All Posts Tagged With: "activism"
Rick Ross gets cancelled but Tyga performs
A hip-hop concert cancelled earlier this month in Ottawa is fueling debate about which performers student union money should fund and whether artists’ freedom of expression has been silenced.
Pandemonium, the annual year-end show subsidized by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), was to be headlined by rapper Rick Ross on April 9. But numerous students from both universities urged their student unions to pull out because they said Ross’ recent lyrics glorify date rape. SFUO and CUSA eventually pulled the plug and the show was cancelled. Shortly afterward, athletics company Reebok announced it was dropping Ross.
It’s not just an issue in Ottawa. At Harvard University, a performance by the rapper Tyga went ahead Saturday despite an online petition with more than 1,000 signatures demanding a student board cancel it. Petitioners said his lyrics in the song “Bitch Betta Have My Money,” are “explicitly and violently misogynistic.” Tyga performed the song on the weekend, “despite all the haters.”
Canadian Federation of Students head talks transparency
The Canadian Federation of Students is a national network of student unions known best for its lobbying to make post-secondary education more affordable. The group is funded mostly through mandatory fees tacked on to students’ tuition bills whether they like it or not. The CFS is sometimes accused of not being transparent or worth the cost. Although it’s possible to leave the group through a petition and referendum, the CFS won’t let members go without a fight. In a 2010 referendum at the University of Guelph, 73 per cent of students voted to leave but the CFS never recognized the vote, resulting in at least $407,000 in legal bills for Guelph students. This month when it became clear the local student union was planning to give up and settle, the university stepped in and surveyed students, who once again indicated—70 per cent to 29 per cent—that they want to stop paying the fees. Carleton University Students’ Association may be the next student union to attempt to leave. Adam Awad, whose term as CFS National Chairperson ends in June, sat down for a chat during a recent trip to Toronto.
Student union, CFS want administrators to butt out
More than 70 per cent of University of Guelph undergraduates who responded to an unusual survey last week from their administration said they were opposed to paying student fees to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). That’s not surprising considering 73 per cent of voters were opposed when asked in a 2010 referendum.
Still, don’t expect the CFS, a student lobbying organization, to accept either poll anytime soon. Despite what appeared to be a strong mandate to stop funding the CFS in the 2010 referendum, the group has never accepted the result, arguing that there was something fishy about the vote.
And the CFS has support. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA)—the very student union that ran the referendum and vigorously defended it to the tune of $407,000 in legal bills as of August 2012—has switched sides and says it would rather stick with the CFS than fight on. That could mean paying roughly $250,000 per year retroactively plus $250,000 annually going forward.
Literature and life lessons help to understand activists
In Timothy Findley’s The Wars, a young officer, Robert Ross, defies orders and releases horses confined in a barn. It is WW1 and he is in an area of France being shelled by Germans. Releasing them is a way of saving them as the structure is an obvious target. Ross is an officer with the Canadian Field Artillery and it’s his love of animals and justice that motivates him. It’s also his last act before desertion.
Findley’s assertion was that Ross’ actions were heroic in context. His liberation of the horses is cast against the shadowy psychopathy of WW1, a psychopathy so hideous it kept high-ranking military men from touring the front. Had they done so, the carnage of the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele might not have materialized. More soldiers, from all forces involved, might have made it home.
The Wars is timely because it seems conventional ideas about heroism are atomizing before our eyes. More relativistic ways of seeing things, perhaps brought on by the pervasive use of the internet, are transporting us to a world where the bad guys are everywhere and they’re usually in charge. It’s created some odd bedfellows and even odder instances of cross-pollination. The Arab Spring, a political uprising with some very discernible causes, was replicated in Quebec by the Maple Spring, a student uprising that had a lot of us here scratching our heads. Many were puzzled by the students’ adoption of a name whose power was clear but whose basis for comparison was wildly inaccurate.
Many sport red squares of student movement
Montreal police arrested more than 30 people, including nine minors, during a second day of protests against Quebec’s northern development plan.
Demonstrators gathered on Saturday outside a job fair at the city’s convention centre, where businesses and workers were meeting to discuss opportunities in the natural resources sector.
Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said at least one window was smashed and a flare gun was fired inside the building.
“We tolerate protests but not criminal acts like this, so we decided to break up the protest,” Lafreniere said.
In a scene reminiscent of last spring’s student protests, lines of riot police were used to break up the crowd and protesters who were arrested were held on city buses.
Esteemed law professor Mary Eberts thinks so
Mary Eberts was a junior law professor at the University of Toronto in 1974 when she told her colleagues she planned to miss the July 8 faculty meeting to help get out the vote for Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Their reaction was bewilderment. Professors weren’t often politically involved.
