Unruly, unintelligible protests do less for the student movement

By Robert Granger

By now, most of you have probably heard that you will pay about $150 more next year for tuition than this year (65 per cent of the maximum possible increase). I hope you’re angry and that you let the people really responsible for this continued pillage on your resources know what you think. I hope you convey your ideas and preoccupations to them in a respectful and intelligent manner and that you remain open-minded at all times. I hope you stay calm while continuing to defend your position should you receive an unsuitable answer. In short, I hope you act in a manner completely opposite to that of the belligerent and unrepresentative protesters present at the last Board of Governors meeting where this tuition increase was voted in.

Over the last few weeks, the words "selling out," "sleeping with the enemy," and "private agenda" have been bandied about more often than a fat kid’s lunch at recess–with just as much consideration. All this, despite the lowest tuition increase in 11 years, thanks mostly to the efforts of Students’ Union President Rob South and VP External Nassr Awada, who met with university administration 18 times over the course of the year to plead the students’ case and bargain the value of the tuition increase down to 65 per cent, a value agreed to by both sides.

Things seemed to be going well for all involved, when the few and most vocal opponents of the tuition increase (predominantly Revolutionary Anarchist Kollektive members, who were just as pugnacious and profane at the Senate meeting two weeks ago) gave all students a bad name by disrupting one of the most important meetings of the year with merciless and unintelligent heckling, intimidation of the BoG members, and violence. This foolishly unprofessional attitude made the BoG members the centre of media attention, the so-called "bad guys" in the public eye for tightening the choke-hold on students. This is such a gross error.

Furthermore, RAK and their supporters tried to caricaturize South as unsympathetic and unresponsive for his refusal to support a motion for a zero per cent increase, tabled by Student-at-large Representative Anthony Leoni at the BoG meeting. Leoni’s grandstanding was nothing short of reprehensible and counterproductive.

During his substance-lacking speech, Leoni did not focus on what he should have–the Klein government’s failure to safeguard accessible and affordable education, as well as lack of funding–but instead, decided to play on student anxiety and augment his popularity by proudly declaring, "I represent the students, and I don’t think any student wants a tuition increase, therefore I can’t support this motion." Here’s some news for all of you who think the university has enough money: despite the increase, the university will still have a multi-million dollar shortfall. There is no surplus, no safe in the wall full of gold ingots as alleged by last year’s SU President Paul Galbraith.

If it will cost a couple of hundred bucks extra to keep class sizes down, to keep profs in Calgary, and to keep the campus running–then I’ll pay my share of the increase. I don’t know a single selfless person who wouldn’t. If you’d rather keep your $150 and be stuck with an even more dilapidated campus, even larger class sections, and even more professors lacking in training and qualifications, then you might as well pack up your stuff and leave, because you’re obviously here for a degree, not an experience.

As it stands, there is talk of having South removed because he did not support Leoni’s motion and because no one realizes that attacking the Board basically relieves the provincial government of any wrong doing in the matter (even though their slashing of social programs and emphasis on private health care as an immediate issue, rather than education, are really to blame). For striking a balance between both the short and long-term interests of students, and not simple-mindedly focusing on the issue of dollars, South stands to lose his reputation and his job at the hands of a few malcontents (among them his fellow Executive members).

I’m not going to tell you how to swing should anyone ask you to sign a paper supporting a motion to have South impeached. I want you to think for yourselves. After all, someone around here has to, and it certainly isn’t the clamorous witch-hunters of this campus whose only object is to get on TV. These are the same people who make their inflammatory claims, devoid of both foresight and acumen, who end up pointing the finger at everyone but the people responsible.