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.

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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.

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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

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

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.

This is a Picket Line at Loyola Campus

This afternoon, an enthusiastic group of BA, MA and PhD students from Concordia University’s Department of Communications Studies held a picket line at the southeast door of the CJ Building at the Loyola campus. Many of the department’s faculty lent their support to the action. The purpose of the picket line was to maintain a strike presence on the Loyola Campus, to create placards and banners for the mass tomorrow’s mass demonstration, to feed our camaraderie and strengthen our solidarity. It was also a space to meet with passersby from different departments and other faculties by offering them red felt squares, information flyers and an affable opportunity for conversation. Strikes do not only foment divisions, they also provide opportunities for dialogue where dialogue would not otherwise present itself.

The southeast entrance to Loyola's CJ Building and the "Charrêt" stop sign that reminds students of the strike. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

“Would you like a red square?” received mixed responses. Some students and professors responded sharply to my proposal with a “No thanks!” Others wouldn’t look me in the eye maybe from fear of a confrontation. One student turned to me as she rushed past my outstretched offering of red felt and a safety pin, and snapped, “I have the right to my education too!!” Maybe she blamed me for missing a class tomorrow after the university administration’s decision to lock down both campuses for the entire day of the mass demonstration. Dialogue did not come easy with everyone. These are representations of the divisiveness that strikes are known for.

One figure in "The Emergence of the Chief" sculpture by David McGary donned the symbol of student solidarity for maintaining accessible education. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

One student seemed unaware of the strike, whose intensity had not really reached the Loyola Campus. How is this possible I thought to myself, wondering if it was plausible that a student from UQAM or Université de Montréal could be unaware of the student strike. I doubt it. The difference in media coverage of the student strike between anglophone and francophone media has manifest differences, which could explain the cluelessness.

The southeast entrance to Loyola's CJ Building and its festive picket. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

Two students from Exercise Science responded to my offer with a “yes, why not”, to which I replied do you know what this red square is a symbol of?” They didn’t. I explained that in 2005, when the Québec government decided to take $103 million from the student bursary purse and transfer it to loans, students were incensed! Actually they were mad as hell because without bursaries, they would end up “squarely in the red” (a translation of carrément dans le rouge). Indebted to the hilt. Red square… debt… get it?! These two guys were interested in the history of the Québec student movement that has fought periodically for decades to maintain low tuition in support of accessible education. I continued.

One student on the picket line drinks tea in the unseasonably hot 25 degrees Celcius. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

The most common argument in support of tuition increases is that Québec tuition rates are the lowest in Canada. That’s exactly the point because Québec society made that decision decades ago to keep education accessible. The Charest government drones on about students paying their fair share. Québecois pay among the highest income and sales tax in North America because we want accessible education as a collective social project. Before stating that universities are underfunded because of the low tuition fees, critics should look at where the current government is allocating public funds. Consider one example from yesterday’s provincial budget: a $332 million grant in public funds is made available to extend route 167 so that the mining corporation, Stornoway Diamonds, can access its future mine. Stornoway is only paying a franctional $44 million for the construction of a permanent road that leads nowhere else than its future mine. Why are Québécois residents subsidizing this corporation to extract a non-essential mineral from public land?! Would this money not be better spent on education or healthcare or anywhere else with longterm benefits for Québec citizens?

This is our picket line, soft as chalk on pavement. Cross it and have a conversation. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

In the end, neither of the two students accepted a red felt square. They weren’t yet ready to show support for the student strike. But that’s OK because the strike gave us an opportunity to chat with one another, across picket lines, borders, faculties, ideologies, divisions. We were both enriched by the exchange. As we parted, I turned and crossed the “soft” picket line drawn on the pavement with coloured chalk. The hive of activity had continued without me. Discussion ebbed and flowed. I was reminded as I glanced toward the tam tam player who was enthusiastically sustaining the heartbeat of the picket. At the beginning of the strike, he recited to our Media Studies cohort a quote by Mark Twain: “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

No to tuition hikes! 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

I realized that that is what I’d been doing all afternoon.

This is Not an Advertizement! It is Culture, Public but Mostly Jam

This morning, ARTUNG ! offers the people of Montreal more than 300 artworks . Installed in the advertising panels belonging to Pattison, CBS Outdoor and Astral Media, these displays denounce the increase in tuition fees. [click on any red square to see the displays)

Map of Artung!'s reclamation of public space in support of access to education.

“The public space should encourage citizen expression and represent different points of view. Unfortunately, the urban landscape is overrun with advertisements. The commercialization of our living space leaves room for only one message: sell and consume”, according to the co-spokesperson of ARTUNG!, Peggy Faye.

An Artung! intervention with artwork by the Beehive Design Collective.

Last May, 200 advertisements were replaced by artworks to reclaim the public space while at the same time denouncing the lawsuit filed by Pattison, CBS Outdoor and Astral Media against the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. On September 7, 2010, Mayor Ferrandez’s administration adopted a by law calling for the removal of the 45 panels installed on its territory. Today, although the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough has sent out 86 statements of offense, none of the huge advertising panels has been removed – these companies are therefore acting illegally.

