Monday, June 2, 2008

40 years of student activism at U of T and beyond

In yesterday's Star,there was an article about Kenneth Stone, a man whose activism at the University of Toronto culminated in him ripping up his degree at his convocation in 1968. The feature was published around the fortieth anniversary of that event.

You can read it here: The Man Who Ripped Up His Degree

The man who resists this today:

"'George Bush's war of terror against Arabs and Muslims, into which our own prime minister bought lock, stock and barrel. We're paying for a losing counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, where our troops control the groundthey are standing on for a moment." He berates Bush, (Defence Minister) Peter MacKay and (Liberal Leader) St├ęphane Dion, saying they clamour for humanitarian interventions in Sudan's Darfur region while creating humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

…was resisting similar issues at the University of Toronto forty years ago. He fought the same issues that the UofT 14, their supporters and students at many institutions today continue to fight:

"For students like Stone, the civil rights activists who came to Canada from sit-ins in Mississippi and hung around the common room, were galvanizing.

"It was a time of intellectual ferment," he says. "We were not accepting what we were being told ... You could put out a leaflet at 9 a.m. and have an anti-war rally of 600 people at noon."

Stone, who became president of the Innis College Student Society, pushed hard to win the first student representation on the college council, which at that time was made up entirely of faculty and staff. By 1969, Innis was offering courses on cinema, urban studies, the environment and Canadian culture and society, all of which evolved into U of T's first interdisciplinary programs.

"I learned more about politics from the fight for student power than I ever could learn from books and in the classroom," he says.”

Students who fight for greater representation on university committees today are standing on the shoulders of people like Stone. It's easy to forget that the little representation that students have wasn’t handed to students; it was only made possible by others who fought the same battle years before. And greater representation will only be made possible through organised students using a variety of tactics to bring a broad range of students along.

Tomorrow at 12:00, at UofT’s Simcoe Hall, there will be a march against the criminalization of dissent on campus and in support of the UofT 14. Students, like they were forty years ago, will again be fighting for greater representation and their right to dissent against the university’s administration.

As the summer presses on, and as students continue to wake up, who knows that the fall will have in store for activism on our campuses? The Canadian Federation of Students-declared Provincial Day of Action on November 5 will hopefully be a flash point for activists across the province to unite on these issues and force the gatekeepers at the Council of Ontario Universities to comply with these demands that have been made by students year after year.

1 comment:

civil said...

The 14 have been charged with forcible confinement, an offense in the Criminal Code which falls under the heading of “Kidnapping, Trafficking in Persons, Hostage Taking and Abduction.” It carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Other charges include that of “forcible detainer” (wrongfully holding property not one’s own), and mischief in relation to property, carrying maximum sentences of two and five years, respectively.

The accused are Farrah Miranda and Liisa Schofield, campus organizers for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group; Michal Hay, former VP university affairs at UTSU; Hayes, who is president of ASSU; Edward Wong, an ASSU executive; APUS staffers Oriel Varga and Chris Ramsaroop; recent U of T graduate Noaman Ali; Farshad Azadian and Semra Eylul Sevi, members of the activist group Always Question; and students Luis Granados, Golta Shahidi, and Gabi Rodriguez. The accused also include one minor who cannot be named, and who has been additionally charged with uttering a death threat. The minor is undergoing a separate legal process at youth court.