International Support for the Québec Student Strike Against Tuition Hikes

As the protests continue in Québec against the government’s tuition increases and privatization of education, international support grows in solidarity with us to support accessible education. From québécois students in Paris, to the International Student Movement in Taiwan, to Belgian students living in Brussels, the student strike in Québec is getting international attention.

About 60 students protested in Paris on March 10, two days before Jean Charest visited the city. 2012 © Ismaël Fortier-Geymard.

Yesterday, 26 March 2012, close to 100 students, teachers and labour union activists gathered in front of the ministry of education in Taipei (Taiwan) to protest the increasing corporatisation of universities and plans to hike tuition fees by 10%. They also expressed their unity with the current student strike in Quebec. (source: International Student Movement)

A small group of Belgian students raise a banner in Brussels. 2012 © l'Incroyable Julk.

Dreams of a Common Language

Media & Feminist Theory: Strategy: Dreams of a Common Language

Krista Geneviève Lynes

“We plead to each other,
we all come from the same rock
we all come from the same rock
ignoring the fact that we bend at different temperatures
that each of us is malleable
up to a point.

Yes, fusion is possible
but only if things get hot enough—
all else is temporary adhesion,
patching up” —Cherrie Moraga, “The Welder” [1]

Art Walk/Silent March organized by Katja Philipp, PhD Student, Communication Studies. Photo taken on Montréal's rue Sainte-Catherine, Monday, March 26, 2012 by Krista Lynes.

In 1978, Adrienne Rich published The Dream of a Common Language, a collection of poems in which she reflected on the relation between love, power and consciousness. The collectivity she referenced here was fictive, hypothetical and utopian—quite literally a dream of a common language. The dream, of complex and emancipatory feminism(s), echoes Gayatri Spivak’s call in Death of a Discipline for a collectivity to come as a result of one’s work, the join of feminist praxis with broad movements for social justice.[2] Both Rich and Spivak sought to stress the work involved in community-building, in spaces of social struggle, but at large also.

In this respect, the MA Media Studies Students in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University have been working creatively and passionately over the last several weeks to build a complex and emancipatory unity within the student movement. Their statements testify to their nuanced reflections on the differential access to education within the programme, the use of the term ‘strike’ and the historical resonances of the term within labour movements and other forms of collective action, and the need to engage actively with the community at large, faculty and staff. They have also—in their protest, media activism, public statements and organising—sought to give voice to the importance of creativity and diversity in university programmes across Québec and further afield.[3]

My Media & Feminist Theory course this week was meant to cover several readings articulating contemporary visions of the ‘dream of a common language.’ Coincident with this week’s readings, Concordia University…

…. Continue reading the essay at Alt-UniEs: an alternative university, an appeal to unity, a commitment to access ….

Media Studies Students at Concordia University Renew Their Strike Commitment

  Dear Faculty, Staff and Fellow Students,

After careful deliberation, students in the MA Media Studies program at Concordia University have collectively decided to renew our strike on an ongoing basis, to be reviewed weekly. We demand that the Charest government open dialogue with students and rescind the scheduled tuition hikes.

In accordance with the GSA’s resolution, we will not be attending class nor submitting coursework in recognition that they are inseparable. We agree with PhD students in the department that to submit coursework while not attending class implies that class time is irrelevant. We also declare our support for doctoral, undergraduate, and diploma students in Communication Studies in their own ongoing strike actions. Our position reflects the majority of students in our program, but we also acknowledge the individual circumstances that may limit the extent to which some of us can participate in the strike.

We see this action as a strike and not a boycott – in ceasing our coursework, we seek to make visible the detrimental impact of tuition hikes on our futures but also to make visible the very real labour of our research and course participation, which enriches the programs and atmosphere of our department, individual professors’ research, and the university at large. We understand that a student strike differs from a labour strike, and we use such language knowingly. Although we may not be bound by a labour contract, we are part of a student association and feel that the strike is a necessary collective action. In calling our action a strike, we seek to align ourselves with student movements and protests province-wide against privatization and for academic freedom and accessible education. We do not consider ourselves consumers passively receiving a service (as the term “boycott” implies); we believe that education is a right.

By participating in the strike, we believe that we are raising the bar for the quality of education and research in the Department of Communication Studies. We feel strongly that low tuition fees allow students from diverse backgrounds to attend university, which in turn nourishes the quality, creativity and diversity of our programs.

On March 22, students and faculty from the Department of Communication Studies marched together in order to speak out against tuition hikes and privatization, and in support of accessible education. We joined in protest with members of the community in a broader social movement: parents, grandparents, children, business people, and union members are all part of the fight for accessible education. This movement is exemplary of our ongoing solidarity: students and faculty are now working together in the community.

