Academic associations won’t attend McGill University conferences due to law faculty strike

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McGill to see few academic associations at upcoming congress
WATCH: Canada's largest academic gathering that brings together up to 70 scholarly associations is set to take place next month at McGill University. But recent events on campus, such as the pro-Palestinian encampment and an ongoing strike involving McGill law professors, is threatening the size and scale of the event. Global's Felicia Parrillo explains – May 23, 2024

It’s been 30 days since McGill University’s law department professors declared an unlimited strike.

The association representing the 45 professors says that after more than 18 months of negotiations, members voted for a strike because of the university’s unwillingness to engage in meaningful bargaining.

“We are not going to continue to be complicit in this game of just putting off and putting off and hopefully getting everybody tired,” said Victor Muniz-Fraticelli, McGill associate law professor. “We are committed to getting a contract and we are going to use the two most important pressure points that we have to get that contract.”

And to add more pressure, the union says around 25 associations who were expected to attend Congress 2024, organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences at McGill University on June 12-21, have announced their solidarity with McGill law professors, either by relocating their conferences or minimizing their presence on campus.

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“The Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies, of which I am the program chair of this year, have decided we do not want to cross the picket lines and so we’ve decided to relocate the entirety of our conference to another venue in Montreal,” said Thomas Collombat, Université du Québec political science professor.

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To add to that, some associations also say they’re hesitant about being on campus because of the way the university has handled the pro-Palestinian encampment.

“On one hand, in court, the university is saying the encampment is a safety risk, that it endangers people on campus, and on the other hand, they keep telling congress associations that the campus is safe and accessible,” said Collombat. “So there seems to be contradictions in which academics are not comfortable.”

In a statement to Global News, the federation says it has been in talks with the associations to hear their concerns.

“We’ve made our virtual platform available to them so that they can hold their conferences or part of their conferences,” said Mike DeGagné, the Federation’s interim chief administrator. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely with our partners at McGill and communicate with our associations to ensure effective planning.”

Barry Eidlin, a McGill University associate sociology professor says the situation may be avoided if the university sat down and engaged in meaningful negotiations with the striking professors as well as students participating in the encampment.

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“They [McGill administration] seem to be so committed to a my way or the highway approach that they’re willing to threaten one of the most important academic conferences in North America and to threaten their overall reputation as an academic institution,” said Eidlin.

A McGill University spokesperson told Global News that “congress is an important annual event for the Canadian scholarly community and McGill will, as planned, welcome participants.”

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