By Greg Clayton
Editor, the Gauntlet,
Re: "Student protests no longer effective," Dec. 4, 2003,
Students’ Union Vice-President External Lauren Batiuk is right, there is little doubt student protests are an ineffective way of lobbying for funding.
To believe Operation Barricade would influence the Board of Governors decision is outrageous, especially since it was held after the decision to raise tuition was made.
Operation Barricade was never intended to change the outcome of that meeting. However, it was the top news story on local television stations, radio stations and newspapers.
What it did was secure prime time advertising for $800. It reminded one million Calgarians that tuition has increased 375 per cent in 10 years and that if this continues it is going to block access to post-secondary education.
My intention when organizing Operation Barricade was not to embarrass politicians and waste SU money as Batiuk suggests in her article. The $800 we spent was very cost effective considering the media coverage, and I find it hard to believe we embarrassed any politicians or administrators.
Lobbying the government is essential, but we can not make post-secondary funding an election issue without speaking directly to the voters. Batiuk has been doing this through initiatives like "information sharing with a couple hundred houses on Halloween"–unfortunately this wouldn’t even sway the SU electorate.
In the next year, we will see provincial, federal, and municipal elections, and if we do not make post-secondary funding an issue, lobbying the government is hopeless.
The SU has wasted a lot of money. Overpriced events such as Tent City were ineffective and embarrassing for our cause. Some SU events are ineffective, and those that are, are not ineffective because they are protests, they are ineffective because they wavered from defined goals. Unfortunately, the SU fights with a short-term mentality coupled with nonexistent strategic goals. This severely inhibits the tuition fight.
Initiatives like the Traveling Tuition Road Show, the Tuition Hut and the Halloween food drive are just a couple examples of how Batiuk’s short-term one-year focus can waste students’ money easier than symbolic demonstration. "Pennies against tuition" was a great idea–for the day it lasted.
The SU needs to look beyond a year and develop concrete long-term goals. Without a long-term strategic approach to ensuring access to post-secondary education, the SU can toss endless amounts of cash at the fight.