The Meaning Behind the Movement
There’s More Than Tuition on the Table
The province-wide student demonstration slotted for Nov. 10 is now only weeks away. In preparation for protest, it is crucial that students ask what they are protesting against, what their goals are and how they can be achieved.
On Nov. 10, students will stand in solidarity against a planned tuition hike in Quebec—but we need to realize the struggle for accessible education runs a lot deeper than a $1,625-more-per-semester hole in anyone’s pocket.
These planned hikes mark a big step towards a society where attending university is based on one’s economic class, rather than one’s desire for free and creative thought.
But students will miss out on the true meaning of protest if we boil the issue down to simply one of dollars and cents and the Charest government’s plan to raise the cost of an education.
What’s at stake here is the struggle for a more egalitarian and free society, as students are now part of an education system that is increasingly unequal, hierarchical and dominated by corporate interests.
Under the current system of power, students have been trained to become passive partners in an organization that keeps the dominant social order running efficiently. We must see the Nov. 10 protest and the events that follow as a movement to change this established order.
Right now, students organizing on campuses across the province and the world are taking seriously the ideals of democracy and equality—ideals that have been thoroughly degraded in our institutions today.
But these are big ideas and broad goals, so how they can actually be achieved?
First, the student unions need to be democratized now. Currently, decisions continue to be made by the executive and its council—this is not democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. Students should have the right to make their own decisions in a General Assembly.
And there is also nothing to prevent student unions from aiming for these broader social transformations except fear of reprisal. Of all unions in society, student unions should perhaps be the most radical. The student unions need to be fundamentally democratized.
On campus, the student community is a microcosm for the new society that students are struggling to create. They are producing and distributing their own local and free meals, student media is becoming more open to direct participation and there is a culture of spontaneous collaboration and creativity.
In these critical early stages, the broader student community needs to play an active role in shaping the rising student movement. Department associations and clubs are closer to the community than the union, and their views and ideals should be reflected in the decisions that are made. Their voices are essential.
Another danger of this growing student movement is to confine it strictly within the university walls, as there are countless organizations and individuals who share the same ideals for a better future, though they are not “students” in the narrow sense of the term.
There is a genuine need to extend the movement beyond the university early and actively participate with the broader community. This community should be encouraged to participate in movement building; otherwise, the student movement is merely replicating the hierarchies they seek to overthrow.
The ideas and goals of this movement largely depend on those who decide to take an active role in this process. One can only hope that the radical ideals of equality, democracy and freedom are taken seriously in these critical early stages.
We need to start now. The next assembly for this movement is happening this Friday—be there.
The Mob Squad is holding a meeting Oct. 13 at 6:00 p.m. outside of the Concordia Student Union office on the seventh floor of the Hall Building.