This issue of The Cascade News covered an on-campus, student-organized protest to raise awareness about unpaid practicums in female-dominated industries. It’s the first on-campus staging of dissatisfaction in several years.
In Opinion, contributing writer Aleister Gwynne notes that a professor is “baffled” at this generation’s inactivity in social movements, especially compared to students in the ‘60s civil rights movements. I’m not sure if this represents a complete understanding of the ‘60s/‘70s counterculture era, but I have to agree. Why can’t students around here seem to mobilize?
In past weeks of The Cascade, the B.C. Federation of Students took out an ad on the backpage. It asked students to write the finance minister about student loan interest rates, and encourage her to cut interest in budget 2019. I’m not sure if there’s a playbook on this kind of thing, but I feel like a paid advertisement should not be the biggest call to action at a university.
Are students apathetic, or just uninformed? Does the institution value education, or is it about pumping out certifications?
During the height of the Trans Mountain pipeline standoffs, I saw nothing organized on campus, even though the pipeline runs right through Chilliwack and Abbotsford. And now, I see virtually no collective action, no activism, not even a hint. Not even a student with a “No TMPP” t-shirt. Notice the hallways as you walk to and from class; you’ll have trouble finding anything to do with activism and certainly nothing to do with mobilization.
Look around. You can’t afford a flat as a student without more roommates than bedrooms, you’re overstressing your body to pay for school if you intend to get out debt-free and graduate on time, and if you’re coasting on loans, you’re borrowing money at a rate profiting Ottawa $862.6 million this year, according to the Canadian Federation of Students. Oh well, it won’t last forever. Oh well, at least I’m doing a bit better than the next guy.
I don’t know man, I just think we can do better. In 2012, students in Québec protested a proposal to raise tuition. And you know what? The increase was halted.
My question is this: what will it take to mobilize? There are a handful of theories elaborating on the conditions required to turn discontentment into action. Proponents of one theory emphasize the need for top-down supports like funding, leadership, and organizational structuring. Others would say that favourable conditions must align; this might take form as increased political understanding among the masses, greater access to political decision-making, and shifting values or discord among the decision makers and a degradation of their ability to lead.
There’s one other identifiable and important condition: unity. I think most conditions that precede the mobilization of social movements exist around here, at least in varying degrees. Unity does not. The student population here is far too atomized. Where do you go to mingle? There’s no pub, no central hub unaffiliated from a particular UFV department.
Consider this an open invitation to come by The Cascade office; I’ll buy you a coffee. We can talk about things. Or, think about it over the break and write me a letter in the new year.
Also, you’re welcome to use our boardroom for any activist planning meetings.