(February 21, 2002, Gazette)
a freezing Feb. 6, students clustered around the Memorial Tower to participate
in the national day of action. Being a curious MUCEP journalist and semi-contentious
student, I joined these students fully prepared to be an objective observer.
Chris Vatcher, MUNSU council member, put on a good show as he denounced
the crimes of the dictatorship (the national and provincial government).
The Underdogs sang 60 and 70s era songs of revolution and
sympathetic groups such as the Graduate Students Union got up and said
their piece on the pressures of being a student. While being swept up
in the speeches, ceremony, crowd and the music, I pondered why; a) I had
not eaten lunch, and b) I had not investigated what this protest was about.
Perhaps I am a sucker for punishment. Perhaps I assumed, because I had
done these kinds of things before, that it didnt really matter if
I knew all about the issue or not. Perhaps I was apathetic. Hmmm, am I
talking about me or am I generalizing about the thoughts of the student
I marched up to the Confederation Building, driven by the adrenaline of
my fellow students, even though the combination of slush and cold ate
bitterly through my boots to my toes. I carried my Reduce Tuition Fees
sign high on my shoulder and banged it on the fine marble floor of the
Confederation Building lobby as loud as any of my comrades. I raised my
voice in yelling shame and boo at Sandra Kelly, and sympathized with students
who carried burdens far, far more severe than mine. In the end, I piled
into a tiny black Mazda with a bunch of other people, drove back to MUN,
and resumed my studies. Now, with the day of action rally fading fast
into the hazy annals of MUN history, I wonder, what was it all for?
There were two things I found disappointing about the protest. Most of
the issues set out by MUNSU were not discussed, and an incredibly small
number of students turned out to protest. We didnt even have enough
to fill the lobby of the legislature. Now, if youve ever been in
the Confederation Building youll know that it is fairly large. But,
based on the number of students in this university, the protest mob should
have been big enough to fill two lobbies that size. Whats the problem?
Apathy. Many of us dont know the issues, and whats more important
is that we dont care. On top of that, what real differences do we
make by protesting anyway?
I can understand student apathy. Apathy is everywhere in our society.
We often become creatures of habit without realizing it. Stuck in our
individual pursuits of studies, social realms, sex, money, and other forms
of hedonism, we rarely realize our minds are centred entirely on us. Elements
of the political left (socialist) are needed to balance the political
elements of the right (conservative) in order to create and sustain a
democratic society. We need student council members like Chris Vatcher,
and groups like CUPE and the CFS to give us a kick from time to time and
make us realize that change can happen. Otherwise, we would probably do
nothing about tuition raises. One day we would find ourselves auctioning
off our vital organs just to finish university. However, as long as a
relative balance between these elements exists, it can be assumed that
the majority of students will live in relative harmony and good health.
Therein lies the reason for apathy, if it doesnt happen to me, then
why should I bother protesting?
Those of you who walked through the Smallwood Centre cafeteria during
the week of the protest probably noticed the Day of Action signs stuck
up all over the place. These signs contained the customary viva la revolution
Rage Against the Machine fist, along with a series of demands.
Only one of these demands was confronted by the protest: the reduction
of tuition fees. While it is true that Mark Bragg and Funk Dory rocked
the Breezeway last Friday with a sweat shop protest concert, could one
automatically assume that the concert had any connection to the actual
Day of Action?
All Im saying is, if were not going to confront the issues,
then why mention them at all? The only thing our signs said was, Reduce
Tuition Fees. Why did the council go through the trouble of citing all
these other things as issues if all they planned to do was mention them?
Maybe Im being too harsh. I mean, it was a national day of action.
Perhaps Memorial was chosen to confront the issue of tuition fees while
Dalhousie was picked to attack the issue of work term equity for all faculties.
Somehow I strongly doubt this was the case.
So the battle rages on. While it is clear that free education is in no
way possible as of now, students still have the ability to protest for
lower tuition rates. The revolution is still out there, if only in the
minds of those who fight for it. Meanwhile, Ill be studying like
mad and cramming for the midterm exams which are fast approaching. Somewhere
in my mind, the Day of Action rally fades far out of sight, somewhere
between a version of The Whos Wont Get Fooled Again and Bob
Dylans Blowing in the Wind.