Lessons We Can Learn From Québec
In February of this year, university students in the Canadian province of Québec went on strike in protest of the government's plan to raise tuition by 75% over the next five years. In May, 400,000 people marched against the plan and the Liberal government's repressive response to the demonstrations. Two days ago, the newly elected Parti Québécois informed student leaders that they planned to repeal the tuition hike, as well as Bill 78, the emergency law that attempted to place harsh restrictions on student demonstrations. Fuck yeah! But what does that have to do with us?
Though the student unions initially reacted in response to the tuition hike, some students found their demands quickly escalating. One of the leading student unions, CLASSE, published a manifesto that argued “direct democracy should be experienced, every moment of every day”, and that “equal access to public services is vital to the common good. And access can only be equal if it is free.” Clearly, these goals are more far-reaching than a tuition freeze, and to their credit PQ Leader Pauline Marois also promised a wider summit on higher education. But what's important to us is that the attack on equal access to education is being waged around the world, on many fronts. Wesleyan is one of them.
In planning to explicitly consider ability to pay for a portion of domestic admits, the Board of Trustees and President Roth place revenue streams – from students, their families, and elsewhere – ahead of the social benefits of education for all in importance. This is an extension of the injustice already practiced in the admissions process for international and transfer students. Wesleyan students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community members who oppose this should know that they are not alone in attempting to halt or reverse this trend; the fight continues, from the Universidad de Chile to the University of California to our own. And from the Université du Québec, the lesson we should take is that we can win.