nettime's avid reader on Sat, 22 Sep 2012 09:22:48 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Quebec students declare victory

[perhaps the demands aren't the worst thing to voice....]

Jubilant Quebec students declare victory as Premier Marois cancels 
tuition fee increase, repeals Bill 78

Jubilant students declare a win in tuition-hike conflict

By Karen Seidman,
Gazette Universities Reporter September 21, 2012

"Victory!" was the immediate tweet from Martine Desjardins, president of 
the Feration etudiante universitaire du Quebec, which had been fighting 
any kind of tuition increase since the hike first appeared in the budget 
of March 2011. Premier Marois kept her promise and cancelled the 
increase on Thursday.

Victory was sweet for Quebec students on Thursday as Premier Pauline 
Marois wasted no time in announcing the tuition hike was cancelled and 
the most controversial sections of Bill 78, adopted by the Liberals in 
the spring as an emergency measure to rein in boycotting students, are 
being repealed.

"It's a total victory!" said Martine Desjardins, president of the 
Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec, which is the largest 
student association with about 125,000 students. "It's a new era of 
collaboration instead of confrontation."

The icing on the cake for the 170,000 students who spent last winter and 
spring marching in the streets opposing a tuition hike of $254 a year 
for seven years? They get to keep, for this year, the $39-million boost 
to financial aid introduced by the Liberals to offset the tuition increase.

"Sept. 20 will be etched in the annals of history in Quebec," tweeted 
the Federation etudiante collegiale du Quebec.

"Bravo to the striking students," Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who was 
spokesperson for the Coalition large de l'association pour une 
solidarite syndicale etudiante (CLASSE) for much of the student 
conflict, said in a tweet.

Whichever side of the debate you were on, there was no denying the 
significance of the moment. Marois, who was criticized by the Liberals 
for wearing a symbolic red square in solidarity with students for much 
of the conflict, made a promise to cancel the tuition increase ? and she 
moved quickly to fulfill that commitment.

Students, who organized countless marches and clanged pots and never 
wavered from their goal of keeping education accessible with a tuition 
freeze, seemed at last to have triumphed definitively.

But there is a glimmer of hope for universities in what must be a 
chaotic fall, dealing with makeup classes for thousands of students and 
budgets that may suddenly be invalidated. Marois did promise 
compensation for 2012-13 and said university financing will be 
maintained, said Daniel Zizian, director-general of the Conf?rence des 
recteurs et des principaux des universit?s du Qu?bec.

Of course, details aren?t known so it still remains to be seen whether 
Quebec's universities will get all of the roughly $40 million they were 
anticipating from the tuition increase this year.

"There isn't panic, but it's a big preoccupation," Zizian said, although 
he seemed reassured by Marois's commitment to maintain funding. "It's a 
difficult situation for us."

Under the Liberals? original plan of a $1,778 increase over five years, 
universities were supposed to have about $440 million in new funding in 
the fifth year, $216 million from the tuition increase, according to 
Zizian. Universities complain they are underfunded by about $620 million 
a year compared to other universities in Canada.

Now it is up to the Parti Qu?b?cois?s new minister of higher education, 
research, science and technology, Pierre Duchesne, to organize a summit 
on higher education that Marois promised. Students say he has several 
immediate challenges, including how students will get reimbursed for the 
tuition hike that went into effect this fall.

Eliane Laberge, president of the FECQ, said he also has to get tough 
with universities.

"He's going to have to be stricter with rectors, they were spoiled by 
the Liberals," she said.

Also, the united front between the FEUQ, FECQ and CLASSE that was in 
effect during the tuition dispute may be over, as CLASSE continues to 
advocate for free education, which the other associations don?t support. 
In fact, CLASSE will be alone in organizing a demonstration on Sept. 22 
in support of free education.

"We are waiting to meet the minister and see how the PQ positions 
itself," said Camille Robert, a spokesperson for CLASSE.

Still, many organizations involved in higher education were pledging 
their support to collaborate with Duchesne. Guy Breton, rector of the 
Universite de Montreal, said he welcomed the importance accorded to 
higher education and research with the appointment of a new minister 
exclusively for that portfolio.

There was a similar sentiment from Alan Shepard, president of Concordia 
University, and Olivier Marcil, vice-principal of communications and 
external relations at McGill University.

But Marcil also had another message for the new minister:

"The fact remains that something must be done to address the 
underfunding issue and if it is not through tuition increases, then we 
must look at alternative solutions," he said. "McGill and other Quebec 
universities will not be able to sustain the quality of education 
offered if that situation is not addressed."

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