Students united

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, King’s students, alongside hundreds more, took to the streets of Halifax as part of a nation-wide Day of Action to reduce tuition fees and drop student debt. Many of the 1,000-strong crowd of students had joined together for the same cause last February.

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, King’s students, alongside hundreds more from Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, took to the streets of Halifax as part of a nation-wide Day of Action to reduce tuition fees and drop student debt.
While this year’s Day of Action was a national endeavor, coordinated from coast to coast by the Canadian Federation of Students, rallying for increased access to university education was all too familiar for many Nova Scotian students. Many of the 1,000-strong crowd of students had joined together for the same cause last February.
Despite their frustration, few were surprised to be rallying again.
“I don’t think anyone thought that our government would have a crisis of conscience this year and change their opinion straight away,” said Omri Haiven, External Vice President of the King’s Students’ Union.
Dr. Laura Penny, a King’s alumna and now a King’s professor, organized a rally with a similar vision in 1995.
“I am frustrated that we have to keep having the same argument over and over again, but I also think that that is the nature of the political beast,” said Penny.
While the students marched through the streets of downtown Halifax en route to NSCAD, toting placards with recycled slogans from years prior, several students acknowledged changes at the 2012 Day of Action.
“The biggest thing that comes to mind is definitely the weather,” said fourth-year student Davis Carr. Carr remembers the snowstorm on last year’s Day of Action that forced the closure of inner-city schools. Carr referred to the inclement weather as “super epic.”
Haiven, who chairs Action King’s, explained that the new organization model used to plan this year’s Day of Action allowed students who weren’t necessarily involved in one particular thing to take on responsibility in their area of expertise.
“We worked together to try to make a really diverse rally,” said Haiven.
Gabe Hoogers, president of the King’s Students’ Union, took notice of the different aura about those rallying.
“What I sensed was that there was more frustration in the air,” said Hoogers. “The government still hasn’t responded to our calls to return their promises of the past and people are worried that what’s going to happen from this newly-signed MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is really going to affect their university education.”
While Hoogers drew attention to the provincial government’s disregard for the Day of Action last year, opting instead to increase tuition fees and cut funding further, he commended King’s students for their continued effort in this aim.
“I take a lot of pride in how friggin’ ridiculously engaged King’s students are,” said Hoogers. “We came out with the KSU headbands and war paint and compared to the proportion that came out from other schools, it’s so huge and really inspiring.”
Haiven echoed Hoogers’ sentiments.
“King’s has a very interesting brand of leadership and this is why I love King’s,” said Haiven.
Both Haiven and Hoogers foresee a Day of Action in 2013.
“We just need that much more time so that Darrell Dexter can prove himself to be the farce that he is, who is someone who doesn’t believe in Nova Scotian working families or in students,” said Haiven.
Penny also anticipates future rallies. “If you believe in a principle, you have to stand up for it on the regular and not just once.”
Hoogers illustrated a plan of action in order to further this pursuit.
“I said it in my speech and I really mean it: we have to bring back the energy and the excitement that we saw here today to our students’ unions and our board of governors,” said Hoogers. “We’ve got to pressure people in power and stay engaged and stay involved in what’s going on with the reduce fees, drop debt movement.”
In addition to Hoogers’s insistence for continued pressure, Haiven advocates that change is necessary in order to further the movement.
“I think that there are different tactics that are needed to be used each year,” said Haiven. “You need to keep the revolution, or at least the protest, creative.”
“We have to encourage each other to speak out when we see injustice and what we’re seeing right now, with this nine per cent increase over three years, is an injustice,” said Haiven.
“We’ve got a provincial election coming up sometime soon and they’re going to hear our calls. The public has already heard our calls; 83 per cent of Nova Scotians disagree with raising tuition fees,” said Hoogers.
“Darrell Dexter needs to open his ears,” said Haiven.
Disclaimer: Davis Carr is Production Manager of The Watch.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

Leave a Reply