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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Pierre Bourdieu Would Support Student Strike and Wear a Red Square

The sociologist leads us to understand that the academic institution can perpetuate social inequalities

While the Charest government refuses to reverse its decision to increase tuition fees for university education, thousands of students cast strike votes and gather in the streets to challenge the validity of this increase. The positional contrast between the Liberal government and Québec students is nothing new.

Photo taken during the Graduate Students Association general assembly, which voted to strike against tuition increases. Montréal, Tuesday, March 6, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

The issue has come up periodically for at least three decades. In spring 2007, Minister Michelle Courchesne introduced a law to end the tuition freeze, requiring student fee contributions to go up $100 per year from 2007 to 2012.

This recurring increase did not lead students toward a general strike. But with the 2010 Bachand budget, which continued the tuition hikes in the same vein, the debate has been revived. If the government prevails, university student tuition fees will begin their increase in fall 2012 by $325 per year, and this for five years, meaning a total increase of $ 1,625. At this rate tuition will reach $ 3,793 a year in 2017.

The Government considers it reasonable for students to consider the fees as an “investment”, because university graduates will receive substantial income once in the labour market. Thousands of students — with ever-increasing numbers — oppose this accountant’s logic intrinsic to the tuition hikes.

It’s a safe bet, and it even seems obvious that Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) would stand behind students in Québec and would display, like them, a red square, symbol of the student mobilization.

The French sociologist, of which it is the 10th anniversary of his death, is recognized for his work on accessibility to higher education, which bring the issue beyond a simple war of numbers.

Bourdieu would support student claims by referring to particular theories and concepts developed in his works, “The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relations to Culture” (Les héritiers, 1964) and “Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture” (La réproduction, 1970).

Photo taken during the feminist march against tuition hikes. Montréal, Thursday, March 8, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

Socialized to Think

In Bourdieusian analysis, universities perpetuate inequalities that begin in early childhood. Throughout the socialization process, mediated from, among other things, the education received, children learn and master a number of skills that will affect the way they think and act.

Experiences gained during identity construction accumulate, are internalized and leave their indelible mark. These experiences shape and transform.

They end up forming a habitus, which Bourdieu defines as a set of internalized provisions that construct social agents and act as schemes for circumstantial assessment and evaluation that generate ways of doing and ways of being.

These different inculcations condition one’s relationship with the world and determine aptitudes of perception and judgement. From this, a collection of resources and capabilities settle within each of us. Students define their educational path according to this habitus that reflects their social class position.

"Danger! Educated Women!" Photo taken during the feminist march against tuition increases. Montréal, Thursday, March 8, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

In other words, the desired level of education is developed according to its own logic, influenced by a combination of factors that Bourdieu conceptualized as “cultural capital” (eg, the educational level of parents), “economic capital” (parental income, etc.) and” social capital “(the network that contributes to the socialization). Children are socialized depending on the volume and type of economic, cultural and social capital available to parents. They will learn to see themselves as able or not to attend university.

Making choices about the level of educational aspiration can be Continue reading

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