O-Week to Activists: Your Presence is Not Welcome Here

Student protesters at O-Week 2013

On Tuesday evening, the night marking the official opening of Western’s Orientation Week, a small group of activists (myself included) was asked by Campus Police (CCPS) to leave campus while protesting the increasingly high cost of education and student debt. Organized under the banner of the Western Solidarity Network, our group sought to raise awareness about issues which we feel are conveniently absent from O-Week, but which nonetheless constitute a grim reality for many university students: the financial realities of tuition and student debt, and the predominance of corporate interests on campus. By highlighting the ways in which these trends insidiously pervade Western’s Orientation Week, we hoped to situate them in an immediate and resonating context for first year students. In doing so, we wanted to offer to incoming students an alternative way to think about their new and unfamiliar surroundings.

In what follows, however, I will not delve too deeply into the content of our message; the pamphlet we distributed can be found here, for those interested. Instead, I’d like to explore the discouraging response to our presence from campus authority figures (which, as you might have guessed, was not exactly positive).

It should be noted, firstly, that the incoming first year students to whom we primarily directed our message – affectionately known as ‘frosh’ – were largely receptive; in fact, out of all the parties involved, they were most receptive. We handed out pamphlets only to those students who demonstrated interest in our cause. And, as a result, we had some rewarding conversations which indicated a general frustration with the cost of tuition.

Campus authorities, on the other hand, had no patience for us. As mentioned, our group was eventually asked – or, more accurately, told – by CCPS to leave the premises. Before the Repressive Campus Apparatus arrived, however, we were confronted by a few other authoritative figures: notably, event planners, USC administration, and even sophs.

Soon after our arrival outside of Talbot Bowl, a disgruntled fellow informed us that he was attempting to run an event for frosh, and that we were ruining it. This ostensible event planner had no apparent connection to Western, but quite obviously had a vested interest in having his event run smoothly, without the inconvenience of protest (understandably so, from the point of view of a stakeholder). We politely informed him that we were Western students on our own campus and wished only to talk to first year students. He then let us know that the police were on their way.

Shortly after this encounter, we were met with warnings from USC administration – namely, from executives of the Student Life department (the USC’s very own risk management sector), as well as from O-Staff (the organizing body responsible for overseeing the operations of O-Week). Both parties made their message clear: this was not the time nor the place for what we were doing. While they did express some pseudo-sympathy for our cause (i.e. “We know tuition is too high, but can’t you do this another time?”), their actions spoke to their true allegiances. They told us we should have asked permission. But this bureaucratic advice betrays some of the basic principles upon which effective activism is founded: spontaneity, disruption, and rebellion. After some deliberation, they, too, informed us that CCPS would be arriving shortly.

In the meantime, we were confronted with an intolerance and skepticism from an unexpected group: sophs (the student leaders responsible for welcoming frosh to Western). Many of them, for some incomprehensible reason, felt it necessary not only to ignore or dismiss us, but to tell us that we had no business being there in the first place. Some even went as far as to direct their frosh not to talk to us or take our pamphlets. Other soph teams, whose support would have been greatly appreciated, completely shunned us in an attempt to maintain their misplaced idea of counterculture. All of these responses, it seemed to me, demonstrated that many sophs had unwittingly internalized the logic of administration: that is, O-Week ought to remain sanitized, free from disruption and reality. Of course, this hostility was by no means a universal response from sophs (a few of them were, in fact, receptive), but, overall, it was rather disconcerting.

Finally, the Campus Police arrived, took our student cards and names, and subsequently told us that we were to leave campus immediately. When we asked the officers why we weren’t allowed to be there they told us that the university was holding a frosh event, and that campus was therefore an inappropriate venue for this sort of demonstration. We disagree: O-Week is precisely the time and place, for its purported function is to orient students to their university experience – an experience which will necessarily entail the stark reality of exorbitant tuition fees and excessive corporate influence. Nevertheless, we left campus (but not without distributing a few pamphlets on our way out).

