Next steps: update on the lower field encampment (2024)

Dear Members of the McGill Community,

I am writing to share important updates since we last presented our offer to the McGill members of the encampment.

Since the encampment started more than 50 days ago, we have seen a series of completely unacceptable incidents take place and have sought assistance from the police to address these matters.

In the spirit of openness and transparency, I shared with you the revised offer made to McGill members of the encampment on June 10, including the renewed suggestion to engage a neutral third-party mediator. Similar proposals by other universities have led to the peaceful dismantlement of the encampments on their campuses.

McGill representatives of the encampment emailed us on June 14 and rejected both the offer and the possibility of mediation.

Despite our ongoing efforts to discuss in good faith, the representatives of the encampment have maintained that their demands are non-negotiable while accusing the University of unwillingness to engage in fair discussions.

As it has become clear that no fruitful outcome will result from these talks, we are ceasing discussions. Instead, we will immediately begin exploring next steps to act on our commitments, in consultation with the broader McGill community. At the same time, we will develop and implement measures that reinforce inclusion, stability, and cohesion within our campus.

Our Commitments

McGill remains steadfast in advancing core actions that reflect our values, principles, and overall mission. When we proposed our latest offer, we did so because we believed, and continue to believe, in the value of its measures, outlined below.

  1. Exploring Divestment from Weapons Manufacturers
    McGill will immediately begin the process to explore divestment from companies that derive a dominant portion of their direct revenues from the production of military weapons, regardless of the countries in which they operate.
  1. Funding Scholars-at-Risk
    McGill will establish dedicated funding to host two scholars or students directly affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. This effort will occur within the framework of the Scholars-at-Risk Network, of which McGill has been a part since 2010. SAR provides urgent support for students and academics threatened by armed conflict or humanitarian emergencies.
  1. Increased Investment Disclosures
    While McGill already discloses all direct equity and fixed income investments above $500,000, we will endeavor to include smaller holdings, wherever possible.

We will forge ahead with these measures despite the offer not being accepted, as we believe they will have positive impacts. We have heard from members of the broader McGill community who have also asked us to move forward with these commitments.

Status of the Encampment

The encampment is an unauthorized and illegal occupation of McGill property. It violates university policies, and has led to alarming behaviours, including:

  • targeted harassment and intimidation of students, staff and faculty,
  • a notice on social media platforms featuring masked individuals holding assault rifles, which called for participation in a “revolutionary youth summer program,”
  • the forceful entry and illegal occupation of the James Administration building,
  • the hanging of a political figure’s effigy at the Roddick Gates,
  • incendiary and provocative rhetoric, signage, and graffiti both at the encampment and throughout the campus that intimidate, inflict harm, and are often experienced as antisemitic.

Despite efforts to reach out and hold discussions with the encampment, these behaviours have only escalated, and have continued to result in substantial costs and disruptions, including the relocation of convocation away from lower field.

Previously, McGill had offered a limited disciplinary amnesty to students and staff prior to June 15, related only to participating in the encampment but not extending to other misconduct. As our proposal was rejected, the University will pursue disciplinary processes against individuals participating in the encampment to the full extent outlined in our policies. We are also investigating the full spectrum of legal recourses available to us to recover from the damages incurred.

While we would have preferred to reach a different result through these discussions, ultimately, all parties must come to the table in good faith.

Next Steps

Our community is deeply concerned about the negative impact a small number of people are having through their divisive rhetoric, as well as illegal, intimidating acts taking place on campus. Many members of our community have felt profoundly unwelcome, even unsafe. Many Jewish students, faculty, and staff feel especially vulnerable, given words and actions that they have understandably experienced as antisemitic. Their preoccupations about campus climate and safety are shared by the vast number of people of all identities and lived experiences who rightfully insist on the university as a space where dialogue and exchange uphold respect for the law and for one another, and who reject expression that veers into hate and intolerance.

The encampment and related, harmful activities cannot be dealt with by any university on its own. The circ*mstances that we are experiencing go well beyond McGill University. Rather, they represent an issue of grave and profound concern to civil society more broadly.

For this reason, we are and will remain in ongoing communication with public authorities at all levels of government, and particularly the police, insisting on their attention, engagement and assistance.

Rebuilding Community

McGill is a place of learning, open discussion, and professional and personal development. Over the summer, we will work with students, faculty and staff to design new initiatives aimed at reestablishing constructive dialogues and restoring the healthy, respectful campus climate that has been disrupted.

In that regard, community members are invited to:

  • Help rebuild our community by participating in initiatives to focus on constructive dialogues, which will be announced in the fall.
  • Participate in the consultations that the Board’s Committee on Sustainability and Social Responsibility will hold to explore divestment from weapons manufacturers.
  • Share ideas about how McGill can best support students, faculty, and staff who have been and continue to be made vulnerable by the crisis in the Middle East and its impacts on our campus.

Thoughtful, respectful discussion cannot happen until peace and stability are restored. To actively support a climate that is safe and inclusive for all, the encampment must end, as must all forms of expression and assembly that cross the line into violations of the law and our policies.

I recognize that this is not an easy time and we will continue to keep you regularly apprised of developments. Thank you for your continued dedication to our community. I know that together, we will overcome these challenges and emerge stronger.


Deep Saini
President and Vice-Chancellor

Next steps: update on the lower field encampment (2024)
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