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A massive analysis in store for tuition fee

by Archives January 23, 2002

“Students should unite in the fight against corporate businesses’ influence on public education,” political science professor Sam Noumoff told students at McGill University last Wednesday.
“We need an alliance between those of us who are from Quebec, those of us who are from Canada and those of us who are not,” Noumoff said. “It must be an inter-city alliance between McGill University, Concordia University, Universite de Montreal and UQAM [and] it must be strengthened by great dialogue between those groups,” he added.
Concordia Student Union researcher David Bernans and Ontario-based researcher Erika Shaker joined Noumoff in the panel discussion in front of a large banner which exclaimed “Stop Privatizing McGill! No More Tuition Hikes!”
“The education industry needs to argue, and is in fact arguing, that privatizing our education won’t destroy it but that it will enhance it,” Shaker said.
The pamphlets distributed by GRASP, McGill’s GrassRoots Association for Student Power, aimed to prove the opposite by linking privatization to higher tuition fees at their university. While students from Quebec have been enjoying a temporary tuition-freeze agreement, McGill administration was allowed to increase the tuition fees for non-Quebec residents and international students.
As is the case at Concordia University, out-of-province students are forced to pay almost three times the amount than students from Quebec. Fees for international students are even higher. This deregulation (meaning privatization) of tuition fees is the first step towards privatizing the university, the organization implies. [By forming an alliance between students] we are defending our brothers and sisters who are not Quebecois, Noumoff insiste.d. “It is the unity that will provide us with the energy to go on.”
Higher tuition fees are not the only result of the growing privatization of our universities, Bernans said.
He added the issues concerning academic freedom and censorship gain new momentum after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The war on terrorism is now equalled with the war on anti-corporate activists, he said.
The logic is simple, impeccable, and insane, he said. “This is how it works: If we are against multinational corporations taking over our education, healthcare and everything else, we are ultimately against the U.S. government’s international convents and interventions. And as we have just heard from Bush junior: If we are against U.S. interventions, we are with the terrorists. So you are either with Pratt & Whitney or you are with the terrorists. He added that the widespread and accepted equation must be fought against.
“The university is contested terrain; there is education on the one hand and research on the other hand,” he said. But the influence of corporate businesses in the form of donations could lead to restrictions in the kind of research that can be published, he cautioned.
Most of the companies that give donations now expect something in return; if you don’t get the findings they were hoping for, you did “the wrong kind of research,” he said. “This problem is hard to solve, he added, since it is “standing between you, your career and your reputation.”
Bernans supported his arguments with the research he had done the past three years at Concordia University. However, he does not think that his research is exclusive to the institution. “The corporations at Concordia are just an example,” he said. “I am talking about larger issues like privatization in general and globalization.” He warned that “pretty much all universities are being privatized now.”
Shaker agrees. “There needs to be a massive analysis of the situation,” she said. “But it will be hard to fight it. After all, who can compete with corporate funding?”

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