And the protesters respond....

Monday, April 11, 2005


Written by cannon.ca

What follows is a sampling of emails that we received in support of the protest. The first is from Ryan White and Jenn Watt...

A few clarifications regarding response to the April 6th.

First and foremost, it must be reiterated that this was not a "CSA protest." The groups that came together on April 6th were diverse in tactics, message and affiliation. The plan was not to storm the fourth floor, but to gather in the UC courtyard to protest the cuts and tuition increases at the Board of Governors meeting. What happened after the rally was spontaneous and each individual who went upstairs did so of their own choice and free will.

That said, the CSA supports students' rights to dissent, to protest and to have their opinions heard in a meaningful way. We have extensive policy on accessibility of education, equality for international students and openness of administrative processes(including such things as the Board of Governors).

It must be made clear that the CSA undertook a variety of actions when attempting to convince the University not to approve such an unjustified and unfair budget.

The CSA has held several open meetings including one with President Alastair Summerlee. In addition, the CSA attended both the U of G's budget town hall and the recent Senate session that was devoted to the budget. In both cases, the CSA brought up our concerns with the budget. During the past two months the CSA has written numerous letters to campus media and administration and has held information tables in the UC for several weeks. We also developed a petition in opposition to the proposed increase to international student fees. To say that the CSA did not follow process, or that we were silent on the budget, is misleading and wrong.

With regards to April 6th, the CSA requested tickets a full week in advance for the meeting. When this request was denied, the CSA twice requested that the meeting be moved to a larger venue. These requests were also denied. When students decided to attend the meeting anyways, thereby asserting their right to take part in a public process, they were met by police.

To single last Wednesday out as the only action taken against the budget is wrong. Last week represented a specific incident in which, through the violation of student rights, the University escalated what began as a tame demonstration in the UC courtyard in something much larger. Obviously, tempers flared last week and it is important to ask the question – why were students so angry?

Every time students chose to raise their voices prior to the Board of Governors meeting they were ignored by the administration. They followed proper process and still they were not listened to. The issue here should not be a few angry students but rather an administration that refused to take student interests into consideration. It should be noted that the original plan proposed by the administration in February remained unchanged (with the exception of a reduction from 5% to 4% increase for international students) despite the letters, open forums, petitions and meetings.

Jenn Watt and Ryan White

I’m proud of the actions we took on Wednesday at the BOG meeting. Different groups undertook different protest actions and there was so much support between
individuals. There was also criticism to call each other on problematic aspects as the protest went on. It wasn’t some out of control riot. The comparisons to Seattle really belittle what happened there in 1999.

We had a right to be at the budget meeting and without violently attacking police, we asserted that right by banding together. In response, several cops and a fire marshal pretending to be a riot cop, aggressively attempted to subdue and throw people around. Does anyone care that the university is sanctioning and forcing untrained people to act as security? What happens when this lack of training and aggressiveness results in that individual hitting, throwing and attacking students?

We tried legal routes to gain access. We asked for a change of venue to enable participation. We planned for those arbitrarily refused access to demonstrate
outside to make our concerns known, but were barred even from making our voices heard that way. The university administration is therefore responsible for
what happened. Each time we tried another avenue to offer our criticisms, they barred us and upped the ante. What the university tried to pull is disgusting – inventing a threat as a reason to lock down a public meeting, and then instructing cops and untrained antagonists to physically bar democratic participation.

Stop focusing on the sensationalist aspects and look at what really went on. What about the economic violence the university is perpetrating against
workers and international students? The direct violence against protesters? The lack of honesty and integrity on the part of the administration is shameful.

I think it was great to finally see people willing to challenge the university and hold them to account, instead of the general apathy of many students on
campus. The only way to create a more fair world is to actively fight for it.

Nicole Freeborn

Dear Editor

When an administration cuts away at those who are least able to defend themselves -- in the University of Guelph's case its students and staff -- why is the Guelph Mercury surprised by the reaction?

Why no cuts to university president Alastair Summerlee's salary, his administration or to faculty?

More importantly, why no public protest on his behalf to the incompetent government at Queen's Park?

If he and his officers are no more than yes-persons for Premier Dalton McGuinty, there's an obvious way to save hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of dollars. Eliminate middlemen like Summerlee and his people and take orders directly from the Ontario Liberals.

So the Mercury doesn't like to see angry students. You say their protest was "neither peaceful nor democratic, just downright nasty." You say there "are democratic means of relaying concerns."

Downright nasty is an Ontario Liberal government that has lost all credibility, for obvious reasons.

"Democratic means" in this country is an oxymoron and students are right to be cynical of this sorry state of affairs.

More and more they refuse to participate, and for very valid reasons. A great deal of social good, things we take for granted today, came about due to student protests in the 1960s and '70s.

Your editorial conclusion that "irrational" student protest was "out of place then as well as today" defies history.

I've been a good employee at the university for almost 24 years. It used to be a good place to work, with resources to do your job, with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. It's now an institution that's falling apart.

Everything becomes shabbier. It is no longer a world-class institution, not with the political class and administration running it now.

I suspect a hidden agenda.

It might be Wal-Martization -- i.e. no union, no benefits, short-term poorly paid contracts -- except of course for those in the administrative suites.

