobic jokes. He has since unliked the post. The petition also criticizes Manfredi’s recent email communications justifying police presence on campus in response to student demonstrations. As of April 8, the petition has over 290 signatures. 

Abe Berglas, the administrative coordinator of Queer McGill and the incoming Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President University Affairs, told The Tribune that the group created the petition after several of their constituents asked them to do so. They spoke to the importance of the petition as a way of holding administrators accountable for systemic transphobia.

“The petition is important to me because we’ve seen so many instances of […] high-ranking people within McGill getting away with having blatantly transphobic beliefs, which I think is really dangerous,” Berglas said. “So you’re seeing […] institutional transphobia […] coming from so many different sources, and there are no repercussions for the people who are saying it.”

One example Berglas gave of institutional transphobia is that Associate Director of Residence Life Daniel Fournier prohibited Queer McGill from putting up posters regarding institutional deadnaming at McGill in the winter 2024 semester. 

McGill’s Media Relations Office wrote to The Tribune that the group’s posters violated the policy surrounding posters in residences by targeting university administration and that “Residence Life is sensitive to the issue of deadnaming.”

In a comment below Queer McGill’s Instagram post announcing the petition, Manfredi apologized for “any hurt that [the like] has caused” and stated that he had contacted Queer McGill to offer an apology in person.

“Recently, I became aware that my X account had ‘liked’ the post mentioned [by Queer McGill]. It is unclear to me how this happened, but I may have clicked it accidentally. No matter what happened, I sincerely apologize,” Manfredi wrote. “That action does not reflect who I am or what I believe. I take full responsibility for this error.” 

The petition also condemns the university’s choice to have police intervene in recent student demonstrations.

On March 28, students protested against McGill’s complicity in the genocide against Palestinians through actions such as blocking entrances to several classrooms. The same day, the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM)—the union that represents Teaching Assistants (TAs)—picketed in support of the ongoing strike

In the evening of March 28, Manfredi sent an email to staff and students stating that the university had called police to campus because some protestors and picketers had allegedly engaged in behaviour in violation of the law and university policies. Manfredi noted that the police made at least one arrest and that McGill will press charges. 

Dallas Jokic, a member of the AGSEM TA bargaining team, explained that TAs have reported feeling less safe on campus due to police presence on campus in an email to The Tribune.

“McGill’s attempt to intimidate picketers by calling the police on peaceful labour actions is deeply disturbing,” Jokic wrote, adding that “Provost Manfredi’s defence of calling the cops on your own students and workers in the name of ‘respect for others’ is insulting and reckless.” 

In a statement to The Tribune, McGill Media Relations Officer Frédérique Mazerolle emphasized that while the university supports the right to free speech and assembly, this must remain within the limits of McGill’s policies and the law. 

“No one wants to see situations where police must be called to campus, but if people choose to engage in unlawful activity, McGill will take the necessary measures to keep its community members safe,” Mazerolle wrote. 

Berglas also noted that Queer McGill plans on taking up Manfredi’s offer to meet in the hopes of improving the safety of queer students on campus.

“I think I’m going to continue to try to act in a way that is best for queer students,” Berglas said. “[I]n this case, that is going […] to meet with him […] to see what we can come up with to make this campus safer for the people I represent.”

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