Commentary | Students should protest today

The bigger picture: MUNACA strikes, student strikes

This September, QPIRG-McGill and SSMU planned to host a panel called “Beyond Free Education.” The event was postponed – QPIRG and SSMU agreed that renting space at McGill to discuss the future of accessible education when the University’s non-academic staff were striking seemed ironic, if not unethical. Today, MUNACA remains on strike, and McGill has not conceded to any of their demands.

This afternoon, thousands of students will gather to protest the end of (more) accessible education in Quebec. The connection between MUNACA and the student movement is more than the simple fact that these groups are both on strike (it may not look like the case at McGill, but students across Quebec are, indeed, on strike). Though they are protesting different aspects of their work or school conditions – wages well below the average, and sky-rocketing tuition fees – these problems share a common root. Both cases bear witness to the rapid privatization of our university system.

In the last few years alone, McGill has made astounding leaps and bounds in transitioning to a corporate model of university management. 2007 saw the administration become the leading advocate of ending the freeze on tuition increases and of giving universities control over the cost of out-of-province and international tuition. In 2007, McGill also launched the Capital Campaign, which aims to raise $750 million through private and corporate sponsorship. And just last year, McGill’s MBA became our University’s first (and surely not last) self-funded degree program. Tuition for students in the MBA program now costs $30,000 per year, with greater increases on the horizon.

McGill students have a reputation for caring a lot about what happens at McGill, but being mostly AWOL when it comes to Montreal and Quebec events and politics. There are many out-of-province or international students who have enjoyed their time here, but who have no intention of staying in Quebec after their degree. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is for McGill students to remain silent while the Charest government (with the express encouragement and consent of McGill’s administration) dramatically increases the cost of education in Quebec.

Quebec presently has 10 per cent higher post secondary enrollment rate than the Canadian average – but this will not last: for many people, the vast increases in tuition will discourage them from pursuing a post-secondary education. It is easy to think of tuition hikes as simply “paying a little bit more for your degree,” but an increasingly expensive and privatized education system also determines who is able to “pay a little bit more.” So here is our point: when education becomes increasingly inaccessible, Quebec and Montreal change for the worse. From the MUNACA strike (and McGill’s tepid negotiations with AGSEM), to the self-funded MBA, our school is changing for the worse too.

Today, McGill’s own Arts Undergraduate Society is on strike. Today, they join approximately 200,000 of our contemporaries at Université de Montréal, UQAM, Concordia, and many CEGEPs. Today, especially, QPIRG McGill strongly encourages McGill students to join in this province-wide movement. Students will gather at 12 P.M. at the Roddick Gates.

Signed by the QPIRG McGill Board of Directors

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