Steel town sits down
By Karena Walter
McMaster students have staged the sixth sit-in at an Ontario university in recent weeks to protest tuition increases.
About 20 students camped out in an administration building last night after presenting a petition with 3,000 signatures to the assistant provost of student affairs.
"We're just going to stay as long as we can," said Nadia Conforti, who helped form the group Students Against Tuition Increases. Conforti said students are not only attacking the president of the university but the government as well and are asking for a better student aid program and a halt in tuition hikes.
Vicky Smallman, chair of Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, said a rally was held at McMaster earlier in the day and attended by 200 students.
The students entered the administration building chanting "freeze the fees" and spoke with the assistant provost of student affairs. "She was giving the usual administration lines and the students were really challenging her on all the things she was saying," Smallman said.
The smaller group of students are now blocking access to the administrative wing of Gilmour Hall and plan on being there for a few days, Smallman said.
Conforti and five other students initiated the protest by advertising across campus and setting up three polling stations in major traffic areas to garner support. "We literally plastered the school with banners," she said.
"McMaster has been a quieter campus than some," said Geoff Ritchie, president of the McMaster Students' Union. "I think this is a sign that there is a real grass-roots level of frustrations."
Ritchie said the argument that tuition increases will protect the quality of education is not valid as the quality of education has already lowered this past year with over-crowded classrooms at the school.
Smallman said students tried traditional avenues of negotiation with he administration but it did not work. The protest will make a strong public statement and attract media attention, she said.