Commentary  Tyranny of the minority?

A student shares his alternative viewpoint

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a minority of McGill student activists monopolize dialogue over issues such as the MUNACA strike, tuition hikes, QPIRG and CKUT opt-out campaigns, and the administration’s handling of the “occupiers” on November 10. If one were to look at the mediums through which McGill students express their thoughts on the above mentioned issues – The McGill Daily, General Assemblies, Facebook groups – they would get a sense that the entire campus is vehemently in support of MUNACA, and against tuition hikes and the current administration.

As we all know, that is not the case. The vast majority of the McGill population is not picking sides on the MUNACA issue, and just wants them to return to work as soon as possible. Students either don’t care whether tuition is increased by a mere $325 a year or are in support of it to protect the reputation of the University we attend. A lot of us believe that the protestors involved in the “Occupy James Admin” movement were hooligans who were intent upon causing chaos without a concrete set of demands and that they clearly crossed a line that evening. I make these assumptions due to the fact that the majority of my peers still attended my Political Science and Economics classes despite the Arts Undergraduate Society strike on November 10 and the “We Are All McGill” demonstration on November 14. Furthermore, neither of the demonstrations managed to attract a majority of McGill students or disrupt regular schedules.

The problem is that the above-mentioned viewpoints are no longer discussed on campus, or they are dismissed as “ignorant” by student activists intent upon spreading their own anarchic agenda. If I don’t support the movement against tuition hikes, I am accused of not being in solidarity with my peers. If I speak out against MUNACA, I am accused of supporting an elitist and insensitive administration that refuses freedom of expression. Realism no longer has a place on this campus; student idealism has taken over. Realism is understanding that higher education is not a right but a sacrifice worth paying for. Realism is understanding that the administration cannot meet MUNACA’s wage demands if students want tuition to remain frozen. Moreover, realism is understanding that the philosophy of “occupy everything, demand nothing” will not work. To change the system, you must work with it, not against it.

However, we cannot blame the student activists who are dominating campus discourse right now, since they have a right to do so. The only way we can ensure a diversity of viewpoints is by increased participation. Those of us who do not want SSMU to fight against tuition hikes should speak up instead of just complaining about the issues. Those of us who are tired of MUNACA should speak up and ask our student bodies to no longer stand in solidarity with them.

Our apathy is the reason that a mere 250 students present at the AUS General Assembly mandated a strike for 7500 Arts students at McGill while simultaneously advocating for funding QPIRG. It is also the reason that SSMU is officially against tuition hikes – a move that can seriously underfund a University that is already lacking financial support. We should be angry that activists accuse the administration of engaging in one-sided propaganda when it comes to MUNACA issues while our own student society gives us no information about the flipside of the tuition issue.

Speak up so that we can ensure that healthy dialogue is present within the student body, and that our student representatives are not pushing an ideology we do not support. We have always been warned that political organizations must be saved from a majority implementing legislative agendas that ignore the marginalized. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a tyranny of the minority instead – with a few motivated and politically active students dictating policy for all of us.

For those of you who would like to read a different viewpoint on tuition hikes: Tarun Koshy, in his recent article “The Day Intelligence Died at the Roddick Gates” written for the Bull & Bear, manages to give an explanation of why they should be implemented. Professor Stephen Saideman of the Political Science department has also blogged about the issues of student idealism and tuition hikes on his website.