The Western way
Huge protests raged across the country yesterday for the Canadian Federation of Students' National Day of Action and here at Western students protested in the typical Western way.
Students all over the country hit the streets to protest the rising cost of education and the ever-ballooning student debt problem. For the first time in years, Western participated in this annual event, which has historically resulted in some violent protests at schools in other parts of the country.
On Concrete Beach, 200 students spent a little less than two hours cheering and listening to a number of speakers representing all parts of the Western community. In Toronto, however, hundreds of students marched down Bay Street, some were arrested and eventually, 150 of them sat occupying the headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. They are probably still there.
These are two completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The question is: which method is more effective? Wrestling with police or carving an ice sculpture into a dollar sign?
At first glance, it may seem like a tough call.
The National Day of Action received a huge amount of media attention with television stations dedicating tons of air time to why the students were protesting, the present student financial situation and what the government is doing or more appropriately what is not being done to solve the problem.
But while violent protests, like the ones witnessed in Toronto yesterday, may produce some great media coverage, the wrong message is being sent. The cost of such misconduct is the loss of respect for students and eventually, their violent behaviour overshadows their cause.
The biggest news coming out of Western's protest was President Paul Davenport saying the university will consider a tuition freeze over the next two months. It is a great public relations move for Davenport and we can only hope he will follow through with it.
By staging a peaceful demonstration, Western students and student councils are going at it the right way. Inviting Davenport to listen to student concerns and the concerns of others in the community for over an hour is a huge step especially at this university.
If the president is on the side of students and will fight for their protection, that will be 100 times more effective than people getting arrested and occupying banks all night.
At the same time, Western could have used a few more bodies at its protest. In a school of over 25,000 students, a rally consisting of 200 graduate and undergraduates is not as strong a voice as it could have been.