On Wednesday I made some injudicious generalizations, painting students on 'strike' as all taking basket weaving type courses, but such is not the case.
I was reminded of this by Eric Duhaime, who on television told the story of a francophone student, in utter despair because her school is closed and she is in danger of not finishing her year.
She was accepted to McGill medical school, one of the hardest programs in the country to crack a spot, a dream come true for ultra-high achievers. If she doesn't finish her school year, she will not be allowed to start this Fall and will lose a year. (You cannot start medical school mid-year)
I'm not even sure she'll be allowed in next year, the McGill program has a policy of only accepting students who finished their undergraduate work in the minimum of time. Don't bother applying if you've spent four years in cegep.
I hope they make an exception for her....
By the way, the class boycott is almost exclusively a Francophone affair, all the English cegeps and universities are open and classes are being taught. About 50% of the French cegep and university students are out, while less than 10% of the English.
Concordia has taken a hard line and told boycotters that they may not intimidate or block other students and that if they wish to boycott classes and exams, they will bear the personal consequences, as no measures will be undertaken to save their semester.
Of course, such is not the case on the French side where universities and cegeps have gone in the opposite direction of Concordia and McGill, offering a wimpy response in the face of the intimidation of boycotters.
Teachers in these schools are largely in favour of the strike and as long as they are being paid not to teach, everything is hunkydory.
One francophone 'philosophy' professor interviewed on television complained that it was outrageous that he was being forced to teach under pain of an injunction, because it is not a healthy atmosphere. Oh my....
Now the student leadership is bound and determined to refuse all offers from the government that do not include a tuition freeze. The government cannot back down or else lose all credibility.
It's a Mexican Standoff
The students leadership remains stubbornly anchored in Fantasyland. Yesterday CLASSE actually proposed that the money devoted to research work in universities be re-directed towards tuition as well as the imposition of additional taxes on banks to offset the revenue shortfall.
Now the student union is not only telling the government what to charge for tuition, but how to tax and spend as well.
While pumping out all manner of statistical drivel supporting their desire for a tuition freeze, they ignore this inconvenient truth;
- In 1960, Quebec student tuition fees paid for 20% of the actual cost of the education. In 1990 that figure fell to under 10%
- According to CLASSE itself, the parents of 65% of Quebec post-secondary students don't contribute a dime towards tuition fees.
In 2008, Madame Marois gave an interview to a student newspaper wherein she wholeheartedly supported a tuition increase, telling students that they needed to do their part.
The about-face is a sad commentary on the politics of expediency.
Students who have mocked the government and the police for over two months are now defying court injunctions.
Once the rule of law is supplanted by mob violence, it is time for society to take a stand.
People are very nervous about things degenerating further and with good reason.
Students are becoming bolder and bolder without a firm response now from authorities, things can turn very, very ugly.
If the boycott is not ended now, Quebec will become a dangerous and violent place very soon.
I am reminded of Prime Minister Trudeau's implementation of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. Most people have a negative recollection of the affair and Trudeau is roundly condemned for his actions.
What people never consider is what could have been without the decisive action.
At the time separatist/socialist leaders were moving towards nothing less than a seditious insurrection. Support for the FLQ was low, but like the student movement of today, a minority can do a lot when they decide that the law is of no consequence.
So what is to be done?
It is time for the government to take control of the situation and dictate instead of being dictated to.
It's time to call the radical's bluff.
It's time for the Premier to aver publicly there will be no more negotiations.
The Premier should call a news conference and give those students on strike an ultimatum.
He should give them one week to hold a vote in light of the government's position that there will be no more concessions and that schools will close if they vote to stay out.
During the next days, a television advertising campaign should urge students (horribly apathetic) to take part in the vote.
If the students vote to continue their boycott, those schools affected should be shut down immediately, the semester terminated and the students given incompletes for courses missed.
Teachers should be laid off without pay and if their contract precludes this, legislation should be passed making it so.
If the teachers don't like it, they can go on strike as well!
The Premier should also enact legislation making membership in student associations voluntary forthwith and insure that no educational institution will collect fees for these associations.
This will effectively emasculate the radical student movement once and for all.
Without mandatory membership, the associations will likely lose 80% of their members and without mandatory dues and forced collection of funds, the associations will collapse.
It will be a good lesson for Quebec's unionized movement and a warning of what might happen to them.
It's time to take a stand.
Let's try something new, Readers....
You've read what I would do if Premier in relation to the student boycott.
But what would you do as Premier?........Let's hear your solution....