Demistifying Student Strikes

There’s no doubt about it: a general student strike is on the horizon. Students have been pleading and negotiating for two years: petitions, letters, phone calls, conferences, protests, rallies, occupations—you name it, we’ve tried them all.

The government isn’t budging, but this isn’t surprising. Historically, it’s widespread strikes that make gains in student struggles.

A strike is no laughing matter; it isn’t a decision to be made lightly. It means making a democratic choice to temporarily put aside our studies because we believe that higher education is a societal good and a human right.

During a strike, we mobilize and organize instead of studying, and a mobilized student body is a force to reckon with! Strikes work by pressuring the powers that be because labour contracts and utility bills make any extension to the semester undesirable.

There have been eight such province-wide strikes in Quebec. Seven were successful, and students have never lost a semester.

During strikes with tens of thousands of participants, cancelling a semester would result in backlogs of those waiting to enter the university and those waiting to enter the work force. This is precisely why at the end of previous strikes, rather than penalizing students, classes were extended and evaluations renegotiated.

I’m not going to pretend that going on strike isn’t a sacrifice, because it is. I can’t promise you that we will be successful this year. What I can tell you is that without organized resistance, we will certainly lose.

Fortunately, there is a movement: 13,180 students from three campuses have already voted to go on strike, and another 52,000 will vote in the upcoming weeks.

The question is: will we join them?

Concordia doesn’t have a history of participating in strikes lasting more than a day or two—although we benefit from the improvements to financial aid and tuition freezes our francophone peers have won for us.

This spring we can fight in solidarity with students across Quebec for a society that recognizes the value of education for all of its members.

If you want to learn about strikes, come by Hall Building’s second-floor mezzanine during the week, come to the Loyola Luncheons on Wednesdays, or to the GSA house (2030 Mackay St.) Fridays after 5:00 p.m.

Like “Concordia Students for Accessible Education” on Facebook, and send your concerns and questions to info@concordiastudents.ca.
Inform yourselves, talk to your friends, and get involved!

–Irmak Bahar
BSC Biology

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