Last Thursday, Feb. 7, I went to the informational meeting for students, faculty, staff and concerned parents affected by the closure of McGill Hall due to asbestos contamination. I stayed there for an hour. I listened as the expert they provided for us, Scott Rogers, spent more time asking the audience rhetorical questions rather than answering any he received. I watched Rogers and the UM spokesperson present demur and defer and downplay the severity of the situation at every point, even as the questions became more pointed. I wondered why this was not important enough for Seth Bodnar to show his face. I asked my own question, imploring both Rogers and any UM representative to tell me how, after so much time undercutting the seriousness of the contamination, I can ever feel safe and secure going back into that building. I did not get an answer. I got another rhetorical question asked of me by Rogers, about what I’d been told so far about the contamination. My answer, then and now, is nothing.
As a student in my final semester of the media arts program, the only direct communication I have received about the asbestos contamination has been a couple emails informing me of the new classrooms I have to go to. The University so far has made no visible effort to reach out to media arts or health and human performance majors to tell them anything. Nothing about their risk of exposure, nothing about how we can continue our education through this disruption. Their silence has settled on this issue like so many asbestos particles in the McGill daycare.
It has been more than 50 days since asbestos was first detected in McGill, more than 20 since the surface tests in the preschool. I’ve had only one class not cancelled since they closed the building two weeks ago. I can’t access the equipment or specialized production spaces I need to finish my senior project. I don’t know how I’m going to finish out my last semester and graduate. I don’t how much toxic material I’ve inhaled in the last three years. And no one from the University seems at all interested in answering my questions.
I left the meeting on Thursday, early, after an hour. Disgusted at all the non-answers that filled the room, sick of feeling like I’m screaming into a void. If I had more than one semester left, I think I’d be inclined to get up and walk out of this University early, too.
-John Hooks, Kaimin video editor