Students may stand up and fight
By Laura Koot
Although over 700 students are virtually sitting in the university's president's office, Western's students' council says it is not making any headway in having its demands of the administration met. It is a conclusion which will lead to further action by students.
In a virtual sit-in which began March 6, students have been able to access a University Students' Council website, log into the protest and automatically send an email to president Paul Davenport expressing their concerns.
Yesterday Davenport sat down with members of the USC's Board of Directors to discuss the demands to freeze tuition, increase accountability and improve student services.
Dave Tompkins, USC president, described the meeting which lasted just over an hour as "interesting.
"We were hoping Dr. Davenport was going to come forward with concrete solutions to items we had raised and present compromises," Tompkins explained. "Unfortunately his position on the main six points of the original letter stayed the same."
Davenport felt the meeting generated helpful discussion. "I share with the students a profound concern for the growing student debt," he said. "I think that at both the provincial and federal levels we are doing all we can."
Not everyone was so optimistic about the encounter. "I really don't think Dr. Davenport has an appreciation of the number of students who feel strongly about the issues," Tompkins said.
The council's VP-communications, Jerry Topolski, said the lack of communication with the administration has caused students to examine their options. "[Tonight] at 6 p.m. all interested students and student leaders will be gathering in the [University Community Centre's] atrium to discuss where we want to take this next."
While over 100 students are expected to attend the discussion, Tompkins said the virtual sit-in will continue. "We are going to continue to use the virtual sit-in as the vehicle to let the students be heard."
However, Davenport said the current form of protest and rate at which messages are coming in has not affected his ability to work.
The possibility of a protest on campus during this week's open house for high school students is something Davenport has chosen to leave in the hands of the students. "It is not my role to get involved in student affairs," he said. "Part of Western is the activity of our various student groups.
"I am going to leave this decision to the students to make."
The idea of a physical protest is not something Tompkins has discounted. "I think anything violent would be counter-productive," he explained. "But I started the ball rolling on this and I want to see where the students are going to take this."