Students are striking to oppose the provincial government’s unnecessary tuition increases. Tuition is set to increase nearly 75% in the next five years, or $325 more every year starting in September 2012 and ending in 2017, which amounts to an added financial load of $1,625 per student per year.
Students are striking to resist the privatization of education. Along with the ever increasing role of private and corporate funding to the university, tuition increases are part of a larger trend to shift the responsibility of higher education from society (via the federal and provincial governments) to the private sector. The privatization of the university is a move towards the commodification of learning and constitutes an attack on a widely held view that education is a collective right and responsibility.
Students are striking to demand that university administrators end the improper use of our funding and our resources. McGill University is not underfunded. The real problem is how funds are spent: on real estate projects, on ambitious building expansions, on heightening McGill’s profile, and other spending that siphons money out the operating budget (responsible for teaching and learning).
Students are striking to reassert their right to McGill. Tuition increases are just one further measure to control who has access to McGill and who does not. The 2011- 2012 academic year has seen a series of attacks on legitimate student participation in University affairs. Increased securitization of campus, the lack of authentic student participation in decision making following the events of Nov. 10th, censoring undergraduate student groups’ use of “McGill,” and most recently invalidating student electoral practices, all send a strong message to students that our opinions and potential contributions to McGill are inconsequential to the administration.
Students are striking because general student strikes are effective. Throughout Quebec history general strikes have effectively forced the government into negotiations with student associations because the possibility of cancelling a semester is economically and logistically impossible. Alternative and symbolic actions by students such as petitions and demonstrations are ignored unless within the context of a general strike.
Students are striking for their siblings, their friends, their children, for all Québec students, today and tomorrow. Tuition fee increases make universities less accessible, especially for students from racialized communities and less affluent backgrounds.