Students handing out pamphlets at O-Week 2013

While all of this is undoubtedly concerning, what’s especially troubling to me is the groups that Western does allow to disseminate information on campus during O-Week. To name a few: in the UCC this week, both Rogers and Bell had booths set up with aggressive marketers handing out information, hungry for student commitment; when receiving our new bus passes, students are handed promotional flyers, specifically marketing commercial services to Western students; both the Westernizer and the “Frosh Issue” of The Gazette are inundated with commercial advertisements; and at the upcoming Midway Carnival, promotional booths and free corporate products will create an orgy of consumer spectacle for likely intoxicated frosh, in effect transforming students into consumers and O-Week into a perverse carnival of capitalism (which, as we all know, can be an all too seductive ride).

But activists on a university campus? Students with a message about the rights and well-being of other students? This is clearly unacceptable. How dare we tarnish the otherwise squeaky clean commercial image Western wishes to espouse? Through our conversations and confrontations with campus authority, the message was made explicit and palpable: our presence was not welcome. The presence of large corporations and rampant promotionalism, on the other hand, are perfectly suited for Western’s Orientation Week.

All of this is not meant to suggest that students should be discouraged from taking action on issues about which they are passionate; on the contrary, this is a call for more action, for this experience is not at all dissimilar from the experiences of other activists here at Western. The suppression of student activism on campus – under the guise of safety, brand integrity, policy procedures, or event planning – is a concrete and alarming trend. But the only way to combat it is to continue applying pressure. As students, we shouldn’t need permission to express our views on campus. And we certainly shouldn’t be told when and where we’re allowed (or not allowed) to protest. We, as students, ought to rekindle the notion of the university as public and political space, wherein alternative ideas can be debated, and theory is put into practice. As a collective body of students, we are strong. We can reclaim the university on our own terms, if we’re up to it.


The Western Solidarity Network (WSN) is an online space, a public sphere, started by a group of students at the University of Western Ontario for students and London community members to organize and discuss the issues that affect us most. This page will serve as a way to foster a community of like-minded individuals focused on action and awareness. Links to articles, community notices, general discussion, and organization are encouraged. Contact: westernsolidaritynetwork@gmail.com

Jordan Coop is a fifth year MIT student and a member of the Western Solidarity Network (WSN). The views expressed here are his own; as such, they are not necessarily representative of the entire WSN or of OPENWIDE MAGAZINE 

43 thoughts on “O-Week to Activists: Your Presence is Not Welcome Here

  1. Change starts small, grows along the way and eventually will have a significant impact. Keep your message alive and out there!

  2. Western isn’t York or McMaster, its the Country Club university. If you don’t like it, or can’t afford it, don’t come to Western.

    • This is such a disappointing comment. I love Western and I *CAN* afford it, but what I hate are people who insist on dumbing it down and calling it a Country Club university. We’re not mindless sheep.

  3. I am so happy and proud that some UWO student are finally taking action and raisinf their voices on the cost of uwo tuition and how being a UWO student is all about being a consumer! I will support this 100% and I say we should protest again and again until our voices are heard!

  4. i understand the soph. O-week is supposed to be euphoric. They work to make o-week that way for the students. Honestly when I saw science students running around together laughing and dog piling, it was heart-warming. But the moment was temporally ruined by these people walking literally through them with these signs. My point is, does the child always have to be conscious of their potentially terminal cancer, or should they be given moments to be kids and play? That is what o-week should be.

    • On the contrary, Frosh Week strives to tackle tough, controversial, and mature issues: sexual assault and safety, homophobia, and what students can do to be safe and make the best of their university experience. These are critical thinking issues, and so is the message being sent out by the Western Solidarity Network. Students’ financial health and issues of student debt/tuition prices are JUST as important as the issues mentioned, and impact students in every sense imaginable. Shame on the USC, O-Week organizers, and Campus Police.

  5. This is very unfortunate that you folks were pushed off from your protesting.

    While yes, most protests and demonstrations require permits and such, considering that you were trying to target the first years right when you can get their attention (Oweek), I understand why you went ahead to did it. However, seeing that is WAS a peaceful protest, there was no real reason to kick you out.

    But remember, just like it’s stated in the pamphlet, UWO is a business, not a school. I can go as far to say that all universities are businesses (just look at the U.S.), whether it be undergraduate, graduate, or professional schools (yup even medical schools) – educational institutions are here to make money first, and teach second – which is why the university will do what it can to save face and make itself look good in any way possible, including getting rid of protesters. Oweek is a great cash grab for the university, and a great way to get some “long lasting” sales on the students, rather than provide them with information and resources regarding their future stay and schooling here (ever notice how NO ONE mentions where our student help resources are during Oweek?)

