(en) An Inside look at the Guelph Occupation (fwd)

Sun, 23 Mar 1997 04:58:26 GMT

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I'm not sure if any of you got these before, but here are two stories that we ran in our student newspaper about the Guelph occupation...

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 01:42:43 -0500 (EST) From: "K.P. Ivanov" <tkeefer@uoguelph.ca> To: Student Activist Network <san@lglobal.com> Subject: An Inside look at the Guelph Occupation

Here's an article I just finished writing for the Ontarion, the school's paper. It's appearing over a two page full color center spread and should help to further raise the heat on our admin.

Make sure to check out the Ontarion and Occupation page for piles of photos of the action. Ontarion homepage http://tdg.uoguelph.ca/~ontarion/ The Occupation homepage is at http://tdg.uoguelph.ca/~gsocial/occ and by Monday evening will be updated with about a dozen new photos.




By Tom Keefer The Ontarion, Tuesday, Feb 25th 1997

Begining on February 13th, students occupied the administrative offices of the University of Guelph for the first time in over a decade. To a certain degree, the seven days we spent under the glare of fluorescent lights are beginning to blur together.

All the same, there were a multitude of humorous events and political experiences which should be shared with all, as a way of empowering students and de-mystifing the administration and their offices on our fourth floor.

Below are my best efforts to reconstruct the events of a week high in political insights and loaded with entertainment value.

Thursday, Feb. 13th

Equipped with iron bars, bike locks, chains, and knapsacks packed with food, we assemble at the CSA offices at 6:30 am on the morning of Thursday, February 13th. Just before 8:30 am, soon after the doors to the administrative offices on the fourth floor of the UC are unlocked, we march up the stairs of the southeast UC stairwell, enter the offices of administration, and proceed to peacefully escort the staff out while chaining their doors shut.

Twenty minutes later it is clear that university president Mordechai Rozanski is not pleased. Unable to ignore our action, he alternates between shouting at us and sincerely pleading that we consider our safety, insisting that we open the doors for him to get his convocation speech.

Realizing that the one cop with a measly pair of wire cutters couldnUt do the job, Mort calls in the fire department to hack down the doors in order Rto protect usS in case of fire. Happily, the fire department considers this to be MortUs problem and not theirs, and leaves him to his own devices.

Slowly learning about issues of access, and somewhat hampered by leftover bad feelings, Mort gives a choppy and wandering convocation address without the benefit of his speech.

Friday, Feb 14th: ValentineUs Day A package marked Rfor Valentines dayS lies unopened and undelivered in MortUs bathroom. The location of the presents is duly noted, and speculation runs wild about the possible ramifications of this latest development upon MortUs romantic life.

At noon, the outside support group stages a rally and demonstration, enumerated by the Mercury at 500 people, and helps to raise further awareness of our situation.

We continue our regular Roccupation updatesS on CFRU, and in the evening we release some of the original occupiers to serve as liaisons and organizers on the outside.

RNegotiatingS through Vice-President Finance and Administration hack Nancy Sullivan, the administration states that there will be no negotiations with the occupiers until we have left their offices.

Saturday, Feb 15th

Over the course of the day we set up our webpage (http://tdg.uoguelph.ca/~gsocial/occ) to spread word of our actions. The site is built and designed on the administrationUs own computers. We mirror the site on three other servers so that the administration canUt close it down. Stress levels continue to run high. These offices werenUt really built for round-the-clock habitation, and itUs impossible to avoid developing a certain siege mentality.

Sunday, Feb 16th

Late in the afternoon the administration wises up to the fact that we still have phone access, (they thought they cut it all off on Thursday).

Our phones and power go down, but weUre satisfied that they accidently cut off power to their own phones on the outside too. Late in the night during another marathon meeting session, a much welcome pizza is slid under the door for us.

Despite the fact that no one in the occupation has violated Computer Communication ServiceUs acceptable use policy, email passwords are changed on orders of the admin. for the students they identify as being on the inside.

Monday, Feb 17th

It is becoming obvious that our time could be spent a bit more productively. Without a terribly clear way of working out decisions, we spend hours in meetings. TodayUs meeting, a mammoth 9 hours long, stands as our record. People are starting to go a little bit snaky. Meanwhile, the administration steps up security on our floor and rumour has it that they have gone so far as to hire extra security to walk them in and out of the UC.

Rumour has it at a stakeholders meeting (university unions, student groups and management) CUPE 1334 sends Mort into a veritable fit after expressing their unwillingness to cut down the doors for the administration.

Tuesday, Feb 18th

In another administrative folly, locks are put on bathroom doors of the fourth floor. Meanwhile, occupiers continue to luxuriate in the ivory and porcelain playground that is the presidentUs bathroom.

After trying to break down our outside support team all day, the administration calls us up to begin negotiating at midnight. Negations carry on until about 3:30am during which they are made difficult on the administrationUs side by the fact that a sleepy Mort is sent scampering out into the cold by his houseUs fire alarm going off.

Under threat of expulsion, (this includes losing all credits that we have gained at Guelph) we agree to leave the offices on Wednesday with full amnesty, a verbal promise that the administration will not make any press statements for 12 hours, and the understanding that we would not rule out further actions of this sort.

Luckily for us, we had the foresight to tape record our negotiations with the adminsitration and have a transcript of the series of verbal agreements which we made and that they broke once we left. Wednesday, Feb 19th

We spend the morning cleaning up and re-arranging the offices. Decorations, messages of support and balloons and streamers come down. We came out to a press conference at noon attended by over 50 of our supporters and a plethora of media types. Showers and restful sleep are high on the priority lists. Occupiers and supporters meet to continue the planning process that will take our movement to its next actions...

The Balance Sheet

The seven days that we spent in the presidentUs office represent a process of action to defend our right to education. The action was planned as an immediate solidarity action with the students at York and UofT who occupied their own administrationUs offices earlier in the week; but it soon took on its own life as a wide layer of students supported our actions.

In just two days, over 3500 Guelph students signed a petition opposing the tuition hikes, and more than 200 people, most of whom would have never considered themselves RactivistsS expressed an interest in becoming involved in further organizing efforts around this campaign. In doing the essential external support work we were able to draw upon the abilities, assistance and insights of students from diverse backgrounds, from every aspect of student life.

Unlike the innumerable Rdays of action/protestS that weUre all so familiar with, our results will be judged by our success in using this action as a call to awaken students to continuing action in the face administrationUs consistent complicity with government cuts. With incredible support for the students of this campus, messages of solidarity from students across the country and as far away as New Zealand, Texas, and South Africa, we have shown the potential strength of a student movement united and fighting for accessible education.

*************************************************************************** This message is from the UBC Fee Hike Protest List (protest@snopc2.physics.ubc.ca) Please forward this to any other interested people. Further info on the occupation is at http://snopc2.physics.ubc.ca/protest/protest.html ***************************************************************************


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