Student protest turns ugly in Hogtown
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
A recent protest at the University of Toronto aimed at corporate board members may illustrate a trend in student angst sparked by campaign aims set out by the Canadian Federation of Students.
The Feb. 26 protest took place outside of the Toronto university's Governing Council meeting while Graduate Students' Union President Wendy Hulko demanded that Bank of Montreal President Frank Comper resign as chair of the Governing Council.
Citing a conflict of interest, the GSU said they are concerned about personal performance bonuses Comper receives as a result of bank profits. "If tuition increases, then students need to take out more loans and Comper gets bigger performance bonuses," Hulko said. "For him to be chair of a body that decides tuition increases is problematic."
Hulko said the union has problems with several other members but are focusing on Comper and intend to seek legal counsel. The GSU would essentially like full democratic control over the Governing Council, Hulko added.
Administration at the university was unavailable for comment but manager of media relations for the Bank of Montreal Rick Kuwayti said the bank is aware of the situation and consider Comper's commitments outside the bank as volunteer ones.
"We have 34,000 employees at the Bank of Montreal and many are involved in volunteer activities. These volunteering activities are not something we are prepared to talk about Mr. Comper's role at U of T falls under this," Kuwayti said.
This protest was only the first in a wave set to hit campuses across Canada a trend which has already reached York University as shown by a similarly motivated protest on Monday against their Board of Governors.
But Hulko said she is not surprised other schools are protesting because the aim to protest the privatization of post-secondary education is a topic not only discussed at CFS meetings but organized between CFS schools.
"This is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of the corporatization of education," said Brad Lavinge, national chair of CFS. "If students want to pick up on the campaign, they can do so."
While Hulko and fellow supporters tried to oust Comper from his position, the protest got ugly as one student drew a moustache on an oil painting of a past president. "The GSU doesn't condone this kind of behaviour but I can understand it," Hulko said.
A protest at York also became extreme when students surrounded President Lorna Marsden's car while she was in it, Hulko said.
Helen Roos, President of the Society of Graduate Students at Western, said SOGS finds it difficult to shake the reputation of CFS member schools being radical and she has worked with the graduate council to show SOGS doesn't intend to use the same aims.