    I really think Ontario students need to take a lesson from our Quebec counterparts and really hammer in the demands we want. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but change never is.

    • I totally agree, universities are business, but they cannot afford not to be if you think about it. Like it or not, all of these great profs, facilities, etc. don’t run themselves, they need students to pay for those. Not to say though that I do not think you should be able to make a protest on campus, but I myself as a Frosh, didn’t really appreciate their presence there, although many others did. Can’t please everyone.

      I’m not from Main campus, but our campus was in fact very good at highlighting where our resources were, libraries, meeting faculty, getting a feel for specific courses, advice on grad or other experiences during school, etc. I also can’t imagine that all of those events are run for nothing, I’m sure they make little to nothing from O-week tickets.

  6. Perhaps put yourself in other people’s shoes – namely, in the shoes of the students. O-Week is a very special week for you because you will remember it for the rest of your life – imagine yourself seeing those joyous faces, shouting your heart out in cheers, jumping and fist-pumping with all the rest. You’d want such an important memory to be filled with POSITIVE emotions, wouldn’t you? You might say that the protesters were not interfering because they only spoke to students who approached them, but experience shows and you are probably already aware of the fact that even simply seeing something with the corner of your eye can have a significant emotional impact on you, conscious or not. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s important to be considerate of people’s wishes to have a good time during their first week at Western?

    • I can’t decide whether this comment, and the one by Ms. McGinn above were meant to be ironic or not (laughing and dog-piling – really?). I would hope that the lives of these students will be filled with much more significant memories than O-Week (I can’t remember anything about mine, can you?). Yes, you want them to feel welcomed, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a forum for the dissemination of information and the promotion of thoughtful engagement. Students should be aware of the cost of their Western experience – there is room for frolicking and fist-pumping as well as a dash of harsh reality during O-Week.

      • Shelley, I appreciate your taking the time to reply and explain your thought process. I agree with much of what you say, given how I think you may have interpreted my comment. I shall address your points below and perhaps this time we may agree (but if not then, of course, that’s fine – in fact it’s great that each of us is doing what we consider to be the right thing).

        1. About the significance of memories: what is truly important is not what we actually remember, it’s how the experience changed us. O-Week is not only important because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience; it’s important because it is a BEGINNING. In other words, it’s an experience that influences your perception of future experiences – how a first impression works. (If you’ve taken social psychology, perhaps you can remember one of the mentioned studies in which a text read prior to the seeing of a video changed the way in which the subjects interpreted the video.) Basically, whatever feelings the beginning inspires in you, those feelings are more easily elicited in the consequent experiences. Therefore, it’s not important that we do or do not protest during O-Week, what is important is that we take into account the feelings that the protests elicit in our fellow students and how that will affect them. Based on the article and nothing else, an assumption that the feelings were not very positive is supported by the fact that many people opposed the protest. Anyway, the point of my whole paragraph is that O-Week is the time when students FIRST experience university life. If it had been sometime in the middle of 2nd year of university, then the event would not have been as emotionally important and, therefore, might have been more accepted as an acceptable time for protesting.

        All the best.

  7. So it’s unethical to allow corporate sponsors to pay money to promote their products, with the intention of that money going towards reducing the overall student fees we would otherwise have to pay?

    Some of us actually went to Western, understood that yes, university programs cost more money, and are ok with that, and took on debt to ensure we got the best education possible. Keep that in mind… or maybe we were ok with it because we knew there were jobs at the end of the tunnel. Have you had a hard time finding a job?

    You’re a FIMS student, so I at least half-expected SOME numbers on the tuition increase percentages versus inflation rates, the economy rebound, overall educator quality, and other relevant factors. Instead, all I read from this (as an alumni) was of a student who doesn’t seem to like paying for things, such as sitting in a lecture being taught by a world-class expert who has spent the majority of their life researching the subject you’re supposedly interested in.

    One last note: Your explanation of effective activism sounds more like sensationalist media, which is pretty worrisome. Isn’t effective activism founded on fact, strategy, and persistent communication, not scare tactics and knee-jerk reactions?

