On Protests

It’s something that isn’t being given much attention in Canadian media, but I’d like to point out that a strike of the current magnitude being executed by Québécois students is the largest one in student history in North America, as well as the largest collective strike in recent Canadian history. In addition to not going to classes, students are doing various non-violent direct actions at centres of political and economic power throughout the province. Occupations of Education and Finance Ministers’ offices, as well as a recent turn to occupying banks, make it seem that this movement is shifting from the student sphere to encompass a more general social movement.
It’s a logical next step – when you look critically at the university’s role in our country, it’s easy to connect the dots between increasing tuition and increasing the divide between middle and working class. Decreased government funding opens the floodgates to increased funding from private industry.
There is a bigger question underlying the Quebec student strikes: should modern Canadian universities be valued and upheld as institutes of critical thinking and higher learning, or are we content with sitting by and watching as they become expensive training grounds for the next generation of corporate workers?
There is a false dichotomy produced when we think of students AND workers, students AND taxpayers, students AND the rest of society. We are all a part of the struggle, and by creating divisions, we run the risk of overlooking the common underlying issue of public goods being chipped away in favour of corporate providers. The increasingly corporate university system is merely one part of the bigger picture.
Having student representation eliminated from the two Board of Governor committees that will decide the cuts to be put in place to make sure King’s doesn’t go bankrupt (the Financial Sustainability Committee and the Budget Advisory Committee) shows that the corporate thinking that is the hallmark of larger universities is also present here at home. When students and faculty are thought of as “special-interest groups” by our administration and Board of Governors, it makes you wonder what those running our university really think of King’s. Last time I checked, students and faculty are the reason that a university exists.
Having this top-down approach to our school’s governance, where students and faculty are merely side notes to the financial business of the university, undermines the core ideology of King’s. If we pride ourselves on the fact that King’s is about critical thinking and true learning, and more than a corporate knowledge factory, it’s time that we make this known to the ones making our school’s financial decisions and demand our rightful place at the table.
Anna Bishop
Vice-President, Communications 2011-2012
King’s Students’ Union

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

2 replies on “On Protests”

Nailed it! A briiliant recapitalization of the current current student protests, their meaning at large and transformed on the example of King’s University. I absolutely agree, well done.

There are hundreds of thousands of registered corporations of different compositions and purposes in Canada, the “corporation” is not a monolith and cannot be understood as a whole. Secondly, why are the “corporations” antagonistic towards critical thinking? Despite an annoying penchant for suits and buzzwords, modern business thinking pushes for innovation and the smarter and more dynamic worker. Straw-men make easy targets. It’s foolish to think that those at liberal arts school are the only and end-all of “critical thinkers”. King’s and liberal arts institutions are vital to a progressive society, so is business. When some students come to understand this and drop the “struggle” rhetoric, we can all get off our mountain-tops and actually work towards better ways to educate.

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