Yesterday like hundreds of fellow UQAM students, I occupied the J-A. De Sève building. Like hundreds of my fellow students, I occupied my university to send a simple and clear message to a megalomaniac and intransigent administration,.completely high on power administration; a dignified university; and a post-secondary educational institution that calls itself such belongs first and foremost to the students and the teachers.
Yesterday, I couldn’t have been prouder of being a UQAM student. I was proud of my fellow students, of the ecstatic sense of solidarity that filled the air, and of being part of it. Yesterday, I couldn’t have been prouder of my teachers, who stood arm in arm with us on the front lines and denounced the presence of anti-riot squads within our campus.
Applying to university many people look for prestige, for a name on a diploma. I applied to UQAM because UQAM fights, because education is more than just sitting in a classroom, because we learn as we struggle, as we fight together.
Today, the mainstream media, as per habit, will rain down blame and accusations on the students, those “ragged bunch of anarchists” and “masked terrorists” who rampaged and put to fire and sword our beloved university. There will be calls across the board to put an end to the “violence” and “intimidation.”
But let’s be clear here. Is there any violence that is symbolically or quantitatively more violent than that of university administration calling on riot-cops to club and charge their own students? Within a university, there isn’t greater violence than that of silencing dissident voices!
Certainly, however, there have been excesses at UQAM and that’s the excesses of the administration, that isn’t recognized by those it supposedly represents!
Like many in the past weeks, I have been discouraged and demoralized by the internal fighting that has plagued our movement, in particular surrounding the former executive of ASSÉ. This harmed the movement and the articulation of our message more than anything else.
Some have said we’re in need of a unifying moment, we found such a moment yesterday!
To all of those who don’t want to get involved, unfortunately you have no other choice – we collectively have no other choice. Either we take full repossession of our university – we re-take what is rightfully ours – or we capitulate at the feet of a logic of commodification that uses brute force to impose its world view. Either we uphold the democratic decisions of our student association, our student democracy, and the right for students to have a say in their education, or we lose democracy altogether!
To civil society, to those that are students, but not students of UQAM, to the workers, and in general, to those most affected by the austerity measures, do you not see the inequality of opportunity this government wants to impose on us? This struggle is yours as well!
This struggle belongs to all of those that believe in the “radical” idea that education and profit aren’t synonymous. They’re antithetical! This struggle belongs to those that believe that a university isn’t a factory, that we can aspire to more than being service-sector, minimum wage, 9 to 5, cubicle confined workers.
This struggle belongs to everyone who believes in the fundamental idea that some things are more important than “profit” – that people are more important than profit! Our struggle is a struggle to uphold one of the most fundamental freedoms and a guiding principle that should be laid at the foundation of every society: the principle that the transmission of knowledge should be non-merchandised, universally accessible to all regardless of your class, your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, your religious beliefs.
If you believe in such things your place is alongside us, with us on the front lines.
We won’t give-up a centimeter, we will resist, we will overcome!
La lutte continue!
Photograph by Benjamin Prunty.