    • Another FIMS alum here.
      Dan touched on all the points that crossed my mind while reading your post.

      But I’d like to add some additional thoughts:
      1) Selling out via the plethora of ads in the Gazette etc.
      So in FIMS, we discuss the idea of labouring our eyes for free content. We talk about how there’s no “safe” place in the world these days where we’re not bombarded by ads. But here’s the thing, the ads pay for your free content. More and more, content producers find themselves in a world where their users expect to have unlimited free access to the content – but who’s going to pay the bills at the end of the night if all the content is free? Thank you advertisers.

      Let’s continue on with the Gazette, so the labour’s free – people participate on a voluntary basis, but it still costs money to print the paper. Who’s going to pay for that? Would you like to pay 50 cents to a dollar for the each issue? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t.
      Again, thank you advertising for subsidizing my free content.

      If you’d like, perhaps you can suggest to the Gazette to make a “premium” version where you have to pay for the paper, but then you could have an ad-free version. Similar to the mobile app business model – free app with ads, or pay to have an app without.

      2) Tuition costs
      I grew up in a single parent family with two other siblings. Our annual household income was less than 40k. All my siblings and I have completed our undergrads with the help of OSAP and have paid it all back. Before you make the argument about my tuition being less than yours because it’s much more expensive now than it was 10 years ago, here’s some perspective: I graduated 2 years ago, my siblings – 2 and 3 years ago. We have all paid back our tuition. It’s not impossible like they make it seem. We all had jobs throughout our 4 years of studies. We were conservative with our money and spent wisely. We all moved home when we graduated to save more money so that we could pay off our OSAP as quick as we could.

      Yea, it blows that tuition is so expensive but please realize that the government has already heavily subsidized your education. The opportunity to higher education is not a God-given right, it’s a privilege. I think our generation has lost sight of that. We’re given so much that we don’t appreciate what we already have.

      In the end, if tuition costs decrease because of more government subsidies, know that when you graduate and try to pay back all that OSAP you borrowed, it’ll be that much harder cause you’ll be taxed even more heavily than we already are at this current state. When the paycheque you bring home is even smaller because of the additional taxing to allow for “more affordable” education, know that you’re having a hard time paying all the money back because you asked the govt to tax you more.

      It’s a vicious cycle, no matter what point you are in life, there’s always something you’ll be unhappy with.

      3) “Ruining” O-week
      I’m sure the profs in MPI will give you a massive pat on the back for your protest but I honestly think there’s a time and place. Can you really be that shocked and surprised that O-Staff and sophs weren’t thrilled with your presence? C’mon, these people work their ass off throughout the summer to ensure that the incoming class has the best first week of their lives. You don’t think your presence puts a damper on all their hard work? Ignoring the fresh, I think the protest was inconsiderate to your upper year peers.
      If I spent weeks or months preparing a kickass bday party for my grandma, I would definitely ask you to leave if you showed up to the party holding signs reminding my grandma how many wrinkles she has and how she won’t have too many more bday parties to come.
      Same shit with o week and o staff.

      Really, the biggest takeaway from my rant is, just gets job throughout uni. Don’t waste your money drinking every weekend, if financially, you aren’t really in the position to do so. Save up. pay it all back. It’s not impossible.

      And if you’re majoring in a degree where you don’t have any job prospects after you graduate, change programs or be mentally prepared to work in a customer service related position. Having a degree does not mean you automatically deserve a job.

      Life’s rough. Just make it work. I have, my friends have, you can too.

      Less QQ, more Pew Pew

      • Oh and I believe Prof Robinson of FIMS was working off a research grant or something of the like from THE EVIL ROGERS COMM. CORP

        I guess that would make our entire program and faculty complete sell outs too eh?

    • >Some of us actually went to Western, understood that yes, university programs cost more money, and are ok with that, and took on debt to ensure we got the best education possible

      I forgot quality of education directly corresponds with the amount of money you throw at an academic institution.

      >SOME numbers on the tuition increase percentages versus inflation rates, the economy rebound, overall educator quality, and other relevant factors

      Some of this can be found on the pamphlet linked in the article.

