Sunday, May 6, 2012

Always Bet on the QC Government

Always bet on the Quebec government to do the wrong/expensive/short-sighted thing.  It appears to be the case that the QC government managed to give into the student movements even though the students were only doing an excellent job of alienating the province. 

The apparent deal:
  • Instead of freezing tuition, universities would have to reduce the various non-tuition fees they charge.  For the students, this means that their costs do not rise much (at all?).  For universities, this means that they do not get any help in addressing their budgets.  Universities became increasingly reliant on these fees since tuition had been frozen due to past student protests.  So, whatever the universities had hoped to gain from this battle, they are not going to get.
  • A provisional/permanent council where students advise the universities on what to cut with all savings going back to students.  I am pretty sure that if something happened to increase costs (like the cost of energy), the universities would just have to suck it.
  •  The students have already apparently found nearly $200 million of stuff to cut--advertising, travel, compensation for administrators, etc.  Whose travel counts?  Research travel, I am sure, the students would find wasteful.  What the students find wasteful might actually not be--tis in the eye of the beholder.  But the extremists here seem to think that anything not spent directly on students is wasteful, but that is a very narrow view that would be most destructive to the universities in Quebec.
It leads to the following questions:
  • Which students will sit on the council?  Will the extremists be over-represented?  Who decides?
  • What decision rules will the council have?  Can the obstinate paralyze the process?
  • If the council cannot make decisions, does that mean government decisions continue?  That is, does the council have to have a consensus in order to shape outcomes?
  • Ah, this leads to the big question--does the council have any real power or is a symbolic entity that the government can manipulate or ignore?  Or can it be a tool used by government to micro-manage universities?
  • Of course, a bigger one still--the student groups can still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  If they vote against this, then government can pull back.
 The big implications:
  • Violence works.
  • Universities lose.  The attempt to get more funding seems to have backfired.
  • More instability ahead--the Quebec government just demonstrated that it can get rolled, even when the boycotters have very low support.  
  • Oh, and violence works.
 I know that Ontario is mismanaging its own higher ed system, but Quebec's mistakes here make me even gladder that I am leaving the province.  Unless this is a great con job that fooled the student groups, very little good can come of this deal.

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