By McGill Reporter Staff
Faculty of Arts students turned out in huge numbers Tuesday night to vote down a motion calling for them to participate in an unlimited strike in protest against the Quebec government’s plan to increase tuition over the next five years.
More than 1,100 students turned out for the General Assembly held in the University Centre, and for a number of hours in the late afternoon and early evening the lineup to get in stretched across the campus, at one point all the way from McTavish St. to the Milton Gates.
“It was a pretty historic turnout,” said Arts Undergraduate Union President Jade Calver. “This was the first year the Faculty has held general assemblies and of the three we’ve had, this was easily the biggest. This turnout shows that a general assembly is an effective mechanism for demonstrating student support for an issue.”
Students eventually were settled in the SSMU cafeteria, the Centre’s fourth-floor ballroom and the large Leacock 132 lecture hall. The different locations prompted logistical difficulties that delayed the vote results from being announced until about 10:45 p.m. The meeting was originally supposed to start at 6 p.m.
When it was all over, after the requisite six minutes of debate with three speakers from each side addressing the meeting, the final vote stood at 495 in favour, 609 opposed, with 16 abstentions.
Two other McGill student groups have voted in favour of joining the province-wide boycott of classes at the university and CEGEP levels. Macdonald Campus students have voted to leave classes next Thursday, March 22, the day of a massive protest march planned for the streets of Montreal, while McGill’s Post-Graduate Student Society voted last week in favour of a three-day walkout, starting next Tuesday, March 20, the day the next Provincial budget is being brought down. Students in the School of Social Work voted in favour of an unlimited strike starting March 21.
Faculty of Law students have voted narrowly against joining the student strike, while Architecture students were voting at press time.
According to Maggie Knight, President of the Students’ Society of McGill University, the mood on campus has become increasingly politicized over the past several months. “Students are paying more attention to events on campus because of all the events of the fall, from the MUNACA strike to November 10,” she said. “I think a lot of people who might not normally care about these issues have taken time to inform themselves and they’ve realized that they have a bigger stake in what goes on here than they may have in the past. That’s why we’re seeing more and more student engagement”
Earlier Tuesday, another in a series of protest marches through downtown streets was held, drawing about 2,000 protesters and, as is frequently the case, riot police. This time, the event remained largely peaceful, although a couple of dozen anarchists, identifiable by black flags they carried and black scarves hiding their faces, did vandalize a number of police cars and splashed paint on a few buildings.