      > Instead, all I read from this (as an alumni) was of a student who doesn’t seem to like paying for things, such as sitting in a lecture being taught by a world-class expert

      “Hey, aren’t people who push for free (or freer) education selfish and greedy? I mean, it’s almost like they want to afford economically disadvantaged people a stress-free chance at higher learning.”

      >Your explanation of effective activism sounds more like sensationalist media, which is pretty worrisome. Isn’t effective activism founded on fact, strategy, and persistent communication, not scare tactics and knee-jerk reactions?

      The author was explaining that student demonstrations should be allowed on campus, not what form an ideal activist group should take.

      • Dan (little D),

        Too bad you forgot about that, it’s pretty important to know that in modern society. Quality of anything will, in a free market economy, be priced higher because true quality costs more. A professor with 1 year on the job will cost less to employ than a professor with 20 years. Don’t be so naive.

        Perhaps a good indicator of where the two of us lie on this subject would be to look at which we think is the lesser evil: commercial interests on campus or even higher tuition costs?

        Sure, there are “economically disadvantaged people” who struggle, but again, OSAP will come to their rescue. Plenty of my classmates in Engineering (which, no doubt, costs more than FIMS) put themselves through 4-5 years with absolutely no help from their parents. How did they possibly do that, you must be wondering?

        If you believe that people deserve a free (or freer) world-class education, I wish you and your fellow activist friends the best of luck. When it happens, let me know so I can leave the country, I don’t want another abused socialist program to mess with my goal of being a hard-working 1%’er.

        See you at homecoming!

  8. Well done, Western Solidarity Network! Our campus needs to hear more from the likes of you. The issues you raise are important, and you are quite correct in insisting that the campus is not a “charter-free zone” as some would have us believe. My sentiments are with Mercedes Sosa’s salute to students: http://letras.mus.br/mercedes-sosa/63317/ from another time & place but applicable to you too.

  9. Dan T – “the best education possible” “world class experts”? Please. Sounds like you’ve been drinking a bit too much of the purple kool-aid my friend. The quality of Western’s faculty and the administrations treatment of the staff has nose-dived the past decade. As much as the president and other upper level admins want to present Western as an Ivy league school, comparing it to Yale and Harvard, it simply isn’t even close. It’s laughable.

  10. While I am a strong advocate in the belief that voicing opinion strengthens community, I have to agree that this in-your-face method was poorly timed and implemented. Attending university is a conscious decision made by each individual frosh. They know very well the cost of attending university and have each done a cost versus benefit analysis in their enrollment. Of course the cost of University is going to be large, but the benefits will far exceed this. They are investing in the education they will receive to advance their careers. But more importantly, by taking elective courses mandatory by the breadth requirements of the university, they are investing in a more open-minded global view. Throughout the year they will be exposed to many social movements where they will form their individual paradigms during a young adults’ most important developing stage. Let them choose.

    Pertaining to your suggestion that O-week is turning each frosh into a “consumer”, are you not doing the same, making frosh “consume” your message? University students are not a brain-washed class, aimlessly consuming products that they don’t need. They make conscious decisions and their decision was to come to Western. If you think that Western is a hub of commercialization, then make the conscious decision (which you so adamantly advocate for) to come up with a solution rather than complaining about a problem. The reality is that capitalism works (would be more than glad to further discuss) and unless you want to hand in your iPhone, Macbook, and backpacks (which are all a product of capitalism and further advance society) than leave the radical protesting out of the iconic and whimsical experience of O-week.

    • >The reality is that capitalism works (would be more than glad to further discuss) and unless you want to hand in your iPhone, Macbook, and backpacks (which are all a product of capitalism and further advance society) than leave the radical protesting out of the iconic and whimsical experience of O-week.

      This is just one intellectual step removed from, “well if you’re so critical of capitalism, why don’t you pack up and move to a commune.” To participate in consumer culture is not to validate or agree with every aspect of that culture, particularly when participation is all but obligatory.

      As well, I would hardly call a group of polite pamphleteers a radical protest. Hell, even the bloody Rogers marketers were more invasive.

