a, Opinion

Goodbye and good riddance

When people ask me about my post-graduation plans, I often tell them that I’m done with school. I’m looking for a job on a midterm campaign, I tell them, and maybe I’ll head to law school somewhere down the line. But what I invariably add is that I’m not actually done with school, I’m done with McGill. For the past four years this university has been at best exasperating and at worst downright hostile. Through a mélange of inept bureaucracy, rampant grade deflation, and insufferably pretentious and hypocritical undergrads, McGill has routinely been a source of immense frustration.

While I don’t hesitate to brag about my school’s academic pedigree, or whip out the latest turn of phrase gleaned from my latest political science course pack, my praise for what will soon be my alma mater is rather forced. When pressed to elaborate on what I enjoy most about going to McGill, I often cite examples from beyond the confines of the Roddick and Milton Gates. Montreal is a wonderful city, the French immersion is invaluable, the community is warm and accepting, and my friends are among the best people I’ve ever met. However, with the exception of the latter, none of these redeeming qualities hold any extensive ties to this school. A stubbornly anglophone faculty and student-body—coupled with a general atmosphere of superiority—make McGill an island in this francophone metropolis, while the competitive nature of over 20,000 highly qualified students all vying for the same internships makes conferences an act of both preening and self-loathing.

What I have found most frustrating though is the degree of universal indifference and exclusivity that permeates nearly all aspects of McGill life. Never one to offer a helping hand, McGill’s student services are more than happy to let you drown unless you explicitly ask for a lifeline. Whether it’s fulfilling graduation requirements, applying to study abroad, or getting an appointment with student health services, McGill’s administrative and departmental offices are never forthcoming in providing students the tools they need to succeed. Rather they are hidden behind a web of paperwork, outdated and poorly organized filing systems, and scorn for what many faculty and staff see as spoiled students reliant on handholding.

Among students, McGill is lacking in a substantive and hospitable campus culture. Unwilling to coalesce around sports like many other public universities, McGillians are seemingly united only in times of divisiveness. The single largest gathering of students I’ve ever seen was the infamous 2012 Arts General  Assembly,  which brought together thousands of disgruntled and ideologically motivated students for six excruciating hours of caustic debate, recounts, and general vitriol—all of which failed to resolve the issue despite such a massive degree of involvement. Never have I seen a concerted effort on the part of any student organization to actively bring together and involve students with SSMU, the university, or even general social or academic issues. Although many groups will put on an air of openness and inclusivity, it’s as if McGill is one giant mixer where everyone greets each other with a closed fist.

Lastly, there is the rampant hypocrisy that characterizes much of the campus discourse. As a loud and ever-present voice for social justice and staunch opponent of human oppression, the McGill Daily is nonetheless happy to publish article after article brimming with anti-Semitic venom. Look no further than last week’s feature, which not only sought to legitimate a fringe anti-Zionist Jewish group (viewed by many Jews in the way that most Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church) but actively perpetuated grossly offensive stereotypes, such as Jews owning the media and the Israel lobby’s (imaginary) iron grip on Western political institutions.

The duplicity continues with SSMU, which for all its posturing as the sole representative of McGill’s undergraduates puts extraordinarily little effort into providing services in French. Not only is the SSMU executive routinely made up of all anglophone students, but every GA I’ve been to has lacked an English-French interpreter, has had an entirely English agenda, and has seen questions asked only in English, with no translation offered. Moreover they have never bothered to link their efforts towards preventing racist or culturally insensitive costumes at Four Floors to the larger issue of the systematic underrepresentation of people of colour and other visible minorities in the student body, faculty, and staff, despite a mandate which calls for the inclusion and acceptance of these groups.

Am I happy I went to McGill? Yes, the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met here simply don’t exist in North Carolina. Did I get a world-class education from a prestigious academic institution? Absolutely. But given this school’s blanket antagonism towards harmony and unity, I can safely say that the degree I receive this June will be my last from McGill.


Daniel Braden is the creator and curator of “McGill Memes.”

An abridged version of this article appears in the Feb. 4 issue of the Tribune.

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  1. Guess there’s a reason the Opinion section is, in fact, an opinion. Pretty disappointed that this kind of poor writing makes its way into campus media to begin with.

  2. I understand the desire for inclusive services such as translation at a GA, but logically, wouldn’t someone at that assembly be a student or staff member of McGill University and therefore need to be able to speak English to understand their courses? You’re doing exactly what you claim to despise – making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  3. You make Quebec Anglos sound like a bunch of Apartheid-lite oppressors, while in fact they are the target of constant Francophone discrimination. Anglos have centuries of presence in Quebec, Canada is a bilingual city, so why should Anglos be censored for failing to bend over to offer French services?