Our desire is to continue to move forward with you. We appeal to faculty for continued solidarity in our struggle against the Charest government’s position. Beginning this week, we intend to expand our strike actions to focus upon public media interventions.

Although we do not think that online dialogue is a replacement for the productive conversation and face-to-face interactions that take place in the classroom, we appreciate and support the alternative ways in which professors have initiated dialogue and made public their views on the tuition hikes in solidarity with students’ actions. Examples of these efforts are the websites http://altunies.wordpress.com and http://profscontrelahausse.org.

With the growing solidarity among students and faculty, we would like to request an opportunity to meet with faculty in the next two weeks. In this meeting, we will engage in dialogue with professors about working together, in solidarity, during the course of the strike and to answer any questions that faculty may have for us. We would like to send representatives from our cohort, along with representatives from the undergraduate, diploma, and PhD programs. Our aim is to find collective ways to channel our growing momentum to levels that reach beyond our department.

Once again, we appreciate the support faculty have provided thus far, and we encourage you to continue supporting us in our call for accessible education.

Sincerely,

MA Media Studies Students
Department of Communication Studies
Concordia University 

Pétition à l’Assemblée nationale contre la hausse des frais de scolarité

Last Thursday, more than 300,000 students were on strike, and 200,000 peoples from all walks of life marched in the streets to demonstrate their resolve against tuition increases. The issue is not simply about university funding, it is about the current and profound contemplation about our society and the direction we want to take it.

A French-language and official petition to the Québec National Assembly has been initiated requesting that the government withdraw the tuition increases. At the time of writing this blog post, there were more than 37,000 signatories. I encourage everyone who believes in accessible education for all and who is against the privatization of our educational institutions, to sign the petition. We can easily surpass 200,000 signatories! The petition’s text is written below.

"For an emancipatory education servicing the people" March 13, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

Le jeudi 22 mars dernier, il y avait 300 000 étudiants et étudiantes en grève, et 200 000 citoyens et citoyennes dans la rue pour dénoncer la hausse des frais de scolarité. Ce n’est pas simplement la question du financement des universités, mais une profonde réflexion sur notre société qui est en cours. Il ne faut pas laisser les politiciens et les médias décider à leur guise du sens de tous ces événements. Je vous invite, entre autre, à signer cette pétition à l’Assemblée nationale, mais aussi, je vous encourage à ne pas laisser passer cette opportunité unique de réfléchir et de discuter avec les gens autour de vous.

Pétition : Hausse des frais de scolarité

Pour signer cette pétition, vous devez compléter 3 étapes :

  1. Étape 1 : remplissez le formulaire sous le texte de la pétition et envoyez-le (vous devez accepter les conditions à respecter pour pouvoir signer la pétition avant d’envoyer le formulaire).
  2. Étape 2 : consultez votre boîte de courriels et ouvrez le message envoyé par l’Assemblée.
  3. Étape 3 : dans ce message, cliquez sur le lien vous permettant d’enregistrer votre signature.

Vous ne pouvez signer la même pétition qu’une seule fois.

Texte de la pétition

CONSIDÉRANT QUE les frais de scolarité universitaires augmentent déjà annuellement depuis 2007;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE 75% de frais supplémentaires par année coûteront des millions aux contribuables, tout en faisant porter aux familles et aux étudiants à venir le poids de la hausse;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE l’endettement étudiant est en croissance et que de plus en plus d’étudiants atteignent le niveau maximal annuel d’endettement prévu par la loi;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE le taux d’investissement public dans le financement de l’éducation postsecondaire a atteint un minimum historique;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE l’avenir du Québec ne s’érige pas sur l’endettement chronique des générations futures;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE les études universitaires jouent un rôle dans le développement de l’économie et de la société québécoise;

CONSIDÉRANT QU’il existe d’autres solutions pour assurer le financement des universités;

CONSIDÉRANT QUE le Québec est signataire du Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels qui mentionne que «  l’enseignement secondaire, sous ses différentes formes, y compris l’enseignement secondaire technique et professionnel, doit être généralisé et rendu accessible à tous par tous les moyens appropriés et notamment par l’instauration progressive de la gratuité ». De plus, « l’enseignement supérieur doit être rendu accessible à tous en pleine égalité, en fonction des capacités de chacun, par tous les moyens appropriés et notamment par l’instauration progressive de la gratuité »;

Nous, soussignés, demandons au gouvernement du Québec de revenir sur sa décision d’augmenter les frais de scolarité de 1625 $ entre 2012 et 2017.

Student Strike is Not a Simple Boycott: History and Perspectives

The following text was compiled by L’Association des juristes progressistes (AJP) in response to the administration of several universities that have sent notices to their students that falsely allege that the concept of strike is limited to workers under the labour code. This is false and the following text explains this fallacy with clarity and precision. The AJP was founded in 2010 and is an organization of lawyers, law students and workers from the legal system, dedicated to defending rights and putting the judicial to task in order to assist the struggle for social justice and end inequality.