Eberts got her day off and then left U of T in 1980 to join a Bay Street Firm. She remained an activist, giving her time to organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Now she’s back in the academy as the Ariel Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan. Three decades after her first academic job, she says it’s just as difficult for professors to get involved in civil society and speak out about their political beliefs. She argues Canadians are losing their expertise as a result.
I sat in on her talk at Congress 2012, Canada’s largest gathering of Humanities and Social Sciences, in Waterloo, Ont. (click to see a recording) and then I interviewed her in her house in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Here’s what she said about why professors so often stay silent, why she believes they shouldn’t, and how to square civic activism with their roles as teachers.
Should professors step up and engage more in civic life, even when it’s politically controversial?
Photos: about 200 march in solidarity with Quebec students
At least 1,000 (some say 2,000) turned out to bang pots and pans in solidarity with Quebec’s anti-tuition demonstrators one week ago in Toronto. At the time, we were told to expect much bigger crowds on June 5. It didn’t happen. When the march finally left George Brown College at the corner of King St. and George St. on Tuesday around 8:30 p.m., only about 200 people had joined it.
It was mainly the usual suspects: executives of local student unions, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the socialists. It’s hard to explain the low turnout, but one thing is clear: they can’t blame the weather. The skies were sunny. In fact, 5,000 people were at the University of Toronto two hours earlier to watch Venus cross the Sun’s path.
Much of Canada remains unmoved by Quebec
Quebeckers of all kinds have marched in the streets over the past week beating on casseroles. Some are making noise over the emergency Law, #78, which they say unduly restricts rights. Others are showing their anger over a planned tuition hike of $254 per year—the very thing that prompted paralyzing nightly protests in Montreal and Premier Jean Charest’s desperate response.
Just as Quebec student leaders and government negotiators sat down on Wednesday in Quebec City to continue talks to end the student “strike,” the rest of Canada was asked to show support for the pot-bangers by drumming on their own cookware at Casseroles Night in Canada events.
But turnout was modest, suggesting that (so far) the Rest of Canada is staying out of the fight.
Brigette DePape on the Power of Youth
Brigette DePape was a uniformed Senate page when she made herself an instant symbol of youth protest nearly a year ago by silently holding a handmade “Stop Harper” sign on the floor of the upper chamber during the reading of the Conservative government’s Throne Speech. Since then, she’s been travelling the country meeting with activist groups, and this week the 22-year-old launches Power of Youth, a collection of essays she co-edited on activism.
Q: You went from unknown to icon awfully quickly. Did you ever ﬁnd the transition intimidating?
A: To be honest, I was really scared when I took the action. The hardest part was that moment of, “Should I do this?” I could either stand back and watch as the government was eroding our social services and destroying our environment or I could do something. I was scared about my parents’ reaction, my family’s reaction. But then I really thought about the people who are impacted by Harper—women, indigenous people and workers. That really gave me strength and the feeling that I’m part of something bigger.
Q: How did your parents react?
A: My dad was really critical of the action. My parents want what’s best for me and all that, and I respect that. So they were concerned—“How are you going to pay the rent?” and that kind of thing. But then there was a real sense from my sisters that they were proud of me. I do feel a lot of support from my family. That’s huge and really important to me. To be honest, I think my dad is coming around.
Alex Ballingall reports on the Quebec student movement
For more than 12 weeks, tens of thousands of Quebec students have taken to the streets in anger and frustration. They’ve hurled slogans from worn-out vocal cords, sung and danced and taken their clothes off. Protesters threw stones, smashed windows and clashed with riot police, all in an effort to halt the government’s proposal to increase tuition $1,625 over the next ﬁve to seven years.
Students began walking out on their classes in February. More than three months later, the dispute has become the longest student strike in Quebec history. The stubborn persistence of the strike has left many in the rest of Canada scratching their heads over why there’s been such uproar. Even in Quebec, the intensity of the protests has puzzled observers.
But compromise could be near
Student groups in Quebec were quick to reject Liberal Premier Jean Charest’s Friday offer of concessions. Still, there are new reasons to believe some of the groups opposed to the $1,625 tuition increase could be ready to compromise and end their ongoing “strike.”
On Friday, Premier Charest said he would spread the impending tuition increase over seven years instead of five, which would reduce the increase to $254 per year from $325. CLASSE, the province’s largest and most militant student group, said Saturday that it will not accept such a deal.
But FECQ and FEUQ, the other two large students groups, asked for mediation with the government. Education Minister Line Beauchamp said today that it’s too early for mediation—she wants students to vote on the offer made Friday first. Still, the fact that she didn’t entirely reject the idea of mediation seems to indicate progress.
