Protest washes up on concrete beach
By Brendan Howe
What was scheduled to be a video protest turned into a mild information session for a handful of students passing by the concrete beach yesterday.
University Students' Council President Dave Tompkins spent over an hour on a platform set up just outside the University Community Centre reading off student email sent to Western's president Paul Davenport by way of a virtual sit-in, voicing concerns on tuition issues.
Originally scheduled for March 13, the intention of the protest was to send video copies of it to various television stations around the province to promote and educate people about the concerns of Western's student body. After a poor showing of students, the goal was slightly modified.
"We may just send quotes to TV stations," Tompkins said. "Today is targeted at the students. We want to drum up more support."
Student response to the information session was mixed. While there was a general consensus against tuition increases, some observers did not agree with how the USC was going about protesting them.
"Words don't mean shit," masters political science student Steve Dahab said. "People's awareness is brought by emotion. Awareness won't be raised with this."
Second-year science student Teresa Plater had a slightly different opinion on the subject. "I think it's great," Plater said. "It's a lot friendlier than what the other universities are doing a lot more civilized."
Plater said she wished more people would have come out to watch Tompkins speak because what he was saying was important.
Although students were given an opportunity to get up on the small stage and voice their opinions, none did. Only two students stayed for the entire proceedings but even they stayed in the shadows underneath The Wave. Fourth-year biology student Adam Brown was one of these students.
"This is a good representation of Western's apathy," Brown said. "You can see it here, you can count the protestors on one hand."
Brown said it will take him years to pay off his OSAP bills after he graduates because tuition is so high. He added he believes civil disobedience is the only way to get anything done.
Another casual observer, second-year computer science student Sandy Scott, said he admired Tompkins' dedication to the school, standing out in the cold speaking on behalf of Western students.
"I have a lot of respect for Dave," Scott said. "He'll stand out here reading student comments. It shows how much he cares. It's unfortunate there's no people here."
Student senator Sean Martin was also on hand trying to promote student awareness.
"The purpose is to inform the students," Martin said. "It's not necessary to get thousands down here."
Tompkins said the virtual sit-in has now surpassed 1,400 people and the USC intends to continue it as long as people keep signing up, after having passed its original goal of 500 students.