Concordia students, and students from other universities are not boycotting their classes. The vote is to STRIKE against tuition increases and the privatization of education. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

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Whereas the number of strikers against the tuition hike has surpassed 290 000 across the province (if we include the strike on March 22nd 2012), it is important to note that the management of certain universities, like McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal, are sending notices to their students in which they allege that the concept of strike is limited to workers under the Labour Code (R.S.Q., chapter C-27). Consequently, they qualify the movement as being a simple boycott and allege that professors should give the classes despite the strike votes taken by the student associations and threaten students with academic reprisals in case of absence or omission to give in papers.

Beyond constituting a political intimidation tactic that comes from parties that are far from being neutral in this debate (it is important de remember that the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec is a staunch supporter of the hikes), this directive is based on important historical errors and is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (The Constitution Act, 1982, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11) as well as Charter of human rights and freedoms, (RSQ, c C-12).

Firstly, it is important to note that the right to strike was not created by the Labour Code. It existed long before the enactment of this law as it originates from the working-class struggles of the 19th century.  An international phenomenon of contestation, the right to strike was elevated to the rank of fundamental rights on an international scale through its recognition in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, dating from 1966, which was ratified by Canada.

Moreover, this pressure tactic, which sits at the crossroads between the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, was used in numerous instances in modern democracies to achieve Continue reading

270+ Concordia Professors Oppose the Privatization of Universities

A growing number of university professors in Québec are joining the protest movement against the government’s funding plan for higher education. The letter below is signed by more than 270 Concordia University Professors. Many McGill University, HEC Montréal and Université de Montréal professors have also added their names to the letter open letter.

Professeurs contre la hausse have also written a manifesto that so far has more than 2100 signatories.

Students, professors, parents and their children walk eastward on Ste-Catherine street on the Sunday, March 18 family march against tuition hikes and in support of accessible education. Photo 2012 by David Widgington.

—–

Add your name to the below letter.

(version française)

Concordia Professors Opposed to Privatisation of Universities

The efforts of the Charest government to privatize university funding in Quebec have sparked widespread protests.  180,000 students are on strike across the province. Classroom teaching has ground to a halt at many CEGEPs and universities across Quebec, including the University of Montreal, University of Quebec at Montreal, and much of Concordia University.

Students are at the forefront of an important struggle over public education and its role in Quebec society. As professors at Concordia, we join our voices to those of our students. We call on the Quebec government to revisit the university funding plan and rescind the measures that would further privatize our universities through tuition hikes and increased reliance on corporate funding of research. 

Historically, Quebec universities have been funded by the public on the grounds that society is enriched as a result. With public funding, tuition fees have remained low and higher education has remained accessible. Under Quebec’s educational social contract, university graduates who achieve success in the labour market keep university costs low for the next generation through their tax dollars. This arrangement is a crucial part of maintaining a more equitable society in which people have access to health care and education no matter what their income is. This is what the student movement is fighting to defend today. 

The government’s plan is an attempt to break Quebec’s hard won social contract on education. The proposed 75 percent increase in tuition fees will undermine Continue reading

Students Will Not Be Intimidated: A Statement from the Concordia Student Union and Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia

Concordia University threatens to systematically charge students who participate in peaceful protest against the tuition fee increase

Yesterday, over 200,000 students, parents, faculty members and citizens marched peacefully in the streets of Montreal against the Charest government’s unjust and unjustifiable tuition fee increase. After students successfully orchestrated the largest demonstration in the province’s history, it appears that some university administrators have resorted to extreme and heavy-handed intimidation tactics in an attempt to quell student unrest.

2012 © Pamela Lamb

Today, Concordia University has taken a dangerous and irresponsible step by stating that it will begin to systematically charge students who actively participate in the student strike at Concordia under the University’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities. Consequences for students charged under the Code include fines, suspension, and the possibility of permanent expulsion.

The statement sent out by the University today intentionally mischaracterizes the nature of student action at the University by painting picketing students as aggressive or dangerous. In reality, protest on campus has been consistently characterized by its lighthearted, peaceful, and creative nature, with very few incidents in these politically turbulent times.

The University’s statement is deliberately calculated to intimidate students through vague references to “impeding,” “blocking,” or “obstruction” of university spaces. Students have been informed repeatedly that crossing a picket line is a moral decision, and discouraged from doing so, but it is an extremely small minority of students who have been actually physically blocked from classrooms. The GSA and CSU anticipate that hundreds of innocent students could be charged within a week under this policy.

The position taken by Concordia University on this issue is dangerous to students. The Office of Rights and Responsibilities deals with a variety of extremely serious complaints regarding behaviour on campus, including harassment, sexual assault, abuse and other potentially criminal activity. A flood of complaints about peaceful student demonstrations will invariably mean that legitimate and serious complaints by victims are delayed or pushed aside.