  11. Dan T, there are numbers in the pamphlets referred to at the beginning of the article, but I agree- further quantitative research would be beneficial. And honestly, the job argument is overdone and condescending (Occupy etc) -the students protesting here are in fact undergraduate students, so they’re not exactly looking for full time careers at the moment (although, anxiety for BA/BSC students on finding post-secondary work could certainly add to the frustration towards rising student fees). And I’m confused about the scare tactics. A few hippy looking folk standing with pamphlets= terrifying? Or are you referring to the dystopian portrayal of the corporate university? Because I’m pretty sure that kind of pathos is standard in activism.

    Regardless, the ethics of allowing corporate promotion on campus is interesting. While this revenue stream may reduce student fees, or prevent them from increasing even more, I imagine it was added to compensate for reduced government funding. If this is the case, it’s obviously a lesser evil, but that doesn’t mean the ideal of sufficient public funding should be given up on.

    Bottom line, the core issue in this article isn’t the student fee discussion, but, as stressed, the suppression of introducing students to new ideas/arguments, an initiative that should be fostered on campus.

    Finally, we’re kind of just assuming the protest/activism could hamper on the romanticized o-week experience, when in fact it could really make it for some students. Obviously student opinion could vary here, but nothing during o-week can please everyone.

    Shit this turned out longer than I thought.
    TD;DR: Jordan Coop is a beauty.

  12. Lots of bleeding hearts for the froshers here. Frosh is about unadulterated fun, so yea you’re right that this protest is a downer, but you don’t have to let yourself get down about this, so why be so critical of it? If you don’t like it, ignore it. These students should have been allowed to protest, and have every right to be angry about the monetization of their education. This isn’t about ruining your fun, it’s about ensuring that you have access to affordable education. Protesting and having fun aren’t mutually exclusive, people would do well to consider that.

  13. When did O-week acquire the status of a sacred, aseptic, dissent-free zone? What exactly would be the basis for believing every single student in their first week of first year wants ONLY to wear the same t-shirts, repeat the same chants and listen to the same music? At an academic institution, it could be possible that some people might be open to critical thought (gasp!) when offered a flier, or a different viewpoint. Nothing was forced on anyone here, those who wanted to were free to pass on, party on and pass out.

    Shame on USC for assuming universally lowest common denominator frosh, uniformly uninterested in anything but partying, and shame on UWO for once again enforcing a zone where your Charter rights do not apply.

    This is, in my opinion, serious activism. WSN is to be commended! And perhaps FIMS alumns could try reading the linked pamphlet before decrying the lack of numbers…

    • This, of all the comments on this article, was one of my favourite.

      Frosh week was hell for me, I went to a handful of events and stopped, wasn’t able to really meet anyone I connected with because the only things I was exposed to were what you listed – lowest common denominator activities – partying, chanting, dancing, music, t-shirts, etc. As a second year student, I honestly wish that I ran into something like this during frosh week – it would’ve been a breath of fresh air.

  14. Man, some of these comments…

    1. When did O-week become this sacred cow of “shouting your heart out in cheers, jumping and fist-pumping with all the rest” where apparently even the threat of seeing protesters out of the corner of your eye can rain on your emotional parade and completely ruin your fun? For. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life. Shouldn’t an orientation week also include opportunities and events where students experience something relating to the university experience they are embarking on other than this shallow mindless ‘fun’? It’s worrying then also, that the implication seems to be that thinking and learning are apparently the opposite of fun… this makes me sad.

    2. Pointing out the fact that we are all implicated in capitalism does not magically render us impotent in our ability to also critique it, lame attempts to ‘macbook shame’ the commendable efforts of these students notwithstanding. Saying it all smug like it’s a new and shiny secret strategy for winning scrabble that you alone have discovered doesn’t change anything. Participating in capitalism as a consumer while criticizing it is not hypocrisy. Exploiting others through wage slavery for profit might be, but I don’t think anyone here is doing that. The fact that we have virtually no choice about our participation could in fact be seen as further evidence of the totalizing nature of the system, which actually only further strengthens the anti-capitalist position.

    3. Higher education is a right – especially given the current economic climate. So is a job. And food. And shelter. And dignity… This is the kind of society I want to live in. I want everyone to have these things. Even people who aren’t me. And if I can, I am willing to use my own resources to benefit others who need them. And the suggestion that people who feel as I do should leave and cede this site of resistance to people who think that THESE views are selfish and unreasonable is a laughable fail in logic.

