I initially thought this article would be written for, and read by, a campus on strike. I didn’t believe that the AUS would vote to strike, but there was always hope. The AUS GA was six hours of exhausting political soul sucking that snatched that hope away from me. These are my thoughts on the AUS GA and where those who voted ‘yes’ to a strike can go from here.
1. I’m very impressed with the turnout at the AUS GA. Thanks to Mob Squad’s ability to mobilize students for accessible education, and ModPAC’s ability to spread good old fashioned fear about the strike in the hearts of students, 1,120 voted on the strike resolution. This is approximately 15 per cent of Arts students. In comparison, just five per cent of Concordia voted to put their entire school on strike.
2. The turnout isn’t as big of a deal for me as I’m sure it will be for other commentators. I would have preferred a minimum quorum with a majority ‘yes’ vote, rather than the turnout and outcome we received. This is because I view accessible education throughout Quebec as far more important than McGill students being unusually politicized for six hours.
3. With that said, the ‘yes’ side managed to acquire 44 per cent of the votes. A supposed “radical minority” nearly steered the way for the whole faculty. Some may call that unfair; I call it impressive. 495 voters is nothing to scoff at. And it was made possible due to the efforts of the wonderful people who worked tirelessly and passionately on the ‘yes’ campaign.
4. If you voted against the strike but claim to also be against tuition increases, I look forward to seeinghow your opposition will manifest itself. McGill has never been part of an unlimited general student strike. Going on strike would have expressed solidarity with the Quebec students who have made the tuition at McGill what it is, despite the fact that McGill has historically leeched off of their efforts time and time again. McGill’s tarnished reputation amongst other Quebec universities will live on.
5. Another thing that will live on is Quebec’s anti-increase movement. History has shown that Quebec universities and CEGEP’s do not need McGill’s participation in order for strikes to be succesful, and with this strike shaping up to be one of the largest in history, there’s a good chance the government will buckle to the student movement’s demands. This reality makes McGill’s current lack of participation less crushing than it could be.
6. Even though the chance of an AUS unlimited general student strike may be gone, the involvement of McGill students in the movement should not end. 495 Arts students indicated that they are willing to fight for accessible education, and, as such, I would encourage them to do so. How, you may ask? Well first, by attending the province wide rally on March 22 against tuition increases. This call does not go out to just Arts students, but McGill students in general. This rally will be a show of force to the Quebec government, and more bodies equals more strength.
7. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, students within AUS can still go on symbolic or unlimited strikes. This can be done by holding GAs for departments within the Arts faculty. So, for example, Philosophy students are working toward a GA which will give them the opportunity to strike. While these organizations will not be able to harness the full power of the AUS, having certain departments on unlimited strikes is certainly better than having no departments on unlimited strikes.
So, to the 495, keep on keeping on. The GA definitely was a blow, but it’s not the end. Strikes at McGill are still possible, strikes throughout Quebec are still guaranteed, and a strong presence on March 22 is still required. The fight for accessible education does not end here.