To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
A group of radicals decided to split off from a protest against a “20 per cent residence fee increase” at the University of Toronto Friday.
(The university claims the increase in question is only “closer to 10 per cent”,
I’m looking into this. There will be a “Fact Check” story. I’ve fact checked, and neither side is being 100% accurate. )
They decided to occupy the University of Toronto’s administration building; Simcoe Hall. Officially, they claimed to be occupying the hall with a set of demands to meet with the university president related to tuition fees.
However, the people holding the sit-in were also protesting an occupation. It is unclear if it was the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the United States forces in Iraq.
Either way, their sit-in ended when police removed them from the building. As is the case with the professional protest crowd, they had a video camera and made a recording.
Naturally, they are claiming police brutality.
However, after watching the video, all I saw was some really bad acting by the protesters.
I have to give the cameraman credit, the constant movement of the camera creates a good effect and the feeling of chaos. I’m not convinced that there was chaos when the individual taking pictures with a DSLR is able to stay on a table taking pictures without any difficulty.
Here’s the video:
My favourite line directed at the police: “Who is going to protect us …are you going to work the extra shift my mom’s going to have to work, are you going to go to school for my friend who has to drop out? Who’s here to protect us? Where is that force that is supposedly there to ‘serve and protect’ cause no one’s FUCKING serving and protecting us today!”
The crowd follows up this with their version of amen: “Shame.”
The crowd was verbally vicious against the campus police service. I have to say I’m extremely impressed by the professional manner of the campus police. They are not a “disgrace” as the protesters wish people to believe, they are a credit to their profession and to the university.
I’m one for an intelligent protest, but this was the furthest thing from intelligent. Let’s see, what was the message? I don’t know — there were too many. What can the University of Toronto president really do about issues in Israel and Iraq?
If you want to protest, fine. If you want to do it at an institution of higher education, great — but start acting educated. (If you are not a student at the university, please feel free to go a block east and protest at Queen’s Park. Newsflash: the real decision on tuition is made there. They also have more influence in the world than all Canadian university presidents combined.)
If the cost of tuition and living in Toronto is too high, there is nothing stopping people from going to places with lower tuition and a lower cost of living. There’s nothing stopping students from finding more affordable accommodation off campus.
Now, I know someone is going to say “but I wanted the highest quality [model] of education!” Okay, then be prepared to pay for that quality. There is nothing wrong with going to other universities in Canada. I went to Manitoba and have great praise for its political science department. In my case, I believe it was a better overall educational experience for me than what I would have received at the University of Toronto. You can go to any undergraduate university in Canada and get an excellent education. I understand that the “University of Toronto brand” is much stronger than many other choices, heck, I’d rather be eating dinner every night in a five-star hotel — especially when I think about my horrible cooking ability. I can’t, but you don’t see me starving.
We all have to make cost judgements in our daily lives. I wear a Timex watch. I prefer to have a “better” brand of watch, but I can’t afford it. This doesn’t stop me from telling time.
My point is that there are options for those who have the academic qualifications for university. You may not like them, but they are not unreasonable.
I live in a dump right now. I have a basement bedroom that’s smaller than the average storage locker. I have filing boxes and shelving all around me. Heck, I can’t even have visitors at my place — there is only enough room for me in my bedroom. Am I complaining? Hell yeah — I’d rather be living in the penthouse of a Trump tower. Is it stopping me from getting an education? No. Tuition sucks. Is it stopping me from getting an education? No.
Guess what, there is no money tree.
If the problem is a lack of accessibility because of what you see as “high tuition” (I figure that by its nature, tuition is too high — so is the cost of everything else), then the solution is more bursaries and other forms of support for those who cannot get enough aid right now. The solution is not cutting tuition for everyone including the upper-class.
There is only so much money at an university. While I agree that university priorities on how to spend that money are misguided in some cases. (Wait until the end of March when we get to see how much overpaid university executive heads and senior administrators are making.) I would not agree with universities taking more out of classrooms to subsidize residences. In effect, that is what these students are asking for.
There are housing solutions that are affordable out there. They may suck, but as long as they meet code, they are a reasonable option. Yes, living on campus is better than living 30 minutes off campus. It does not stop one from getting an education. Residence is not a right.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union is supporting the radicals by organizing an “Emergency Rally for Students Rights” Tuesday. If this is not a waste of student money, I don’t know what is. The UTSU doesn’t seem to get that these kinds of actions do not achieve anything and they merely discredit themselves. The more that students’ unions discredit themselves, the more likely that students will see a decrease in their overall tuition fees — by way of the end of mandatory student union fees. One only has to look to Australia to see what happens when students’ unions become so unpopular that the government is able to act to end their fee collection.
(For the record, I will be at Queen’s Park covering the provincial budget at the time of the protest.)
The UTSU may want to take a hint from the New College Student Council. The original protest Thursday was in their name. They welcomed the support as they try to stop the residence fee increase. Once the elements who decided to protest a bunch of other grievances occupied Simcoe Hall, they set out a news release disavowing these radicals. The Student Council has been attacked publicly for doing so. They are a credit to student leadership. Leadership is easy when you are screaming at a microphone against “the man.” The NCSC has displayed true leadership in standing up against their “peers” to say, “not in our name.”
Lastly, I wish to address the attacks against Allison Martell, the reporter for the University of Toronto student newspaper The Varsity who covered the story.
Ms. Martell wrote what was said. The “protestors” are attacking her in *The Varsity *comment threads. One of their main complaints is that she did not say what they wanted to be said. Or that she is attacking her fellow students and that as a student journalist, students should come before journalism. Sorry guys, Martell did her job correctly. If you do not like what is written by the paper, maybe you should think about why it is written. It’s written because that is what happened and that is what was said. If you do not want it written don’t do it. It is not our job to deliver your message — it is your job to deliver it and our job to reporter it as journalists.
Martell did her job correctly. Sometimes it is easier to write against “the man,” he tends to not get too upset and he doesn’t attack you for it. It is when we write the truth about radical elements like some of these protesters that one gets lots of nasty emails.