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Tuition Freeze Now, cross campus solidarity, and keeping the fight alive

Burn the Palaces brought together students and workers from several campuses
Quentin Rowe-Codner

February 26, 2019

It is not often that you can find a room full of activists from at least three different campuses and from across Canada for the purposes of building mass solidarity and collective action, but last week that room existed as the space for an event titled “Burn the Palaces: Tuition Freeze Now.” Hosted by SFU Tuition Freeze Now, the event featured speakers Annie Bhuiyan and Kayla Phillips, from SFU Tuition Freeze Now and Left Alternative; William Lin a student activist at SFU in the 60s; Matt Rowan from the UBC Social Justice Centre; Bradley Hughes from Langara College and the International Socialists and Vincent Tao, 221 A Educational Librarian, Vancouver Tenants Union and Our Homes Can't Wait Coalition. The speakers each gave a comprehensive summary of what is currently and soon to be happening at their respective campuses, from opposition to hate speech at UBC , to the history of tuition privatization at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara, to of course the proposed tuition hike at SFU .

Jade Ho who was one of the meeting organizers explained to how this meeting built a sense of community, “ the meeting was a good step to cross-campus solidarity as it brought out folks from different schools who care about this issue. We were able to solidify the importance of student activism and struggle for affordable education. We also built connection for the movement as we go forward.”

This meeting was an important moment to note for multiple reasons. Firstly, it goes without saying that it was a wonderfully productive night with many great ideas and perspectives coming to the fore. Secondly, it was a concrete example of building cross campus solidarity, which is crucial for building and maintaining these campaigns both in the short and long term. In the short term, the networks and connections built offer a larger pool of support, resources, and reach for the campaigns. SFU Tuition Freeze Now is currently building a rally against the Tuition Hike set for March 18th, and with the aid of the meeting, there are now supporters that can be drawn on from across Vancouver.

Most important is how to utilize cross campus solidarity in the long term. As socialists and activists, we are all familiar with the all to common sight of a movement that we have helped build from the ground up reach an extraordinary peak, only to wane and lose momentum after the smallest of gains have been won. Convincing people that the fight is not over is a recurring obstacle. Of course, in the case of Tuition Freeze Now, that roadblock may rear its head on March 21st, which is when the SFU Board of Governors is set to declare their upcoming budget and the matter of tuition. Win or not, Tuition Freeze Now is committed towards advancing the campaign past this date, ``tuition freeze now, free tuition next,`` as is being said. However, in practical circumstances, great efforts will still need to be made in order to retain support, momentum, and struggle. This is where cross campus solidarity comes into the mix. Having a central network of various campaigns allows for consistent organizing, and reliable support when there is a lull in action. Furthermore, when these lulls do arise within a particular campaign, that solidarity network is a great way to shift momentum towards another campaign in the mean time, so that it does not dissipate. For example, when activity reaches a crescendo at SFU, most likely around the 21st, next step will be in preserving the energy that has been built, and this can be done by not only continually chipping away at the Board of Governors, but also by looking at the developments of the connected campaigns, and plugging into those as well.

We need more of these meetings in the future, as we start to build a student activist network within Vancouver. Great work is being done by a number of groups, and preserving these struggles is of utmost importance.



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