Features | Manifesto for a student movement

The student movement I want will never exist.

The movement would be based on guerilla tactics, direct action, and mass mobilization. Ideas would be spread by word of mouth, DIY campaigning, and most importantly, mass education on important issues like tuition freezes or government policies that marginalize groups of students. Each student union would engage in a series of small targeted projects, like bus passes or student daycare, to improve quality of life. Larger ideal campaigns would have a targeted objective and avoid vague, tokenistic platitudes – less populism and more pragmatic action. Don’t like the new dining policy at your university? Call the director and administration ad nauseum to let him know. Don’t like the recent provincial tuition defreeze? Strike for a week. Don’t like a particular bill in Ottawa concerning student grants and debt forgiveness? Bus people in.

This could sound like a student movement you know, but the difference is this sort of activism would be constant. It would last beyond the first few weeks of term. Everyone would be active. There would be no complacency.

The ideal student movement would not try to sell its membership anything – no pins, pens, or novelty bags. Promotional items should be found at the dollar store – like Association syndicale de solidarité étudiante’s easily made red felt pins. (And what ever happened to armbands?) The movement wouldn’t introduce a savings card to track student consumer patterns. It wouldn’t try to sell health insurance – even at a low cost – because there would be no large over-arching bureaucracy. If students organized for an ongoing campaign, their unions could form a collective lobbying group, with a skeleton staff to carry out administration and one or two rotating representatives to occasionally bargain with politicians. No fancy headquarters, no professional student politicians, and no special perks – leaders would have to be the most committed to their cause, not the most glory-driven. But this ideal collective would also be open to critique internally and externally, without fear of litigation or Internet-based attacks. It would engage with the media, and open its key policy meetings to the public (like ASSÉ’s congress.)
But the student movement will never exist because of the nature of student politics. We’re easily corruptible, because like Henry Kissinger said – and I hate to quote him – the stakes are so low.


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