Group of McGill students facing permanent eviction from dorms over gatherings
MONTREAL -- After being temporarily kicked out of their McGill dorms last month for small gatherings that broke COVID-19 protocols, a group of students is now facing real eviction for the same offences.
The Montreal university is asking the students to leave quickly and without appealing the decision – and if they do so, they won’t risk having the incident on their disciplinary record.
One 18-year-old student says he felt pushed to sign away his residence lease for the rest of the semester.
“I've kind of lost hope,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous.
“At that point, it’s like they want you to leave … [they] don't really want you to defend yourself.”
A spokesperson for McGill said the students who broke a rule are considered a “very present danger” and the school is taking that seriously.
All or most of the students facing eviction live at a Parc Ave. student residence that’s under strict guidelines from the university prohibiting gatherings in the halls and dorms.
The student told CTV News that on Jan. 22, he and approximately seven other students gathered in a dorm room at McGill’s New Residence Hall. At around midnight, residence security intervened and then reported the incident to management, he said.
The student, who moved to Canada to attend school, became one of several residents ordered to leave their homes with just hours’ notice, as they described in January. Some had nowhere to go right away.
“[McGill] said it was a safety measure,” said the student.
Several students told CTV they moved into short-term rentals for a week before they were allowed to go back home.
The 18-year-old said that shortly after his return, he says he received a letter from the university asking him to sign a form to voluntarily leave the premises -- with conditions attached. If he signs it, he relinquishes some of his rights to file complaints, but no mark will go on his disciplinary record.
“You may choose to waive your right to a disciplinary interview and agree to voluntarily leave Student Residence until END OF THE SEMESTER,” read the letter, which was provided to CTV News by two students who received it.
“If you accept this arrangement, you are required to remove all your personal belongings, return your keys to the front desk by [date redacted], leave and remain away from all McGill Residence buildings until the end of the semester.”
The student says he was told that if he did not sign the letter, he’d need to meet with a disciplinary officer to make a case for why he should stay. The risk in doing so is that if he can't make his case successfully, he could end up with a permanent mark on his disciplinary record, or worse.
“Suspension from the University is a possibility,” read the letter.
The student told CTV News he’s feels like he’s getting pushed out of his home but can't decide what to do.
Exactly how many students were given this option is unclear. In January, students told CTV News there were about 20 in the original group of temporary evictions. This month, two students said everyone in the original group got the letters.
STUDENTS, RESIDENCE STAFF AND THEIR FAMILIES [ARE] AT RISK: MCGILL
In a statement, a McGill spokesperson did not comment on any specific cases or confirm that these letters had been sent out providing the two avenues of action.
But spokesperson Cynthia Lee said the university has seen an “increase in both the frequency and severity of illegal gatherings.”
At first, “a number of students faced short-term measures... and some faced short-term exclusion,” she wrote.
“We have further bolstered our approach… to include a possible long-term exclusion from residences… up to a maximum of the end of the winter semester,” she wrote.
She said the university is saving such strict punishment for what it considers serious offences.
“These steps are not taken lightly, and no one is being excluded from residences for forgetting to wear their mask or other minor infractions,” wrote Lee.
“Exclusions are issued to students that have been gathering despite the obvious and very present danger that this could lead to community transmission, putting other students, residence staff and their families at risk.”
The student told CTV he feels the school is also putting the community at risk if potentially infected people are let out into the community without a place to stay.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “Say we’re actually COVID-positive, now they’re putting us out into the middle of the community.”
Lee told CTV News the university had provided the students with a “list of McGill-affiliated hotels in the area.”
- With reporting from CTV News Montreal's Selena Ross