Editorial

Strike!

There are many reasons that over 120,000 students have already taken to the streets.

Starting this September, tuition will be increased by $325 per year for five years—resulting in a 75 per cent increase in fees for students. Out-of-province and international students could potentially be hit even harder depending on the amount Concordia University choses to raise fees by.

Many argue that the hikes are justified because our schools are in dire need of funding. Our schools needing money is not in doubt. What is in doubt, however, is whether this increase will even have a chance at positively affecting students and the universities as a whole.

We think not.

The most popular claim for tuition increase supporters is that Quebec has the lowest tuition in Canada. It’s partly true, but those arguments ignore the fact that Quebec residents are the highest taxed people in North
America. Jean Charest simply cannot have his cake and eat ours too.

An interesting observation is that, while the government seems hard-up for cash, taxes on corporations have been in steady decline. From 2006 to 2011, $890 million in business capital taxes were phased out—that’s over $600 million more than the amount tuition hikes will rake in.

Not surprisingly, Charest’s government has about as much foresight as a goldfish. In September, the government’s Advisory Committee on the Financial Accessibility of Education released a report calling the hikes a “five-year experiment,” recognizing the increase could overwhelm an already overburdened student financial aid program.

On top of all this, we’re being asked to pay into a government that is infamous for its corruption. Public inquiries have even been set up to look into industries ranging from construction right down to public daycare. Why would students throw more money at an obviously broken government?

Like Quebec, Concordia University is also rife with corruption and prone to mismanagement of public funds.

The administration likes to claim the school is underfunded, but in one year alone they managed to spend upwards of $2.4 million on padded severances packages—and that number doesn’t even include the $700,000-plus awarded to former president Judith Woodsworth and the $1.3 million to her predecessor Claude Lajeunesse, both of whom didn’t even make it past the half-way mark of their terms.

And let’s not forget the $1.4 million interest-free loan to cover the cost of current ConU president Frederick Lowy’s condo. Underfunded indeed.

The most mind-boggling misconception of them all, though, is that tuition hikes are an unavoidable reality. A quick look at the map shows that Canada exists on the same planet as Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Brazil—all of which have free or socially funded universities.

The University of Buenos Aires is free—even for foreigners—and Danes enjoy not just free education, but a monthly stipend from the state to help them focus on school. All this proves is that it can be done—but it’s not even what we’re asking for.

Jean Charest simply cannot have his cake and eat ours too.

In the past two years, students have written letters to ministers, organized sit-ins, sleep-ins, occupations and marches. Finally, frustrated by a political party unwilling to engage in dialogue or even listen, tens of thousands of students across Quebec are now on strike.

At Concordia, seven student associations are on strike so far, representing over 8,000 students. The rest of the 46,000-person student body—including both undergraduate and graduate students—have the opportunity this week to go on strike as well.

A vote is being held today for all graduate students and tomorrow for all undergraduate students.

The result of these votes will have an important effect on the success of the strikes in 2012, since, in the 44-year history of the student movement, the two strikes that failed were the direct result of a divided movement.

The strikes of 1968, 1974, 1978, 1986, 1996 and 2005, however, were successful because the students were united in their determination to defeat the government.

This year is no different—so long as you’re in the fight. A province-wide united student body is a formidable political force, but if we let this one pass, it will set a precedent for more hikes to come.

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