Volume 90, Issue 81

Tuesday, February 18, 1997



Enlisting Cuba

By Adrian Leung
Gazette Staff

Student protestors at the University of Guelph are hoping that Fidel Castro's regime can help them in their crusade to stop tuition increases in Ontario.

In a letter written to the Cuban consulate, the 17 student protesters – who have occupied the university president's office since last Thursday – requested the country's help in making "information known to press organs in Cuba so that students and workers in sister nations can learn of the escalating student mobilization here in this part of Canada."

"The letter was written by one of the protesters but it was done by group consensus," said Brad Walker, an undergraduate volunteer with Guelph's Central Students' Union.

The presidential offices at the universities of Toronto, York and Guelph were all under siege last week as student protesters staged sit-ins in demonstration against the proposed 10 per cent discretionary tuition increases. While the protests have ended at York and Toronto, the students at the University of Guelph are still holding out.

Protesters at Guelph, who are now in the sixth day of their sit-in, spent the weekend in the university's administrative offices and refuse to leave unless their demands, including freezing tuition increases, are met.

Kirsten Middleton, the external commissioner for the CSU said the university administration cut off all communication lines in and out of the offices yesterday morning, leaving the students with few links to the outside.

"The protesters demand that all communications must be reinstated before negotiations move on," Middleton said. Negotiations are now at an impasse as the administration refuses to talk unless the demonstrators leave the offices.

"Their demands are not being considered by the administration unless the students come out," said Margaret Boyd, media relations spokeswoman for the university. "Students have the right to dissent but they have to respect that right. They overlooked the consultative processes before they protested."

The occupation of the administrative offices at York ended Sunday morning after the university administration gave an ultimatum for the 20 students to either restrict their sit-in to the president's office or be arrested for trespassing. Wayne Poirier, York Federation of Students president said "Students left on their own will because in the confusion and intimidation students heard that they may face university disciplinary action."

Although 17 security officers and four Metropolitan Toronto police officers were on the scene, there was no intimidation or threats of disciplinary action made towards the protesters, Sine McKinnon, a media representative for York University said.

Brad Levine, president of the Canadian Federation of Students, said there is a very good possibility that another sit-in will take place this week at another university. However he refused to say at which institution.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997