Concordia University President Supports Free Education in Québec

Yesterday,  April 2, 2012, Concordia students occupied the 15th floor of the John Molson School of Business building. Their demands included academic amnesty for striking students and for the university to state their official position against proposed tuition hikes by the Charest government.

Still image from The Link video of April 2, 2012.

In a recent video produced by student newspaper, The Link, Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Frederick Lowy informally met with the students who refused to leave the hallway outside of his office and spoke to the crowd, during which he said:

“I personally would have no problem at all with zero tuition. With no tuition at all, provided the university could get operating funds from other sources. OK. There are other countries in the world, as you know, although not many but there are countries where there are zero costs to higher eduction, just like there is zero cost right now to elementary school education.”

Frederick Lowy must certainly know that there are indeed funds available, if only the Charest government would prioritize accessible higher education rather than subsidize mining corporations.

(2007 © Phil Angers taken from the graphic novel "Extraction!: Comix Reportage)

Here is just one particular source of funds that could (and should) replace the total sum of $265 million tuition fee increases [1] that the Charest government proposes. Consider this example from the Québec 2012-2013 budget: a $332 million grant of public funds is made available to extend route 167 so that the mining corporation, Stornoway Diamonds, can access public land for mineral extraction. Stornoway is only paying a fractional $44 million for the construction of a permanent road that leads nowhere else than its future mine.

“The Route 167 Extension is the $332 million road development project designed to connect the communities of Chibougamau and Mistissini to the Renard Diamond Project by way of a number of other prospective mining projects as well as the new Albanel-Temiscamie-Otish Park…

…On August 1, 2011 Stornoway announced the signing of two financing agreements with the Government of Quebec by which Stornoway will contribute to the construction and maintenance costs of the new road. Stornoway will contribute $44 million to its development …” [2]

Why is québécois society subsidizing this corporation to extract a non-essential mineral from public land?! Why has Premier Charest not consulted the public to ask us whether or not we would prefer to maintain and improve accessibility to higher education rather than to subsidize the profit margins of private corporations?! Would this money not be better spent on education or healthcare or anywhere else with longterm benefits for Québec citizens rather than for short-term dividends for corporate shareholders?

It is time for university administrators like Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Lowy to break their silence. They must assume their roles as leaders of our public institutions to pressure Premier Jean Charest and Education Minister Line Beauchamp to begin dialogue with the student movement. Frederick Lowy should lead the way with his vision for zero fees for higher education in Québec.

All of Québec society — students and otherwise — should ask ourselves: Is it more beneficial for society to give money to private mining corporations so they may access public land for the extraction of gold or diamonds which are often socially and ecologically costly and only serve the interests of luxurious consumption and capitalist financing? Or is it more beneficial to take that same money and give it to public institutions to maintain or improve accessibility to higher education?

Now is the time to decide!


references:
[1] Éric Martic and Simon Tremblay-Pépin (2012) Do we really need to raise tuition fees?: Eight misleading arguments for the hikes. Institut de recherche et d’information socio-économiques (IRIS) p.3.

[2] This text is taken from the Stornoway website (viewed April 3, 2012).

CJ Building Picket in Support of Accessible Education

Dear students and colleagues,

This Wednesday March 21, we would like to cordially invite you to a festive, musical picket line outside of the CJ Building, on the Loyola campus. We will be gathering outdoors at 12pm sharp and stay until 4:30ish.

The intention of this gathering is:

  1. To open dialogue about the importance of not attending classes during  the strike. In particular, to extend strike awareness and energy to the Loyola campus.
  2. To create large, beautiful signs that will represent Concordia’s presence at the demonstration on March 22.

Please bring sidewalk chalk, poster boards, markers, glitter, fabric, colourful items of all sorts, and whatever other materials you think will contribute to making great posters/signs/puppets for the large demonstration on Thursday March 22.  Additionally, please bring along any musical instruments (or fun sound makers, such as a metal bowl and a spoon!) to add to the festivities!

Photo by Pamela Lamb, taken during the family demonstration on Sunday, March 18, 2012.

cheers and hoorrah,

Media Studies Students

Media Studies Students at Concordia University Strike in Support of Accessible Education

After careful deliberation, students in the MA Media Studies program at Concordia University have collectively decided to continue our strike on an ongoing basis, to be reviewed weekly. 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 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.

March 13 demonstration against Québec tuition increases as protesters walk westward along Boul. René-Lévesque in Montréal. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

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 professor’s 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.

 

Since the 2005 Québec student strike against the proposed removal of $103 million from student loans and bursaries, the red square symbolizes student debt that leaves students "squarely in the red". Photo taken during student demonstration on March 13, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

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.

"Professors support the students" reads a protest sign as a demonstration walks northward along Boul. St-Laurent in Montréal's Chinatown. Photo taken on March 13, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor.

We appeal to you for solidarity in our struggle against the Charest government’s position. 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

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