I hope this was not Summerlee's purpose in becoming president. If it was not, he should refuse to do Queen's Park's bidding and do the honourable thing and resign.

Wade Montminy

Lack of funds? - lol, where are you getting your stats?

One student wrote “cut backs happen...deal with it, money isn't unlimited and did anyone THINK to connect the CUTBACKS with LACK OF FUNDS”.

Lets be clear here - There is A LOT of money floating around this university. There is certainly a lot more than 11 million dollars spent at this university
every year (the current shortfall), so where is it all going? Well, a significant portion (way more than enough to cover the shortfall) is going to
people who are far from cash-strapped. In 1998 there were 49 people at this
university that made over $100 000 per year. As of 2004 that number had climbed
to 299 people. Increasing by a multiple of 6 in only 6 years! Go around and talk
to some of the workers on this campus that clean the halls, empty the garbage
cans, and mop the floors. Or go around and ask international students. Ask them
if they have seen such wonderful increases to their fellow workers and
classmates in the same pay bracket and in the same financial situation. Paying
the 100k club is costing this university 34.1 million dollars annually! Yes
there is a lack of funds, but that’s because we are giving so much to a select
few at the top of the top. The budget shortfall doesn’t even amount to one
third of what these people make. If they were so concerned about equality,
morality and social justice, why was it not considered to take even a minor cut
to their salaries? Instead, they were more than willing to unload the 11 million
bucks on the backs of international students who not only pay substantially more
than domestic students, while having limited access to jobs off campus. And then
they place another burden on ALL departments who are already operating on the
bare minimum, and are obviously short of resources, staff and supplies. Those
in power here already have their education and are already making a hefty sum
of money. Their actions are putting at risk: people’s jobs, student finances
and the quality of our education, but none of these cuts are affecting them.

It is interesting to see how many students are so quick to take the time to
write a letter condemning the protesters, but how many of them took the time to
write publicly against the budget? I agree that the protest could have been
handled better, but I am not ashamed to have been there and to have
participated in it. What I am ashamed of is how few students at this university
took any time out of their day to try and do something about the budget, yet
many of them will take time out of their day to bitch about protesters,
assignments taking so long to be handed back, and a limited about of TAs to
help. A large portion of those who did take the time t fight the budgets were
at the protest because they felt that their efforts had gone unnoticed.

In closing I want to restate my point. If you are making over $100 000 per year
then you can certainly afford to take a cut in your salary when the university
spends more than it has. If you are an international student who is already
paying huge sums to attend this institution, then you likely cannot afford a 4%
increase to your fees. If you are a department already running on bare minimum,
you cannot afford to take an additional 4.5% cut which will not only result in
a decrease in the quality of education, but will also result in layoffs which
seriously hurt our community. There is an ever increasing divide between the
haves and the have nots throughout our country, and our world. We are now
seeing it at our university too. This is what we should be ashamed of, this is
where the money is going, and yet it was not even mentioned in the letters to
the editor. Students chanting and pushing past a few cops in protest of this
seems to be a much more important issue and worthy of criticism from Guelph
students than millions of dollars being taken from those who need it and given
to those who do not. Wake up people.

Oh, and why doesn’t thecannon.ca run a poll question asking if people feel the
budget was in line, given the above statistics?

from a protester

I would like to post a comment on the recent protests in the UC. People
criticizing the protests talk about violent hooligans acting like children,
about not having respect, and the fact that cuts happen and are a fact of life.

As many campus buildings have increased in size, the number of maintenance
employees has not increased in accordance. In the example of the Thornborough
building, it has doubled in size, yet the number of employees have stayed the
same; they now have to do twice the work in the same number of hours for the
same pay. Contrast this with the fact that the number of University employees
who make more than $100,000 a year has risen from approximately 48, 6 years
ago, to 299 in 2005.

Add this to the fact that Hospitality Services lies in their promotional material regarding meal plan savings, and extorts students with ludicrously
high prices on food, and denies any knowledge of what they call "typos".

I could go on, but for the sake of length, I will not; the point is, the elite at the University of Guelph are making a lot of money, and still have the
audacity to claim they are concerned about both the accessibility of education
and the rising gap between the rich and poor in our society.

Budget cuts do not just happen. Likewise, developers do not build cookie-cutter suburbs because of the forces of the mythical "free" market. The
inequalities in our society are due to policy choices. Those in power know what
the results of their decisions will be and they know what they have to say to
the public to deflect any critical questioning.

How pathetic it is that so many white, often middle class liberal people can
look at how far gone our culture is, how callous and careless those in power are
as they continue to take more and more of our planet's and society's remaining
wealth, and still advocate "playing by the rules" and being respectful of those
in power. The rules have been carefully constructed by those in power so as to
eliminate any chance of effective change coming as a result of working with
them. Violence, whether overt physical violence or economic violence dealt
through policy, is still seen as acceptable by so many people when it flows
down the hierarchy. When cuts are made that make education further
inaccessible to poor people, it is deemed "just the way it is". What maintains
the horrible power dynamics in our society is the belief held so many of us,
even as we have our futures stolen from us, that this is just the way the world

It doesn't have to be this way. I thank all the people who were part of the
protest last week for reminding me that not everyone will sit back like a
domesticated animal and wait for those in exclusive positions of power to let
us in on the game they have rigged.

matt soltys

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