By Renata D’Aliesio
There was little breath left for chanting when students marched 14 flights of stairs to President Claude Lajeunesse’s office Tuesday afternoon.
On the final leg of a Toronto protest against tuition hikes, students from U of T, McMaster, York and a few from Ryerson trekked up to the 13th floor of Jorgenson Hall just after 5 p.m. They were hoping to confront Lajeunesse, chanting “Freeze tuition hikes!”
On the way up, some group members were yelling, “You better be in or we’ll kick that goddamn door down!”
Protesters tried breaking into Lajeunesse’s office with a credit card. After several tries, they put “Students Against Tuition Hikes” placards under the door.
Then they moves to the 12th floor, near the offices of the vice-presidents. One protester removed a ceiling panel and tried climbing through to the VPs’ offices. “We don’t have enough people anyway [for an effective protests],” he said, giving up.
With no reaction from Ryerson administration, some protesters boarded buses back to McMaster to support students in their seventh day occupying the hall in front of that school’s president’s office. Others headed to Oakham House for beer.
Security sent officers to dissolve the crowd in Jorgenson and shut down the elevators. Metro police were also called in.
RyeSAC President Victoria Bowman was unsupportive of the group’s actions.
“We were told beforehand that nothing would happen and Ryerson would not be targeted,” she said. “I wish they had maintained their promise.”
Less than 200 demonstrators showed up at Tuesday’s rally, which had been planned for over a month.
“Mid-March is not an optimal time to hold a rally because of the level of work students have,” said Gillian Morton, a member of U of T’s Anti-Cuts Coalition.
Although the rally was a short 15-minute walk away, only a handful of Ryerson supporters turned out.
RyeSAC made no attempt to mobilize a group of students to march because a large group wasn’t expected, said Bowman.
“Right now students are really scared to miss even 20 minutes of class with the end of the term coming,” she said.
Ryerson fourth-year early childhood education student and mother of six Alexandria Humphrey spoke at the rally.
“I felt it was important to let people know how much the government’s cuts are hurting single parents trying to go to school,” said Humphrey.
What the rally lacked in numbers, it made up for in spirit. Students waving red flags with the words “Stop the Cuts” were not discouraged.
Protestors marched to the Council of Ontario Universities office at Yonge and College. When denied entrance to the offices, they headed to the steps of Queen’s Park, then Ryerson.
RyeSAC is putting together a petition protesting the cuts and will present it to the Board of Governors March 31.