Protesters not to blame: associate dean
Two hours into his three-hour economics exam on Monday, third-year McGill University student Nico Ahn’s concentration was broken by a blaring fire alarm. He and hundreds of other students (there was another big exam happening in the same gymnasium) were told to leave their belongings and tests behind.
In the chilly morning air outside, Ahn says he and other students theorized about the alarm. Did someone realize she was going to fail, slip out and pull the trigger? Or was it an anti-tuition protester who wants all students to join Quebec’s boycott of classes—whether they like it or not?
160 arrested in Gatineau
In Quebec, where many students have boycotted classes for months, attempts by universities to hold classes and exams are being severely tested.
More than 160 protesters were arrested on Wednesday at the Université du Québec en Outaouais’s Gatineau campus, after an injunction ordered protesters off campus for two weeks starting Monday. The adults among them were charged hundreds of dollars each for blocking the highway to campus, reports the Montreal Gazette.
Also on Wednesday, the province’s biggest school, the Université de Montréal, called off classes in departments whose student associations have held successful strike votes, despite having earlier encouraged willing students to return to classes this week. The capitulation followed incidents where protesters blocked students from entering and leaving buildings and set off fire alarms during exams, reports the Gazette.
Quebec minister says she’s willing to discuss governance
The court order prevents demonstrations within 25 metres of the two campuses until April 23. The university had argued that it must cancel classes because it could not guarantee the safety of those who attend while their peers remain on strike.
Quebec students have boycotted classes over the past two months to protest a fee increase of $1,625 over five years, after which the province will still have some of the lowest tuition in Canada.
You’re angry. We get it. Now offer some constructive ideas.
A group of students staged another pedantic tuition protest last week at the office of Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Training Colleges and Universities.
The daylong “occupation,” attended by executives from Canadian Federation of Students locals, was to protest the five per cent tuition increase expected in the fall. Armed with recycled chants and glossy placards, the group of about 20 people shut down operations for the day.
To those students, I say “well done.” Yes, if your aim was to give the minister a day out of the office, or if you sought to expedite public exhaustion with student foot-stomping, you likely succeeded. I just hope you weren’t pining for actual change to Ontario’s tuition structure.
Student groups reject gov’t offers as deadline approaches
The student strike in Quebec, ignited by a $1,625 tuition increase over the next five years, is now the longest in provincial history—and participants may soon pass a point of no return.
Professors’ contracts require the semester to end by June 15 and some universities are hinting that the entire semester will be in jeopardy for students who don’t go back in time to meet that deadline.
The Université de Montréal, Quebec’s largest, announced Wednesday that it will extend the term into May for students who have already returned to class.
At the same time, it said it can no longer guarantee students who haven’t returned that they will be able to finish their semesters. Groups representing around 25 per cent of U de M are still on strike.
This is what a really big protest looks like
On March 22, tens of thousands of Quebec students skipped classes to march in Montreal against a tuition fee hike of $1,625 over five years. Blogger Jacob Serebrin was there on the street. Check out the photos he snapped below, then read his take on what’s next for the student movement.
Tuition hike protest is about more than just money
It’s impossible to say exactly how many attended the Montreal march, but it was one of the largest ever. Estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000. CBC News described the march as being “considerably larger than the one at Montreal’s famous 1995 pre-referendum rally.” I personally watched protesters pass through one intersection for over half an hour with no end in sight.
The march was the latest in a series of escalating protests, including the province-wide student “strike” during which thousands of students have skipped classes, some for over a month.
But now that the sun has set on the March 22 Day of Action, the big question is, what’s next?
Overhaul of student gov’t gains support in Quebec
A group made up of mostly third-year law students from the University of Sherbrooke is fed up with what they say are divisive, unfair and illegal student strikes happening across Quebec.
The group, called the Students’ Coalition for Free Association, is encouraging students to drop their student unions instead of cutting class.
They’re also calling on Quebec’s government to create two tiers of student unions: one with a mandate to provide services like health, dental and academic help—and another for activists.
Within just a few days of posting their proposal online, the SCFA’s ideas have received support in high places. Danielle St-Amand, Liberal member for Trois-Rivières, posted the group’s petition on the National Assembly’s website on Tuesday.
The petition received more than 300 signatures, literally overnight.
3M winner Toni Samek shares her teaching philosophy
Early on, professor Toni Samek asks her students this question: Is homelessness a library issue?
Students entering the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta, where Samek has taught for 18 years, come from fields as diverse as nursing and law.
They arrive not knowing what to expect.
But after the homelessness question, students forget their stereotypes about meek librarians.
Samek is one of 10 new 3M National Teaching Fellows who have agreed to share their secrets to successful teaching with Maclean’s.