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Philosophy students’ general meeting sees fierce debate

Disagreements arise over when to sign statement on accessible education

The Philosophy Students’ Association (PSA) held its weekly general meeting yesterday. The association unanimously decided to endorse CKUT 90.3 FM in its fee-increase referendum. However, the most contentious item on the agenda regarded the International Student Movement and its Global Education Strike from November 14 to 22. There were 18 people present at peak attendance.

The PSA will be holding a day-long event in Gert’s on November 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. as a space for alternative education and forum for discussion on the student movement and educational accessibility. The event will be open to students and faculty from all departments. The PSA stressed, however, that it would not be going on strike.

The majority of the meeting consisted of a heated debate regarding the signing of the International Student Movement Joint Statement, which calls for “free and emancipatory education as a human right.” The PSA’s mandate includes supporting accessible education and opposing tuition hikes, but does not go so far as to call for free education.

Although members seemed to be unanimous in their intent to sign the statement, they were strongly divided on when to sign it.

About half of those in attendance felt that the statement should be signed at the PSA’s next general meeting on Tuesday, November 13, before the event at Gerts, citing the importance of demonstrating solidarity as soon as possible to those who will be fighting for accessible education around the world next week.

“To enter into the letter is to enter into a global community,” said PSA member Ethan Feldman. “By doing this we are entering into the global movement. So if we don’t sign the letter, what are we doing? We’re big fat phonies.”

He and others also stressed the timing of the signing, emphasizing the importance of officially entering the movement at the beginning of the week in solidarity with those who would also be fighting for accessibility at that time.

“The time is now to show some solidarity to other student movements that are actively struggling like Quebec was,” said another member.

Others felt strongly that the statement should be held after the event at Gert’s – at their general meeting on November 21, at the end of the Global Education Strike – both to foster discussion on the issue before signing and to engage a wider number of Philosophy students in the decision.

“I think it’s very worthwhile to get more feedback, more input from people that aren’t here now,” said one member. “It would be great if they would be interested before [the event at Gert’s], but that’s just not realistic.”

Another member stressed that the signing would be much more meaningful the more people that are involved in the decision.

After a long and heated debate, Feldman put forth the proposal to table the decision and have members print out copies of the statement and get as many signatures from Philosophy students as possible, in the hopes of signing the statement as a body at the PSA’s next general meeting on Tuesday.

“Any decision except [voting on Tuesday] makes me want to puke,” said Feldman.

This remark was followed by an intense back-and-forth in which a number of insults were exchanged.

In the end, the Association voted on whether to vote to sign the joint statement on November 14 or 21.

The result was a tie with six for the 14th and six for the 21st.

Feldman abstained, calling the vote “a sham.”

The statement will be distributed to Philosophy students and added to the agenda for Tuesday’s general meeting.