  15. While I agree with many points, I have to disagree with one. the part about the frosh being intoxicated. O-week at Western is a dry event and a huge percentage of students respect that because the run the risk of not being admitted to the events at Talbot bowl.

    that being said, if you are a Western student, or alumni like myself, you should be free to talk to students about debt and high costs of tuition. The University is, after all, a business. It exists to make money. Sure, education is what the provide but it does cost a lot. They do have a lot of corporate advertising and booths set up, but that provides a huge amount of revenue for the University. They have sold advertising space for these corporations and I’m sure in their contracts it says something about “free from protests or negative publicity”.

  16. As a faculty member, I fully support our students’ right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Part of our academic mission is to encourage critical exploration and engagement of concepts and ideas – some of which may make us feel uncomfortable. Nothing is so sacred that it is immune to critique, and that includes our institution and its practices. What I saw were a group of intellectually invested students actively engaging some of the core issues facing the rising costs of higher education and the corporate-friendly practices of the university, and they were doing so in a peaceful, non-confrontational way. What I also saw by way of response by campus police was potentially an infringement of these students’ rights. I dread the day when we would have to designate special “free speech zones” like they have in Arkansas that effectively quarantines criticism. These students were not engaging in hate speech, were not impeding the frosh from attending their O-Week events, were not inciting acts of violent dissent, and were not creating a disturbance. Surely our institution can accommodate such acts of free expression, extending to students the same rights as enjoyed by the rest of the academic community – and, indeed, rights enjoyed by all Canadians as enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  17. I completely disagree with your position (i.e., I think the portion of the cost of post-secondary education paid by the primary beneficiary (the student) is too little); however, free speech should always be welcomed and encouraged – especially on a university campus. I have 2 degrees from Western and am saddened that you weren’t allowed to have your voices heard?

    If you can’t speak, how am I to know I disagree with you?

  18. Yikes, we should have expected comments from the “Hey, we’re just trying to have a good time, why are you always trying to ruin our fun with ‘reality?'” crowd, and the “Get a job, hipster. I did.” crowd.

    I’m not from Canada, so I’m not used to having an O-week as part of my undergraduate experience. And you know what, my life went on without it and I still have fond memories of university! In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I moved here to teach/study and was bombarded by the joyous frolicking we so politely tolerate every fall. But here’s the newsflash: these are university students, not summer campers. 19 year olds know how to buy things, party, and talk to one another, they don’t require any help from the USC, the admin, or the police to do that. What they don’t know how to do so well is think critically and unpack the system under which they live, which is what we send them to university to learn (among other things). And these demonstrators were merely attempting to introduce some critical thought into an otherwise sanitized orgy of harmless fun and blissful corporate ignorance. So spare me the “let the kids be kids” nonsense.

    I would like to commend these students for doing what so few at Western are willing to do: speak up! You don’t need anyone’s permission to be outraged at the rising cost of tuition, increasing burden of student debt, or the fact that Western is treated like a shopping mall (complete with rent-a-cops and corporate sponsors).

  19. First-of-all, you claim you’re from a club. Well you should have received in early April an email from the USC asking if the club, or the faculty you represented was interested in being part of O’week.

    Secondly, How come O’week would be an appropriate time to protest tuition cost?! I mean Frosh are already enrolled, they’ve already paid their fees. why not choose an alternate time!? O’week is about having fun and discovering your campus, not about being knee-deep in a demonstration.

    Now if that issue really matters to you and you really want to protest on campus, then go see your club’s executive. they then should submit a proposal to the USC with the So-easy westernlink.ca website.

    If I remember well, the USC has allowed protest from both the Israeli and the Palestinian in the past.

  20. https://www.coursera.org/ Take the world’s best courses, online, for free.
    And I can list tons more free online sources. Problem solved, well may not entirely until companies & grad schools recognize them. But if you really don’t want to pay for education, there are tons of free alternatives in today’s Internet age (and from ‘better’ schools than Western; sorry Western).