This time, the ARTUNG initiative is coming out in support of the 220 900 students who are presently on strike. Tomorrow the 22 of March, thousands of citizens will fill the public space during a huge national demonstration to oppose the decision of the liberal government to increase tuition fees. This measure impairs the accessibility of education and public services.

“Teaching institutions, like the streets, should be places of dialogue rather than spaces subjected to the economics of the market,” states Pascale Brunet, co-spokesperson of ARTUNG!

Made up of a constellation of citizens of all stripes, ARTUNG! Invites the population to participate in a reflection on the future of our public spaces. Our streets should be a canvas for all communities and not for private companies. Our schools should be places for meeting and debating ideas, and not degree factories.

Photos and a video will be available this morning at : www.cecinestpasunepub.net

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Ce matin, ARTUNG ! offre plus de 300 oeuvres d’art aux citoyen.ne.s de Montréal. Installées dans des supports publicitaires appartenant à Pattison, CBS Outdoor et Astral Media, ces affiches dénoncent la hausse des frais de scolarité.

« L’espace public devrait encourager l’expression citoyenne et représenter différents points de vue. Malheureusement, le paysage urbain est envahi par les publicités. La commercialisation de notre milieu de vie ne laisse place qu’à un seul message : vendre et consommer » soutient la co-porte-parole d’ARTUNG!, Peggy Faye.

Artung! in support of the student strike against tuition increases.

Rappelons qu’en mai dernier, 200 publicités avaient été remplacées par des oeuvres d’art pour réinvestir l’espace public et condamner la poursuite de Pattison, CBS Outdoor et Astral Media contre l’arrondissement du Plateau-Mont-Royal. En septembre 2010, un règlement imposait le retrait des 45 panneaux publicitaires installés sur le Plateau. Aujourd’hui, bien que 86 constats d’infraction aient été émis par l’arrondissement, aucun de ces immenses panneaux publicitaires n’a été retiré. Ces compagnies ont donc des pratiques illégales.

Cette fois-ci, l’initiative d’ARTUNG vient en appui aux 220 900 étudiant.e s qui sont présentement en grève. Demain le 22 mars, des milliers de citoyen.ne.s investiront l’espace public lors d’une gigantesque manifestation nationale pour s’opposer à la décision du gouvernement libéral de hausser les frais de scolarité. Cette mesure nuit à l’accessibilité aux études en plus de s’inscrire dans une logique de marchandisation de l’éducation et des services publics.

« Les établissements d’enseignement, tout comme les rues, devraient être des lieux de dialogue plutôt que des espaces assujettis à l’économie de marché » a déclaré Pascale Brunet, co-porte-parole d’ARTUNG!

Formé d’une constellation de citoyen.ne.s de tout acabit, ARTUNG! invite la population à participer à une réflexion sur l’avenir de nos espaces publics.

Nos rues devraient être un canevas pour nos communautés et non pour les compagnies privées. Nos écoles devraient être des lieux de rencontres et de débats d’idées et non des usines à diplômes. En matinée, une vidéo et des photos seront disponibles ici :www.cecinestpasunepub.net

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Contact Média Pascale Brunet et Peggy Faye 438-876-7384

Collectivity and the Classroom Without Guarantees

Media & Feminist Theory:

Strategy: Collectivities and Situated Knowledges.

by Krista Geneviève Lynes

“Capitalist imperalism is an effort to win the world for calculation” – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of a Discipline, 54.

Politics of Friendship is, in other words, only a book between covers. For the real text, you must enter the classroom, put yourself to school, as a preview of the formation of collectivities. A single ‘teacher’s’ ‘students’, flung out into the world and time, is, incidentally, a real-world example of the precarious continuity of a Marxism ‘to come’, aligned with grassroots counterglobalizing activism in the global South today” —Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of a Discipline , 28.

After the funeral procession, students mourn the loss of accessible education due to tuition increases as proposed by the Québec Liberal government. Photo taken in Montréal's Parc Lafontaine, Friday, March 16, 2012 by David Widgington.

As the number of students on strike approaches 270,000 this week, the minister Line Beauchamp declared ‘We’re not in a negotiation. A decision has been made’. The president of CEPAL, Philippe-Olivier Daniel, meanwhile sent a formal notice to student associations to ‘stop infringing on his right to attend classes’.[1] These different standpoints, figured in public discourse as the site of agonism in the public sphere (if not antagonism), figure for us the importance of the question of collectivity, and the relation of collectivity to pedagogy.

The student action would seem to pose the question of collectivity in the demonstrations, strikes and actions, and this is certainly a location for important coalitional work among students, and between students, faculty and the public. But the student’s stakes in the matter also are to preserve another form of collectivity (signalled by the second epigraph above): the collectivity of the classroom itself…

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

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