Students debate boycott as classes set to resume
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2012 9:22PM EDT
A group of students is debating whether to return to class on Monday to make up the end of a semester lost to the massive student movement in Quebec.
The debate and vote were taking place Tuesday evening during an election campaign in which student tuition hikes are among the central themes.
Monday night, social work students at Universite de Montreal voted to continue boycotting classes, but the low voter turnout raised the eyebrows of Liberal leader Jean Charest.
“Nine per cent of those eligible to vote voted. I mean these are decisions that have consequences,” he said Tuesday.
Student leaders say the vote is legitimate, and are urging students to attend the assemblies.
“I think it will wake people up that they need to go and vote - even if they are working by day, they need to go to university by night to make their voices heard,” said Martine Desjardins of the Quebec Federation of University Students.
A number of such votes will be held by different student associations over the coming days.
At CEGEP Marie-Victorin, students were unclear as to whether they’d be returning to class as scheduled next week.
“Maybe on Monday (protesters) will be in front of the door blocking the entrance. We don't know,” said student Gabriel Routhier. “I'm stressed, because I want to go back to school.”
Students are voting across Quebec on whether to continue their boycott, which has been underway since February and included massive protest marches.
The dispute focuses on plans by the Charest government to raise tuition fees by $1,778 over seven years -- which is a hike of about 84 per cent, although it would still leave tuition in Quebec at among the lowest rates in Canada.
Students have been considering suspending their protest before the Sept. 4 election because there is concern it might push public support to the governing Liberals.
Attendance at the UQAM debate was so large it had to be moved from an auditorium to a large gymnasium.
The media was excluded from Tuesday’s event, with the student association representing social science students at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal electing to bar mainstream newspapers, TV and magazines from their debate Tuesday at the university's downtown campus.
They did allow student broadcaster Concordia University TV, which has been a proud supporter of the student demonstrations, to film excerpts of the meeting, which attracted a few hundred students.
The motion to bar the mainstream media was passed before the meeting was moved.
It is not the first time media have been barred from meetings by the students, who have been critical of mainstream coverage of their protests.
The association voting Tuesday night at UQAM belongs to the more militant of the umbrella organizations in the province's student movement, the CLASSE.
The student group said it's planning back-to-school activities – more protests in the coming days, including a demonstration in front of Phillips Square at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
With a report from The Canadian Press