Students armed with picket signs and makeshift bullhorns gathered outside of the GM building last Thursday morning and chanted “freeze freeze tuition fees,” demanding that Concordia’s Board of Governors rescind the tuition increases posed on international students.
Members of Free Tuition Montreal, a group whose goal is to lower and eventually eliminate the tuition costs of higher education, organized the protest to coincide with Concordia’s fall Board of Governors meeting. The group had proposed two motions to the board, asking that all of the tuition increases imposed without notice in June of 2009 (which was sometimes up to 50 per cent) be refunded to the students. They also wanted a reversal of the billing fee structure and an immediate cease in any further tuition increases in this session or upcoming sessions for all international students.
“The students in Quebec have spoken out more than other provinces and this is why we are privileged students,” said Erik Chevrier, one of the original founders of the group. “It is because we put our foot down and said that we do want to have accessible education.”
The protest drew the participation of a handful of students including Dirk Ortgies, an international student from Germany enrolled in the Chemistry department. Ortgies recalled that last year his tuition was $1,000 more for the winter semester than the fall, despite him having the same course load.
He was not the only one who faced tuition increase without notification either, Ortgies stated. “It has affected a lot of other students in my department.”
Another one of the demonstrators, Eric Seguin, was out protesting to help make the international students’ tuition increase known to the general student body who he believes is generally unaware of this “injustice.”
After about an hour of picketing outside on the street, the protesters moved to the inside of the of GM building where the Board of Governors meeting was being held. The protesters remained outside of the actual room, but upon entering the building security came over to ensure a peaceful and quiet demonstration.
When asked after the event, Chevrier said he thought the protest and the actual vote was a success. “Considering [the protest] was at eight in the morning and in the rain I’d say there was a good turnout” said Chevrier. “As far as the resolution goes, I am actually quite surprised.”
While neither of the resolutions, which were voted on as a group, passed, they did receive nine votes in favour, compared to only three votes against it, with the 28 board members who abstained leading to their failure. Free Education Montreal hopes that because this vote was technically in favour of the resolution, but didn’t pass due to abstentions, they will be able to present it to the board again for another vote.