Well, boys ‘n’ girls, just as it seemed that Premier Johnny had lost the narrative for his ballot question, the students from Universite de Montreal and UQAM had themselves a protest to open the first day of school. Honestly, I wish they had waited another week, til after the election to do this, but it is what it is. As a supporter of the student protests from the beginning, there is one thing about their movement I must critique. They have not brought out what corporate media, the political parties and right wingers have been blatantly missing in their narratives. No, I’m not talking about free or highly subsidized education being offered in many European countries. Yes, in Sweden, Finland and Norway — countries who were faring the recession just fine without austerity, thank your very much. I will say this, boys ‘n’ girls, “Oui Pauline, une education gratuit est bien possible!” Yes, La Marois, free education is possible, indeed. In fact, while the media, the politicians and the righties all liked to call the protesters like CLASSE ‘spoiled brats’ or ‘ignorant’, they did outline how a free education would be possible here in La Belle Province.
As an immediate solution to the tuition debate impasse, the group proposed a reduction in the amount of money spent on research and publicity by the province’s universities, a salary freeze for the institutions’ top administrators and the scrapping of major infrastructure projects like satellite campuses.
“The money that students invest in the universities should serve to finance activities fundamental to the universities . . . like teaching, which is the primary activity for us, ” Nadeau-Dubois said.
He said the changes would create an “equilibrium between the expenses in teaching and research.”
About that research and publicity that universities tend to spend so much money and time on, Graeme Decarie, former chair of the history department at Concordia discusses this here, in part 2 of a 2 part post on the subject of student protests and how money is being spent.
Our universities are obsessed with status and intellectual snobbery. All of this is made worse by the grossly misleading ratings by MacLean’s magazine. Indeed, the rating are so influential that the hopelessly unqualified editors of MacLeans’ Magazine actually run our universities much as the hopelessly unqualified “thinkers’ of AIMS have been trying to run our public schools.
We need universities built around the idea of producing a thinking public – also a skilled one, of course – but thinking above all. And they aren’t doing it.
Why does no one talk about that? Or better still, those who attempt to do so are too easily snuffed out? Because it isn’t sexy enough to cover for the media. Why don’t folks who have swallowed the kool-aid and join a lynch mob against these students get more outraged at that? I mean, after all, many are spending their money to invest in their children’s future, wouldn’t it be a good idea to take a break from the student protest bashing and ask where their children’s tuition and other school fees are actually going? Shouldn’t tax payers wonder where their tax dollars are going where education is concerned?
Speaking of where the money for universities is going. Here’s more that the corporate media and the politicians avoid. Oh Gawd forbid that folks should be even more informed. Did any of them ever concentrate for more than 5 minutes on how universities were mismanaging the money? Lexus SUVs for university vice-presidents. Take that away, and think what that money can do to educate students and provide better services for them. 700, 000$+ severance package for former president of Concordia University, Judith Woodsworth who left under some rather mysterious circumstances and only to later be rehired in some other capacity, replacing another professor who was dismissed with hefty severance. Concordia is now under audit for questionable practices regarding excessive severance packages among other things and was fined 2M$. The interim president of Concordia, Frederick Lowy, getting a Million dollar loan from Concordia to purchase a luxury condo on Isles des Soeurs so he wouldn’t have to sell his home on Dr. Penfield. A building that was supposed to be built for UQAM (500M$ already spent) at the Berri bus station that will never be completed because they went over budget and funds ran out, now sitting like an eye-sore in that neighbourhood. It is now covered by a 60,000$ tarp. The Societe Immobiliere du Quebec has purchased the eye sore for 269M$– a 50% loss for UQAM. Villifying the student protests overshadowed these issues of university accounting fun and games came and still comes too easily. But I guess that wouldn’t suit the narrative of “spoiled brats causing mayhem and ruining the lives of everyone”. I strongly recommend you read Graeme’s two part series that I mentioned above, regarding the student protests, as they do provide perspective. Grab part 1 and part 2 (early in the post, he writes of other topics, but he links it all together). All of that to say that even if tuition was increased, the quality of education would not likely improve.
Again, I most certainly do not support tuition increases of any kind and I do believe that free education is possible given the precedents that exist already. However, before anyone can even entertain hiking tuitions, something has to be done about the accounting fun and games these universities are playing with the tuitions and tax dollars.
As for the students out there protesting still, you should put more effort in putting out those accounting fun and games.
Funny how folks mock the idea of students running the business of these schools, with all that I’ve mentioned above, plus more that we don’t even know about, I have more confidence in students running the show than university administrators who seem to want to feather their own nests and care more about supposed prestige and publicity than the actual task of teaching and providing much needed services for students.