In brief: demonstrations and activism
Students protest as UofT raises tuition fees again
Photo Credit/Zach Morgenstern
On April 1, the Students First coalition (an open group formed during the TA strike including UTSU officials and CUPE activists amongst others) organized a rally outside of Simcoe hall attended by between 50 and 100 people protesting the prospect of governing council raising tuition. The proposed increases included a 3% raise in fees for Arts and Science domestic students, a 5% increase for domestic students in resource-intensive programs, a 9% increase for international students in Arts and Science and a 10% increase for international students in engineering and applied sciences. The protesters chanted and sang, lead at times by the CUPE3902 hype squad, which modified its songs from the TA strike like “Come on Regehr” to apply to the drop fees movement. As the rally drew to a close, UTSU President Yolen Bollo-Kamara came out of Simcoe Hall where she had had speaking rights, and led the crowd in chants of shame, informing attendees that the fee increases had been passed, and denouncing UofT President Meric Gertler’s argument that most UofT students do not end up paying full tuition. Bollo-Kamara’s speech was followed by a call from doctoral student Faraz Vahid Shahidi for students to withhold their tuition fees next year as a means of striking against an administration that is unwilling to bend to student financial demands.
UofT campaign for community encourages students to talk to each other
Photo Credit/Zach Morgenstern
On April 7, the Uoft Campaign for Community hosted a social experiment that encouraged talking to strangers. The campaign for community is a psychology independent study, associated with the older “how does UofT make you fee”l campaign and has hosted a number of events including the Sidney Smith play space, jam sessions and a silent disco to challenge UofT’s isolating culture. The talking to strangers event was broken into a number of stations. One encouraged students to have brief conversations in the style of speed dates, albeit for the purpose of making friends. Another station asked a group of students in a circle to step in, when they felt comfortable answering yes to questions such as whether they missed a friend they’d lost touch with. Other stations were more artistic and experimental. Students were asked at one booth to add themselves to a 6-degrees-of-separation board featuring the world leaders, UofT psychology professors and other. Yet another table challenged students to build a model of Uoft with popsicle sticks and glue. UofT’s improv club also got involved and invited participants to watch an improv show, that in fact required extensive audience participation.
Klein and King discuss climate change and storytelling at Bader Theatre
Also on April 7, acclaimed author Thomas King and activist-journalist Naomi Klein talked about the relationship between their recent work and environmental degradation as part of an Avie Bennnet Chair in Canadian Literature lecture at Bader Theatre. The event also served as a platform to honor King, who was given a robe by acclaimed Sto:lo author Lee Maracle, a rare honor for non-Sto:los (King is part Greek and part Cherokee). In his speaking time King touched on a range of topics including his aversion for the bottled water, and his concern that modern interviewers have stopped asking authors challenging, non-generic questions.
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Klein recently published This Changes Everything, a book which blames climate change on the capitalist system. She spoke of her surprise that, for the most part, liberal and conservative interviewers have not expressed strong disagreement with her radical thesis, but have simply questioned her optimism that the current trajectory of planetary destruction can be reversed. She went on to blame this on narratives, saying we often seem forced to chose between the extreme visions of Mark Lynas, who argues we are a “god species” that can work our way out of any problem through innovation, and of Paul Kingsnorth, who argues that we are a destructive species that should accept we have doomed ourselves. Klein continued to criticize narratives throughout her talk including: the frontier narrative of settler colonialism, noting that climate change denialism is more prominent in Canada, the US and Australia than it is even elsewhere in the West; and our Pottery Barn (you break it, you own it) relationship to the environment, a reference to an ill-informed, poor-taste metaphor used by Colin Powell to justify to the occupation of Iraq.