Last night, McGill students voted on whether to join the rest of the Quebec student groups in striking to protest tuition increases. They chose not to do so. I have made fun of the tuition protests in the past, so I should note that Mrs. Spew was right to remind me that rising tuition, even from the low base levels here is something that folks can and should be concerned about.
However, I still think that the increases are necessary as the funding for Quebec universities is not going to magically appear from anywhere else, particularly as Quebec itself has a huge debt. This debt has been created, in part, by the promise of policies that benefit all but cost little, like $7/day day care or tuition that has not increased much since decades ago.
Anyhow, the McGill students did not join the rest, despite arguments to do precisely that. While the appearance of divisions between McG students and the rest of Quebec students might be something to think about, joining the rest just to join the rest seems not the right justification for folks who are quite capable of thinking for themselves.
Some students even did the math: that a strike might lead to a longer semester, which would mean more rent and other costs than what a tuition increase might cost.
Finally, I find the idea of a student strike to be somewhat strange. Students are not employees. If they don't want to come to class to register their dismay, that's fine. But the schedule of the university ought to remain the same. If you want to protest, go ahead, but accept the costs of doing so. Civil disobedience and dissent are not consequence-free. Indeed, if you are willing to pay a price, then the dissent will carry far more weight. Standing up to the police dogs, fire houses and other forms of repression increased the power of those engaged in the civil rights movement. Expecting to walk out and then have the university re-arrange the classes to accommodate your dissent? No thanks.
Glad McGill was able to dodge this particular bullet. I wish universities could be free, but that ain't gonna happen today or anytime soon in Quebec, in Canada or in the US. What we all need to figure out now is to fund universities in ways that are affordable for all, facilitating accessibility, insuring independence, and keeping quality up. Oh, and making sure profs get pay increases ;)