The case for CLASSE

How the AUS can fight harder for accessible education

The events of November 10 demonstrated to McGill students the contempt and disregard our administration and our government shows for the democratic expression of students in this province.  The aftermath of that troubling day has produced a multiplicity of responses to, and critiques of, the way in which our University conducts its business. These responses have spanned from calling for governance reform to creating projects that stimulate alternative learning, which engage students in an intellectual, ethical, and politically relevant fashion.

The fight against the corporatization and commodification of university culture is one that McGill students have committed themselves too, both in SSMU general assemblies and their AUS counterparts.  By democratically voting to oppose any and all proposed tuition fee increases and participating in the November 10 one-day strike, students on our campus have demonstrated their commitment to one of the most basic ethical and political rights – the right to an education.

On January 31, McGill students will once again have their commitment to accessible education tested.  While the AUS General Assembly of last semester was a remarkable achievement for raising campus awareness of educational issues, the upcoming January 31 AUS GA will hopefully show how McGill’s Arts undergraduates can back up their commitments with more than just words and pledges, and instead commit to action and progress against the regressive actions of the Quebec government.

The key motions on the agenda for the general assembly are threefold: the restipulation of the AUS’ opposition to any and all proposed tuition fee increases, the AUS to join CLASSE (Coalition Large de l’ASSÉ), and the formation of a strike committee to execute the logistical work of coordinating a general student strike on campus in March.  CLASSE is the mobilizing body of ASSÉ (L’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante), one of Quebec’s largest affiliations of student unions and organizations.  Currently ASSÉ represents over 40,000 students in dozens of universities and CEGEP’s in Quebec, and has consistently lead the charge against the provincial government in times when the right to education is under fire.  A vote to give AUS the ability to identify with ASSÉ will give the Arts faculty the resources and political experience born of decades of Quebec student political activism.

The defining principles of ASSÉ are the right to free, public, and democratically organized university education for all, regardless of social status, race, creed, or class.  These principles reflect the ideals expressed by many McGill students, as reflected by the motions ratified in our electoral, institutional bodies.  By casting a vote to join ASSÉ, Arts students will be given an opportunity to engage with the larger currents of Quebec student life, as well as craft a mechanism of faculty representation that is inherently more democratic, more accountable, and more politically capable of fulfilling its mandate of opposing tuition fee increases.

While we all saw the brutality of our university’s crackdown on the ideals that its students hold so dear, we cannot realistically resolve these issues  without affiliation with the broader currents of Quebec student mobilization. November 10 demonstrated to the rest of this province that McGill students do not deserve the reputation of apathy and political conservatism, and Quebec has extended a hand to us in friendship and solidarity as a response. We would be well advised to accept it.

Robert Bell is a U3 Middle Eastern Studies student. He can be reached at