It was quite the spectacle. Students at the University of Saskatchewan, and Western Canadian schools in general, are not known for their activism. We generally prefer to keep our heads down, get our degrees and move on. The protest cultures of Quebec and some American campuses are alien to us, and when the Quebec student strikes took place last spring there was very little sympathy for those supposedly “entitled” Frenchies.
And yet, there they were, lots of outraged students standing up to an administration starting down the road of austerity without significant input from the people it will affect the most. After a sometimes-rancorous debate in which numerous people voiced their frustrations with the university brass, there are now guaranteed spots for graduate and undergraduate students on the two task forces that will decide the university’s future.
This move was essentially a vote of non-confidence in the administration to get itself out of the budgetary mess that has left the school with a $44.5-million projected deficit by 2016.
Even so, protesting seems to be a rather new impulse for some people on campus. After the council meeting, student Reagan Seidler tweeted, “Today, @usask students showed the power of reason and dialogue rather than protest.” That post was dutifully retweeted by several other students who failed to see that what had occurred was indeed a protest, that loudly opposing decisions you disagree with is OK, and that it’s not just radical agitators who do so.
It’s nice to see the campus community roused from its complacency. How long have humanities and fine arts students felt neglected? How long have people complained about underfunding and understaffing? Seemingly forever. To see that frustration finally solidify into something resembling a campus-wide movement is exciting.
One can’t help but notice more and more U of S students sporting the carré rouge, the red square that serves as the symbol of the Quebec student protests; and last week’s Sheaf, “The Money Issue,” was seemingly everywhere on campus. This newspaper’s online survey about the budget crisis got almost 300 responses, many of them angry with the administration.
It turns out U of S students do care about their school, and they’re willing to do something about it. Let’s just hope we can all get over our reluctance to be shit-disturbers and keep pushing for positive engagement on campus. This is more than a degree mill, after all.
Photo: Calvin So
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, we credited the image to ‘Clavin So.’ We should know better. His name is Calvin.