Op-Ed: Policy vs. protest

 

Apparently, I’m the girl that doesn’t like the Drop Fees campaign. I guess I can see where this idea came from as I am usually the person that covers the more sensitive issues in the News section. When I do a little digging into an issue and try to put together facts in a coherent and unbiased article to inform the unaware student, it’s interpreted by my peers as harsh criticism.

It’s for this reason that I was apprehensive about covering this year’s Drop Fees campaign, but when Munib, UTMSU’s VP External, told me last semester that he was anticipating my coverage on the rally, I decided to take on the article. So I attended the Drop Fees.

Unfortunately, it was exactly what I had expected. I’m all for activism. To the students that attended, I applaud you for taking time away from your classes and part-time jobs. The right to protest is an important component of our democratic society—when it’s used properly.

U of T students pay a hefty amount to the Canadian Federation of Students, and with those funds the organization lobbies for the provincial and federal governments in the interest of students. When issues are addressed from a cooperative, policy-driven approach, progress is more likely.

When sensibility fails, movements in opposition of injustices are arguably necessary, as we’ve seen in the case of Egypt. In Ontario, aggressive and offensive displays are not justified.

I followed the truck that led the procession and listened to the chants that were led by CFS chair Sandy Hudson and the VP Externals of UTSU and UTMSU. Shouting “Fuck fees” won’t result in budget changes to fix the province’s deficit. Jeering in front of Glen Murray’s office won’t increase transfers to postsecondary education when there isn’t any more money in the budget to give.

They cheered, “When I say cut back, you say fight back.” If those cuts don’t come from education, then which sector will suffer? Health care? And allow long wait times for life-saving surgeries to persist? Social housing? And refuse shelter to families in need?

While I was at the rally, every once in a while I would look up at the grand windows of the provincial parliament in search of an onlooker. I didn’t see one.

I agree with Mr. Sajjad. It’s important to engage youth directly with issues, especially at an institution of higher learning. But I also think it’s more effective to educate students on the financial and policy matters that surround not only issues that effect our own interests, but the interests of the people of the province as a whole. That’s why I write news articles—so you can see both sides. That’s something the CFS and UTMSU don’t do.

Stefanie Marotta
News Editor