Waterloo students take action
By Caroline Greene
A new student activist group named Student Unity, Power and Action has formed at the University of Waterloo as a result of the Jan. 28 National Day of Action protest against student debt and tuition fees.
The University of Waterloo's Federation of Students, like Western's University Students' Council, is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. However, unlike Western, the federation did not take part in the National Day of Action protest, organized by CASA's rival lobby group, the Canadian Federation of Students.
About 100 students did not support the Waterloo federation's decision and took part in the day of action on their own initiative and subsequently decided to form a group dedicated to active protest against proposed education changes.
Although not directly linked to CFS, many of SUPA's principles are similar, including fighting against tuition increases and deregulation. "We need to mobilize students to get at the power we need to make serious change," said Davin Charney, organizer of SUPA.
The new group believes CASA is too focused on working with the government and university administrators and represents a lot of talk but not enough action. "We are more concerned with working with the people on the bottom the students. We support action carried out by students in the interests of students," Charney said.
"Students want a more activist-oriented approach," said Jennifer Story, national deputy chair of CFS.
However, Jeff Gardner, the federation's VP-education, said CFS does not have any real power. "In one year of consultation, [CASA has] come farther than 18 years of protest."
CASA held their own Student Debt Day Feb. 2 which did not take the form of protest but was aimed at raising awareness surrounding educational issues.
"Some of these protests have a way of alienating students from public opinion rather than endearing themselves to it," said Hoops Harrison, national director of CASA. He added their philosophy is getting the public on their side.
"Protest-oriented groups judge their worth on how much media attention they get," Harrison added. However, he said he wishes the two lobby groups could put aside their differences and send a clear unified message to the government.