(en) News story and appeal (fwd)

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Sun, 23 Mar 1997 04:59:08 GMT


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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ SEVEN DAY OCCUPATION ENDS STUDENT MOVEMENT GROWING

By Brent McCombs The Ontarion, Tuesday, Feb 25th 1997

Greeted by the applause and cheers of fellow students and support volunteers, the twelve remaining occupiers of University of Guelph President Mordechai Rozanski's fourth floor offices ended their seven day protest last Wednesday at noon, under threat of expulsion. Student occupiers managed to negotiate an agreement of amnesty under the condition that no damage was done to the executive offices, and no sensitive material be disclosed from the files of the offices.

Speaking at a press conference immediately following their exodus, Andres Ibanez, one of the gang of twelve, spoke for the group when he said, "The university was so unwilling to yield on our basic demands it was decided that we should focus our actions on increasing pressure from the outside."

Alison Gobould, another vocal occupier said defiantly that forcing the occupiers out of the offices was "the worst thing [the administration] could have denounce we are out, we're all over this province."

The occupiers were not disheartened that the administration failed to meet their demands regarding the proposed 10 per cent tuition increase. In fact, several of the occupiers suggested that their primary goal of their act of protest was the building of a larger base of organized student awareness and activism, as well as the preparation for future action.

Davin Charney, another of the occupiers expressed his "frustration with the ineptitude of the administration, and their refusal to talk about the issues." He went on to assert that all of the occupiers felt a great deal of stress, wondering "when will the police come in." He said that at times the protesters had "felt isolated," and decried the organized campaign of the administration to "cut [the protesters] off from the outside world."

Despite these feelings of isolation, Charney said that he was "overwhelmed" by the amount of support that the protesters had received during the week, and said that he felt the occupation was a "huge success," in that it had "brought student issues to the fore of public awareness."

Tom Keefer added that the occupiers were "trying to build a student movement," and asserted that the action was "not just for Guelph or ourselves We stayed until another school went out."

In fact, the occupiers announced that the gauntlet had been picked up by students at Carleton University, who had initiated an occupation of executive offices at 7:30 Wednesday morning. In a press release, the Carleton occupiers stated that their non-violent act of protest was "in solidarity with those students demonstrating at the University of Guelph, and those in Toronto" President Rosanski stated that he was aware that the students at Carleton had initiated an occupation, and acknowledged that he had heard of similar actions being planned at Trent, McMaster, Queen's as well as "one of the schools up north."

During the course of the occupation, more than four thousand signatures were collected on a petition in support of the action, and words of encouragement rolled in from various organizations in Ontario, across the country, the United States and from as far away as New Zealand.

For his part, President Rozanski expressed relief that the student occupiers chose to end the occupation when they did. "Leaving was in the best interest of the university," said Rozanski. "I'm pleased that the students chose to end the situation peacefully and with dignity,"

Rozanski says that while he respects students right to descent, and acknowledged the long and time honoured history of student activism, he added that he does not believe "that an occupation is consistent with the atmosphere of a university." He also stated that he was not sure the students "were directing their intentions to the right office."

Of particular concern to Rozanski is the "rhetoric" of the occupiers, "particularly with reference to further occupations and suggestions that freedom of expression is only a 'one sided issue.'" Rozanski also expressed concern that the occupiers had violated sensitive files, alleging that the administration knows they were in there, "because we found notes in our files saying things like, 'Hi, we were here, ha-ha-ha.'" He says that he believes that there were "definitely files accessed."

Tom Keefer denied these accusations, saying that "no notes were left in files, because we did not open files."

Addressing the perceived threat of future occupations at the university of Guelph, Rozanski continued, "Let me be perfectly clear, if any similar action takes place in the future, the university will respond immediately, and to the full extent permitted by the Student Act and under criminal law." He also rebutted the claim of occupiers that he personally threatened them with expulsion, saying "I did not say that, I never spoke with them."

He did say, however, that had the students remained in the offices longer than the noon-Wednesday deadline, he "would have asked for extreme penalties," and "It would have ended at that time, one way or another."

Despite this hard-line, Rozanski said the administration remained interested in continuing the consultation process, and rhetorically asked "what alternatives to a tuition increase are there in the context of a government providing inadequate resources to post-secondary institutions?"

Rozanski insisted that the proposed 10 per cent increase in undergraduate tuition is only the last resort of an administration that has gone to extreme lengths to avoid such an action. Rozanski pointed out that "534 employees of the university will be leaving over the next year due to cutbacks, some involuntarily."

He stated that no member of the staff or faculty had received an increase in their salary over the past four years, and that the University of Guelph currently ranks 12th out of the 17 Ontario universities in terms of undergraduate tuition costs. He concluded by saying that given the situation in which the university will see 18 per cent of its operating budget cut next year, there was "no alternative but to look at tuition." According to Rozanski, the university decided not to increase tuition to the maximum allowable rate, and insisted that no increase will exceed 10 per cent.

Interestingly, the proposed tuition increase does not seem to be dissuading potential students from coming to Guelph. According to recent numbers released by the Ontario University's Application Centre, the University of Guelph has seen the largest increase in first year applications, receiving over 18 per cent more than last year.

Following their press conference, exhausted protesters headed outside for fresh air, and then home to shower and sleep on a mattress for the first time in more than a week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A bit old, but i'm not sure if this made it out on our list. Sorry if it did.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE

EMERGENCY APPEAL TO THE STUDENTS OF ONTARIO! Feb 18th 1997

Fellow Students,

Out of the three universities recently occupied in protest of a pending tuition hike, Guelph is currently the only university still occupied. We have been barricaded inside the administration's quarters for the past six days, and the situation is coming to a boil. With the administration refusing to negotiate in good faith, isolated on one campus, our occupation is facing even greater pressures than ever before. In struggle and solidarity, we call upon you, the students of Ontario, to assist us in our fight for the right to an accesible education, by any means at your disposal.

Our occupation of the Guelph Administrative offices was inspired by the occupations at York and U of T. The success in winning a tuition freeze in Ontario is dependent upon YOUR actions against YOUR administration at educational institutions across the province.

With your safety and outside support in mind, equip yourselves with food, chains and locks, and peacefully take over a section of your administrative offices as soon as possible in support of the demand for a provincial freeze on tuition. We believe that this kind of direct, militant action is the only method that will bring the crisis in educational funding to the attention of the people and government of Ontario.

Even if you are not able to take part in the sort of direct action that has been accomplished at U of T, York and Guelph, we call upon you to support ours and other occupations through donations of food, money and any sort of pressure you can bring to bear on the provincial government and university administrations of Ontario.

The demands that we are fighting for are demands that affect all students across the province. If we can set a precedent at any university, with ANY administration not implementing the tuition hike, it will inspire students across the country. Your militant actions beginning as soon as is humanly possible will serve to put further pressure on the government of Ontario and the administrations of Ontario univeristies.

Education is a right! For a tuition freeze now! Direct action gets the goods!

>From the occupied offices of the President of the University of Guelph,

Students in Solidarity.

*************************************************************************** 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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