    What I don’t like about the statistics is that they are misleading. Price doesn’t always raise in accordance with inflation; I can’t recall anything, maybe except wages, that rise in accordance with inflation. Fundamentals of economics: price is the result of supply and demand. (I realize this is a FIMS blog, so bear with me if economics is new to you.) Total tuition ballooned since 2005, but this doesn’t tell us the story of how many students are now attending university compared to then (the demand). Supply and demand have definitely increased, given that the school has accepted more students and have built new residences to accommodate more students, and they say the entrance average has also increased. Without knowing the exact statistics of how many students applied vs turned down (demand vs supply), a possible explanation of the increase in tuition from an economic point of view is that the increase in demand of education is much higher than the supply which results in higher price.

    See http://img.sparknotes.com/figures/0/039bab1e6f1ef2a65b5f4c8ddc66073a/eqshift.gif for an illustration; the old price being at p1 and after the increase the new higher price is p3.

    Possible solution? Demand less higher education. Who needs knowledge in an information age anyway? Lots of successful millionaires were college drop outs.

  21. You have a good cause and a good message but I agree it was not the time or place. You only chose O-Week as it was convenient for you to access the most amount of people, understandably. But this is O-Week, this is new students’ first taste of the University and to have protestors there dampening the mood, who in all fairness, are against those technically organizing and running the events is ridiculous. Your protest had nothing to do with O-Week which is why I find this funny. You have a very narrow-minded viewpoint on this topic and it is clear there could have been a better time or place to protest….aka concrete beach during the day where you would be able to access more students and those who really matter and have the abilities to make changes. First year students in their first week have noo idea about the operations and running of the University which makes your protest at O-Week senseless. I’m not against your message, but I am for thinking things through and taking a proper angle of attack.

  22. The timing and execution of this protest served its purpose to an effective degree. People panicked, and jimmies were indeed rustled to the point of a FIMS-wide e-mail (sidenote: loving this transparency with the dean this year!). I hope this event is not soon forgotten and continues to make waves.

  23. Education is now a business in Canada. We are the only country in the world without a Federal Ministry of Education overseeing tutuion costs, education standards and students rights. In Canada schools and educational institutions can desgin (and practically make up) degrees or diplomas in any area they want. There is no federal standardization that limits schools from making there own eductional programs and degrees. Our Canadian education system was born and is beeing fed by the immagrants that come from eastern society that think our education system is the best in the world. They are totally wrong, are educationn system is only seen as good cause we let anyone into a masters or PHD degree. I have my Masters degree and some of the other students in my class should not have been there, they were not of the caliber required for higher learning environment; but if you got the money you can get into any programyou want. In Canada education has turned into a capatalistic business, where the rich propser and the poor have to suffer with half ass educational degrees and 40 000 dollars in debt. Nothing can fix Canada education system unless we start to make standards for educational degrees and start limiting the number of Masters and PHD students. Canada pumps out too many masters and Phd students to make its country look like its very educated; but if you look at germany, only the cream of the crop is selected for masters and Phd…any they actually get a job when they are done cause there is so few of them. In Canada 1000 if not 100 000’s of Phd and Masters students graduate each year….were are the jobs to fill all these people exspecting 75 000+ a year to pay off there huge student loans ans debts?….I have no idea mabye you can fill me in as I have a master degree and cannot find employment for the last 2 years in my feild. Canada educational system is broken and spiraling downward everyday. The greatest fault was the implementation of Student Loans by the federal government. Lets give our Canadian kids basically free money to get educated for jobs that arent available and put them in debt for the rest of their lives, sounds very Liberal.

  24. What kind of self-respecting university silences the ideas of its students? There was no valid reason to kick these protesters off of campus (unless you count causing people to think critically about their financial costs a valid reason). Doing so shows fear and intolerance on the part of the administration.

    If UWO really wanted to foster a positive experience for students it would not enforce such astronomical tuition fees. Instead the administration should seek a middle-point between sustainability and profitability.

    Any educational institution that is genuinely interested in the welfare of its students should follow one simple ethos: charge students as little as possible. Obviously I’m not suggesting that such institutions should cheapen the educational experience, just that they charge the bare minimum need to sustain themselves and encourage moderate growth/development.

  25. Pingback: Freedom of Speech Issues at Western University | From Quill to Keyboard

  26. Pingback: Western Inc.: Students, Tuition, and the Corporate University | Concrete Speech

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