Reaching the breaking point
By Joshua Budd
Students at the University of Guelph protesting the 10 per cent discretionary tuition increase for Ontario universities were no closer to a resolution yesterday, after seven days of protest.
Representatives from Guelph's Central Students' Union met for the first time yesterday with representatives from the senior administration to try to resolve the situation, but were unable to make any progress.
"We're reaching the breaking point," said Kirsten Middleton, CSU external commissioner. "We want them to publicly acknowledge our demands."
The protesters, who are currently occupying the university president's office, are demanding the university administration freeze tuition, publicly denounce tuition increases as a method of covering losses from government cutbacks and a meeting with the Board of Governors and amnesty for all those involved in the protest.
Darlene Frampton, director of communications and public affairs for the university, said the administration is not willing to talk about the tuition issue with the students in the office. Once they leave, they must still go through the normal consultative process. "Members of senior administration are talking with students about ways to end the situation in a peaceful manner and to facilitate the students leaving," Frampton said.
She added the Board of Governors will consult the CSU, the senate caucus student group, the senate committee on university planning and other university committees before making a final decision on the discretionary tuition increase, a process which began last week.
Frampton said the students must participate in this process to let their views be known to the Board of Governors and the current form of protest has not contributed constructively to the process.
In the meantime, students have appealed to the Cuban consulate for assistance by writing a letter requesting the consulate circulate information about the protest to media outlets in Cuba.
However, a representative of the Cuban consul general in Toronto, who refused to divulge his name, said they had not received the letter from the students, but it does not matter because they cannot interfere anyway.
Middleton said she was concerned about re-establishing communications with the protesters after telephone lines to the office were cut off over the weekend. Other than talking through a crack in the door, passing notes and the occasional slice of pizza, the CSU is not allowed any contact with the protesters.
"We've been trying to keep negotiations direct," Middleton said. "But it's been really hard to get information.
"We want to make sure they're OK. I don't have a good feeling about what's happening in the room."
Middleton said the number of students occupying the office dropped from 17 to 12 yesterday, as some of the students were not prepared to stay seven days. She added they are feeling stressful and have become exceedingly angry at the administration.