“Students in Quebec are closely watching what is happening in Ireland”

 says Nicolas Longtin-Martel, doing his Masters in French Literature at the Université de Montréal.
“Defending the university is not an easy task. The students engaged in the Quebec student strike of 2012, or «printemps érable» (literally in English it means “maple spring,” but in French it’s a play on Printemps Arabe or Arab Spring) learned it the hard way, risking their sessions in order not to see tuition fees rise, not for themselves (it would have been a relatively small amount), but for the next generations of students. The students who wore the symbolic «red square» ( a symbol of support for the strike) raised awareness that the university, and scholarship, was not just threatened by those rising fees, but also by a corporate model creating some awful, heart-breaking decisions”.“Defend the Irish university, because it’s the pillar of tomorrow’s society but only if it is maintained, only if it doesn’t erode due to an individualist search for gain and profit. Defend the university because it’s under attack. Defend the university, because you have principles you value, defend it because it’s your, and our, task to prevent the institution falling into hands that will halt or divert any of its missions. We must continue to teach, to research, to question and to transmit knowledge; not selling it. It’s our oath, it’s our profession.”“Defend the Irish university. Not just because there are some values that we need to reaffirm but more, perhaps, because the university is under attack. But attacked by whom exactly? By a corporate model that seeks to dictate to the university what to do instead of letting it speak for itself. University corporatism takes many forms : from raising the tuition fees (that force some students to reconsider their career in order to be able to pay back their debts, leaving the humanities with less and less students with every tuition hike), to diminishing the student-teacher ratio in class (hence, diminishing the quality of the instruction) or by telling universities what to do and what to think (done by under-funding them, letting them become competitive amongst themselves in order to get the money), telling and them what to research, what to study and not what they need to study to helping them engage with their communities”.

“A recent scandal here in Quebec was the sale of a historic convent (the 1420 Mont-Royal) that was sold at a very modest price to the University of Montreal in order to continue its educational mission. But the university didn’t hold onto it for long and decided to sell it in order to make luxury apartments. That decision was taken against the will of the teachers, of the students and of the community surrounding the university. The «management» that controls our university is right now in court for that reason because they don’t listen to that same community that creates the university. Heritage is part of the university, not something to sell”.

“We speak of collegiality because we need to take back our institutions, we need to make sure that the teachers, the student and the community that the university helps and serves, are the people making enlightened decisions for their university. We speak of collegiality because it’s not right to see the Principle of a university prosecute its own students in order to stop them protesting in a place where questioning is one of the most fundamental things to do (and by the way, comparing the university to a shopping mall). And finally, we speak of collegiality because it is not just the university, the teachers and the students that will suffer from managerialism, but the whole community that will see their institutions failing in helping them. The universities will start getting into races to get financing, making profit (that the administration will share between them and not spend into research or teaching) and stop co-operating with each other, destroying in the process not only collegiality, but also co-operative research between universities that is fundamental for some projects. We now face short terms projects for short term benefits and become blind to building and questioning the future of our institutions”.

“All your principles are hugely inspiring and the struggle we had in Quebec is also important in other countries. Long live the real universities!”.

For further information on the landmark Quebec students struggles consult ASSÉ (www.asse-solidarite.qc.ca ) and/ or the FEUQ (www.feuq.qc.ca) two Quebec student organisations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>