Meme-ing McGill

Photo: Evelyn Dom

McGill university is unique in many respects. In sports, we lack school spirit; we enjoy playing elaborate drinking games, only to get ourselves sick for the next month; and our unifying factors include that spicy food no one seems to be able to get enough of: samosas. Another McGill-specific unifier is our administration and how students personify their decisions.

Most students are aware of the the plummeting reputation of the McGill’s administration. Criticisms of the administration’s actions can be seen through witty meme accounts and constant waves of disapproving media coverage with regards to people’s lived experiences or general choices the administration has made. The most apparent unifying factor McGill seems to offer is this: the collective and consistent disapproval the student body has for its administration.

The student body’s dissatisfaction with the administration is so bleak that it has turned to a concept that easily enlightens a mass audience, while simultaneously getting one’s point across: meme accounts. McGill’s student body enjoys a variety of meme accounts that relay commonly held McGill experiences in a humorous way. Other than referencing Première Moisson’s overpriced coffee and the awful conditions that is finals season at McLennan, the consistently most discussed aspect in meme pages is the elusive figure that is McGill’s principal: Suzanne Fortier, more commonly referred to among these channels as “Big Suze”. Not only do we constantly reference Suzanne Fortier and use her as a scapegoat for any and all of McGill’s issues, we have a nickname that may be  more known than her real name.

It is important to note, however, that memes reinforce stereotypes, creating a version of the truth that people blindly follow

These meme accounts, rightfully, attack administrative decisions that do not cater to or represent the student body’s wishes. One recent instance of meme retribution can be attributed to the Ollivier Dynes “Hygiene de vie” scandal. In his reasoning to not give McGill a Fall reading break, Ollivier Dynes implied that if the students just took care of themselves properly and eliminated unhealthy habits, such as smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and taking Ritalin, there would be, essentially, no need for a Fall reading break. As one would expect, this statement blew up in the meme world and allowed for students to express their serious concerns in a light hearted and humorous way.

Memes give students a medium to express their grievances towards McGill. These memes are not only relatable and funny, but can also trigger feelings of negativity toward the school that were not present before. It is important to note, however, that memes reinforce stereotypes, creating a version of the truth that people blindly follow. But with all things considered, meme accounts can be a phenomenal way of asserting oneself in campus politics and happenings, but should not be seen as a universal truth.

Through memes, students are using humour to call on the administration to be more accountable and transparent. It goes without saying that a lot of effort is put into creating relatable and funny content. But what if this energy was translated into making sure that the  administration is truly advocating for its students? It is easy to repost a meme, but is there a possible way for the students to truly change the way the administration runs? Either way, meme accounts will always be an effective and humours way to reach all students — and I personally appreciate them keeping me on tabs with what’s happening at McGill.

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