Gabrielle Bouchard, Executive External of the Women’s Studies Association of Concordia, said, “Picketing students who have been subject to verbal abuse or even violence by students not abiding by strike votes have predominantly been women. Many feel reluctant to report this to the University because of their perceived, and now explicit bias. This statement will worsen that problem and will embolden students who have behaved inappropriately to students who choose to protest peacefully. Moreover, the procedures around the Code of Rights and Responsibilities are called upon to deal with serious issues such as harassment, sexual harassment and assault and the process is already slow. Now these students will face even longer delays because the administration has chosen to use the Code in a politically motivated way.”

As always, the CSU and GSA will do our utmost to defend any student charged under the Code, and if necessary we will hire additional staff to deal with any backlog in our respective Advocacy Centres.

2012 © Pamela Lamb

These intimidation tactics and heavy-handed crackdowns from the University mean the strike is increasingly effective. Students and their associations will not back down from their legitimate position in favour of accessible education and their collective right to strike. However, both the CSU and GSA will hold the administration responsible for escalating what has so far been a relatively calm, democratic and orderly situation. After wasting tens of millions of dollars of public and student money on golden parachutes and incompetent management, Concordia’s administration has no moral authority to claim that the democratic will of student assemblies is illegitimate.

“As a faculty member, I feel that this approach by the administration is counterproductive,” said Eric Shragge, Associate Professor and Principal of the Concordia School of Community and Public Affairs. “If they wish to resolve the situation they should be using their influence with the provincial government to encourage them to negotiate with student groups.” A recent poll by Crop shows that 78% of Quebec citizens want the government to begin to negotiate with students on the tuition fee increase.

People Counting: 72,000+ protesters at Montréal Demonstration Against Tuition Hikes

On March 22, students, teachers, union representatives, politicians, parents and other concerned citizens converged onto the streets of Montréal to demonstrate their opposition to the current Québec government’s tuition increases and in support of accessible education. Students from universities CÉGEP’s throughout Québec (and elsewhere) made their way to Montréal to show that the strength of a social movement is in its numbers. But exactly how many people marched in the streets, who decides and how are they counted?

Official route for the March 22 demonstration.

It was a beautiful day with temperatures hovering above 22°C with a 10-minute shower toward the end of the afternoon that was unseasonably refreshing.

The main gathering place was Dorchester Square/Place du Canada at the corner of Peel street  and René-Lévesque boulevard (A on map) with a final destination, 5.5 kms later, at the Old Port of Montréal (G on map).

The official route went north on Peel, east along Sherbrooke street then south along Berri street. The size of the crowd and the funnel effect leaving Dorchester Square led protesters to add a secondary route out of the Square on Metcalfe, a street parallel to Peel. Like all flowing masses, the march branched out again along paths of least resistance off the main route, to head eastward along Ste-Catherine street, creating two parallel streams of social discontent. The levees of predisposition could no longer contain the flood of dissent.

Students and faculty from Communication Studies at Concordia University gather at Jean Belliveau sculpture before heading as a group to the protest. 2012 @ Krista Geneviève Lynes.

When our group of 35 students and faculty from Communication Studies at Concordia reached Peel street — after meeting at the Jean Belliveau sculpture on avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal — we could feel the mass of people from the successive ebb and flow of cheers that sent waves through the crowd. No one was immune to the gathering’s effervescence. But how many people were there and how many more were on their way?

Demonstrators (including a fiusha-haired member of Concordia's Media Studies MA program) march on in what has been called "possibly the largest mass protest in Québec history." 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

The Gazette claims in its headline that, “Thousands of students protest tuition increases in Montreal” before upping the quantity estimate tenfold in the first sentence of the article which begins: “Tens of thousands of activists filled Montreal’s Continue reading

Tunnel Thunder

Could the sheer volume of the combined sounds emanating from the crowd produce a sonic intensity so affecting as to stimulate a change in discourse?

(Video of Mass Student Demonstration—Montreal, Quebec, March 22nd)

Signs of Dissent Appear in Montréal on Eve of Mass Student Protest

Protest signs began appearing very early this morning as a collective welcome gesture to all the students and supporters of accessible education who will ascend onto Montréal streets this afternoon in a mass demonstration of solidarity against the Charest government’s tuition increases. Below are a few samples.

"Ensemble Bloquons la Hausse" or "Together let's block the Hike" appeared last night at the corner of Papineau and Ontario streets.

This photo of banners on a Ministry of Education building was circulated in the early hours of the morning. Photoshop or the real thing. I don't think it really matters.

One of the 200 media reclamations done by Artung! yesterday. They are marvelous!

A red square of books at Librairie Olivieri, rue Côte-des-neiges.

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