  4. Class of 2013

    For anyone who has not seen the ostracization of anglophones in Quebec, please refer to the link below. It is quite sad to see that today, in the 21st century, we still have countless examples of discrimination.
    I am a McGill Graduate from the Class of 2013. I am proud to say that I lived and studied in a bilingual city. I am proud to say that while I am not quite fluent in French, the immersion in the language has given me a cultural enrichment, which I would not have experience had I gone to school in the United States. HOWEVER, I am quite embarrassed by the hypocrisy of McGill’s bureaucracy. If it is “Canada’s Harvard” as it has been dutifully nicked name, how is it that the average graduating GPA is a 3.11 (see link below). In my second year at McGill, I had 4 examinations in 3 days. The year I graduated, I had an exam schedule in which I had to write 2 exams and 1 30-page term paper in the course of 24 hours. McGill’s student services did not find this an acceptable excuse for deferral.
    Additionally, McGill’s Mental Service facilities are unable to accommodate the large number of stressed and depressed students. Many of the students that seek mental health services are indeed international students that are studying in English the first time. Things at McGill have to change. Not just for our current students, but for the school’s future legacy. While the school may not be able to combat the hostility towards anglophones within the city, it can change its attitude towards how it treats its own students. McGill, it is your responsibility to change for your future students.



  5. Pretentious? Take a good look in the mirror. Or, you could just reread what you’ve written above. You’ll then see a true example of hypocrisy.

  6. I agree with most of this, but its not right to call anybody who criticizes the Israeli occupation of Palestine anti-semitic, nor is it fair to compare Jews who oppose zionism to the Westboro Baptist Church. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of the way Israel has treated its muslim neighbors, and shouting “anti-semite” at anybody who voices them is not a valid argument. And there is nothing imaginary about the millions of dollars AIPAC spends lobbying the US government every year.

    • I agree with you. Of course criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. However, the kind of theoretical, Westernized, totally removed from reality “anti-Zionism” seen on this campus, and in the West in general, is totally impractical. It’s not about making recommendations on what Israel should do on X or Y issue and it’s DEFINITELY not about making peace in the Middle East. Cause the truth is that you guys don’t want to see peace, because why should you care, it’s not your life at risk. What you’d like is for all 10 million plus Jews currently living in Israel (most of whom have been living there for generations) to just “getting the fuck out”, or else lay on their back and get slaughtered by their enemies, because you heard in some newspaper that X and Y and all your leftist friends think this or that, and “in a perfect world”… Sorry but no. YOU get the fuck out. Canada is covered in blood, yet you all live here comfortably, spouting your venom at others to try and displace the guilt you feel when Canadians are 10 million times more guilty than any Israeli. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a CONFLICT, with two sides. I welcome seeing more discourse on campus, or anywhere really, that is practical, objective, and full of solutions, but I haven’t seen any yet, and it’s all coming from one side so it’s hard to take it seriously.

  7. As for the completely inaccurate comments about the SSMU General Assembly, in which they did have a whisper translator available at every GA for the past 2 years, maybe you would have noticed if you didn’t spend your time insulting and belittling on twitter (in poor taste) the very people who are there trying to solve the many problems you complain about

  8. this is perfect, my sentiments exactly, thank you daniel!

  9. Does this mean McGill meme’s ends with his graduation?

  10. “Was my eduction awesome? Well, yeah, I guess.” “Am I pissed off
    about the saltines in the lunch room? FUCK YES I AM.” Get over it, you douche.

  11. You are the quintessential above-it-all McGill arts student that I dreaded sitting beside in my history classes! Do you also one-up your peers comments in your poli sci conferences by saying “I’d like to add to that..”? McGill University exists to provide a great education to it’s students – not to create great memories for ungrateful students! Personally, I had a great time at McGill, and yes, while you do feel the stress as soon as you walk on campus, I am grateful for the challenges it provided me with and the brilliant professors I learned from.

  12. It takes a little while before one can accurately assess their four years at McGill. I graduated in May, 2013 and I’ve had the time to reflect a little on my four years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really did not enjoy my time there at all. I had my group of friends, but that’s about all really. I regret going to McGill, I think.

  13. “Grade deflation”= “I thought I was super hot shit in high school and when I came to university discovered there were thousands of people there just as smart and hard-working as me or more so, and was upset to receive worse grades for he same amount of effort I had always given.”

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