November 14, 2019

University of Victoria's Student Society prevents a celebration of the International Day of Students

November 17, 1939 antifascist rally in Prague
By Tyson Riel Strandlund

November 17th marks the International Day of Students, a day which commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, following which student leaders were executed and over 1200 students sent to concentration camps. This day is marked and celebrated by students around the world, and it was with this day in mind that students at the University of Victoria had intended to come together to raise their voices in unison demanding the right to free, universal, democratic post-secondary education on November 14th. It would cost approximately $10 billion to eliminate tuition fees in Canada. Meanwhile, Canada’s 6 banks reported $42 billion in profit for 2017. With the $4.5 billion used to purchase the Trans-Mountain Pipeline, we could’ve eliminated student debt for over 150,000 people. Additionally, our commitment to NATO means our already bloated military budget of over $20 billion will be increasing by 73% over the course of the decade. There is simply no excuse for the prioritisation of corporate profits over education.

Initiated by the Young Communist League, plans for a short, peaceful rally on campus were effectively quashed by the UVic Students’ Society – a body which should have been the first to facilitate, if not to lead such a rally themselves. Instead, the UVSS bombarded organisers with incredibly overbearing bureaucratic demands, with a clear aim of making the event completely invisible, if not altogether impossible. Far from progressive representatives of UVic’s students, the UVSS have proven themselves to be on the side of the board of governors, who last March voted to increase international students’ tuition fees by 15%. In creating an unworkable situation for organising, the YCL’s partners for the event, also registered UVic clubs, voiced serious concerns about moving ahead for fear that they would lose club status and funding at the university, including notably, the UVic Greens, and consequently Green Party federal candidate David Merner, who was scheduled to speak. Perhaps surprising on the heels of the federal election, Mr. Merner would’ve shared the stage for a common cause with a recent opponent – myself, Tyson Strandlund from the Communist Party – in demanding free education, alongside other UVic clubs and students from various political backgrounds. Even since the cancellation of the original event, unilateral plans by the YCL simply to set up a table and provide literature to passersby have been dogged by bureaucracy, including demands to see any literature that would be distributed beforehand.

It is more than unfortunate that this expression of democracy was stifled by student representatives. It is alarming. In the context of rising costs, falling standards of living, and increasing attacks on public education, the UVSS should be the most powerful and vocal proponent of the rights of students, but they have instead chosen to act as managers for the board of governors and for the bourgeoisie. For my part, I deeply apologise to students who had hoped to make themselves heard on the 14th. Rest assured however that the fight is far from over. Students take note, organise, and make no mistake, in future, we must work outside of these restrictive confines and in accordance with our charter rights, and call on all those willing clubs and individuals unafraid of their elected student representatives to come forward and fight for free education, both on and off campus. Lastly, I wholeheartedly condemn the cowardly, shameful acts of the UVSS, who were unwilling to allow even an hour of peaceful protest in honour of the International Day of Students.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular stories