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10 Times Montreal's McGill University Made You Go “WTF”

In both the good and bad ways.
10 Times Montreal's McGill University Made You Go “WTF”

Founded in 1821, McGill University has always played a role in Montreal's history, but the educational institution has a story all its own.

In the nigh two hundred years that the university has been in operation, McGill has seen its share of ups and downs. From riot police to fruit salads, there are a wide array of significant moments in McGill's history, some of which are a little more unique than others. By which I mean they might make you say "WTF."

Now, you should note that a WTF-reaction can come in many forms. You might be so surprised by something amazing  that you exclaim "WTF, for real?" in excitement. At other times, you might say "WTF, for real?" when you hear about something particularly terrible, as you're in complete awe it could ever happen.

McGill University's history can make you do both.

So to celebrate the particular parts of McGill's ongoing history that will make you shout "WTF," I've done the duty of compiling a list of ten such moments below. Read on and get WTF'ing.


Oh, Floodgirl, you may have left our minds, but never our hearts. In the face of adversity (read: a deluge of water on an incline) you showed to the entire university community that, no, you may not always succeed, but you can sure as hell try.

For anyone uninitiated in Floodgirl fandom, this epic moment of McGill University history occurred on January, 28th, 2013, when a water reservoir broke, flooding McTavish street. Despite the impressive (and scary) stream of water tearing down campus, one female student felt the need to cross the street for God knows what reason.

And so Floodgirl was born. Many theories exist as to why a person would attempt to cross a street literally turned into a waterfall (Was she just trying to get to Activities Night? Is she some sort of aquatic nymph who couldn't resist the call of the water? Is she the physical manifestation of all our hopes and dreams?) but none have been verified. Even Floodgirl's identity remains a mystery.

But no matter Floorgirl's real name or motivation, the fact remains that she became a true internet sensation. Never forget, and you can celebrate Floodgirl's memory at an anniversary party this Thursday.

Riot Police Getting Violent With Students

During the student protests against tuition hikes, Montreal's social climate was tense, to say the least. But unlike most of Montreal, when protests got intense in the summer of 202, at McGill University, things came to a head on November 10th, 2011 when student demonstrators acting against tuition hikes were met with a very violent response.

The event was centered around the James Administration Building, where certain students had enacted an occupy-style protest, with 14 sitting in on then-Principal Heather Munroe-Blum's office. More had gathered around the exterior of the building to join the demonstration.

Security personnel were already on the scene, allegedly using force against students. Things only got worse when over one hundred SPVM riot police took to campus. Seemingly every violent option at the police's disposal (pepper spray, tear gas, batons) was used to quell the demonstration, with four arrests made.

This, of course, wouldn't be the last time the SPVM got violent with Montreal students concerning tuition hikes, but the fact that it occurred right on McGill University campus makes the event memorably messed up.

The World's Largest Fruit Salad

McGill has plenty points of pride, and yet the university felt the need to add a rather random Guinness World Record to that list in 2013, namely the world's largest fruit salad.

Totalling 5,038-kilograms in weight, McGill's attempt to craft a record-breaking fruit salad was a success. But the question that still plagues my mind is: why?

Honestly, why even bother? It's not like "world's largest fruit salad" is going to attract new students or donations. And yet, McGill felt the need to basically do the same thing again a year later, when the university baked the world's largest brownie.

So even though some might find this particular moment in McGill history cute and charming, I'm placing it on this list because it really makes me go "WTF, what was the point?"

Project MKUltra

In the late 60s, a McGill University professor was involved with some very real, and quite frightening, experimentation on the human mind. The staff member in question was Dr. Ewan Cameron, director of the renowned Allen Memorial Institute, the Psychiatry Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital, part of the McGill University Health Centre.

Heading an initiative secretly funded by the CIA (and later the Canadian government) dubbed "Project MKUltra," Cameron's work was supposed to be helping individuals with psychological problems. Unfortunately, the opposite was true, with the project's experiments literally stealing the memories away from unwitting participants.

The dark truth about McGill's involvement in Project MKUltra/Cameron's experimentation isn't a highly publicized part of the school's history, nor Montreal's. To read more on the story, head here.

Hockey Being Invented on Campus

Yup, way back in 1875, students at McGill University played what would be the very first hockey game, ever. With ruled drawn up by James George Aylwin Creighton, this part of McGill history would prove to change the face of North America, warranting in the "WTF, that's amazing" tier of moments.

It's also worth noting that James Naismith, the man who invented basketball, was also the university's first director of athletics. Only a year after leaving Montreal, Naismith formally created the game that would become the sport of basketball.

McGill Putting A Quota On Jewish Students

Prior to the 1920s, McGill University was the academic home to many Jewish students. In fact, 25% of art students and 40% of law students were Jewish. That ended when McGill University imposed quotas on Jewish students.

From the late 1920s up to WWII, Jewish students were only accepted into McGill if they had an academic average of 75%, whereas everyone else needed a 60%. Using arguably more extreme measures, both the faculties of law and medicine limited the amount of admitted Jewish students to 10%.

The quote on Jewish medical students wasn't lifted until the 1960s.

The "Obama Kicking A Door Down" Fiasco

When Brian Farnan, a member of the Students’ Society of McGill University, sent out an email featuring an edited video of Obama kicking down a door, all he wanted to do was poke fun at the stress everyone was experiencing due to exams.

But that's not how it was received.

Students claimed the web-clip was a racial microagression, and there was some serious backlash. Farnan was forced to undergo sensitivity training for "perpetuating the stereotype of people of colour...being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture" as Farnan related in a public apology.

Now, I'm not saying that the aforementioned negative portrayal of people of colour doesn't exist, nor does the video not add to the problem, but this moment proved that at McGill University, comedy does not trump the cries of social justice warriors.

Canada's First Fraternity For Gay Men

In 2012, after years of hard work, the McGill colony of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive, became a full-fledged chapter. For those who don't know Greek lingo, this meant that the group became an "official" part of the overall social fraternity, thus becoming the first fraternity of its kind at McGill, and Canada at-large.

Who is that handsome devil at the front of the pic? He looks familiar, right? Yes, yes, it's me, as I happened to be acting president at the time DLP McGill became a chapter.

And while you may call me out as being vain for including myself on this list (and you're right) you can't really argue that McGill playing home to Canada's first fraternity created for gay men is WTF-level amazing.

When Gerts Remodelled

In the first years of my undergraduate career, Gerts was the charming on-campus bar that didn't have much glamour to it aside from its dive-bar aesthetic. Low-key, unassuming, and altogether welcoming, Gerts was everything a campus bar should be: a relaxing place to de-stress with some alcohol.

Then Gerts got a makeover, and in my opinion, it wasn't for the better.

Remaking the quaint bar into some sort of club setup, Gerts lost its original charm, and was never the same, at least for me and my group of pals. All in all, it still makes me go "WTF, why did they change what was already perfect!?"

Photo cred - universitystory

When You Learned James McGill Owned Slaves

Yeah, it's kind of a sad truth all McGill alumni need to live with, but it's true, the founder of the university, James McGill, owned more than a few slaves.

According to Marcel Trudel's "Dictionnaire des esclavage et leur proprietaires" James McGill owned a total of six slaves, four of which were African and the other two being Aboriginal. Then there's the myth that James's slaves are buried somewhere around the Arts Building, adding another layer of "WTF" to it all.

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