Volume 93, Issue 91

Wednesday, March 22, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Silence speaks, but not enough

Editorial cartoon

Silence speaks, but not enough

The office of the University of Toronto's president, Robert Prichard, became the site of a 1960s style sit-in last week, minus the hippies.

Last Wednesday, a group of 20 U of T students began their protest against the university's decision to remove what the group deemed a key part of the school's proposed code of conduct on sweatshops.

The code is currently being debated at the administrative level. However, the key question in this issue is whether the students have chosen the proper form of protest.

Prichard, who is currently away on vacation, has said in the past he is not willing to deal with students who initiate acts of civil disobedience.

During the Teacher Assistant strike at U of T earlier this year, Prichard slammed the TAs for this style of protest on more than one occasion. In this case, the university has stated it is not willing to talk to the students until they all leave the office.

Although the U of T bigwigs have voiced their discontent, it must be understood this is the only way the student's message can be spread to the public. If the students chose quiet methods of fighting the big hand of administration, little would be accomplished.

The national media attention this protest has garnered will effectively force administration to look at this issue more carefully. This effort may achieve the student group's desired shake-up and act as the catalyst to a change in attitudes and policy.

Prichard may only be inconvenienced once he returns from his vacation, but that is not the point. What this form of disobedience does, is present the U of T administration in a bad light. The public sees the school negatively which prompts efforts by administration to make changes and possibly reconsider the wishes of the student group. In this case the adage "Any press is good press" does not ring true.

Obviously, this style of protest is not always going to work but the group of eight, down from the original 20, who have toughed it out over the last week should be commended for standing up for what they believe in.

During the '60s, a time synonymous with change, many groups employed similar disruptive tactics to resounding success.

Recently, Western's Students Against Sweatshops have complained that Western's senior officials are simply waiting for U of T's administration to take a stand. Perhaps if all else fails, students here at Western should follow their counterparts at U of T and revitalize the spirit of protest. Instead of waiting for something to be set in stone by Senate or the Board of Governors, efforts should be made to insure the proper changes are made.

Without creating a stir, how can those in power see the need to change a system which benefits them financially, to a system which is morally beneficial to all?

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