Volume 90, Issue 81

Tuesday, February 18, 1997



EDITORIAL: Weakened voices

Much like the leisure suit, sit-in protests should be a thing of the past.

That must be qualified by saying that a leisure suit can be brought back for special occasions and sit-ins too are acceptable, but only under extreme circumstances.

Students occupying administrative offices is not a new phenomenon. Starting in the 1960s, student protests proved to be effective in anti-war efforts and social movements.

But this is the 1990s. And while protests were effective once, they should only be used as a last resort.

The problem at the University of Guelph (and, by extension, the University of Toronto and York University) is that this effort was not taken as a last resort. Rather it is a reactionary tactic to an announcement of a tuition increase without exploiting all the normal procedural channels available to the students participating.

While shows of solidarity are great, they do have a time and a place – and this is not one of them.

The great travesty here is not that the students are protesting. They should be applauded for their passion and their desire to change a system for what they perceive are the best interests of students.

What is wrong is the fact that by staging this dramatic protest, the students are actually defeating their own purpose. No longer are they fighting for an issue, they have become the issue.

Lost in the bravado and spectacle of an old-style sit-in is the message the students are trying to get out. The topic of discussion is not the proposed tuition increases, but rather it is the fact that there are students sitting in some university big-wig's office. Instead of presenting a rational case or proposing feasible changes to the status quo, these students are simply projecting the image of radicalism to the greater population whose sympathies they are trying to win.

As well, this student passion is being directed to the wrong source. Not only have they shot the messenger, but now they're preventing him from even riding his horse. The universities didn't make this decision to allow for the increase of tuition – that was a decision of the government. And they are who should be bearing the brunt of this protest, not some academic pencil-pusher.

Protests still do have their place, if they are handled in a professional manner. Even radical protests of this ilk are also acceptable if all other avenues have been tried.

But by taking this knee-jerk reaction, the protesters have weakened the student voice by reducing it to the voice of a radical – not that of a mature and intelligent member of society.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997