Protest for a chilly reception

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By Kenny Yum

“Freeze the fees.”

It’s the phrase that adorned a RyeSAC banner last year and was one of many chants heard on the border of this campus during a good ole protest.  Usually on cold, winter days have these days of actions helped students out of their deep warms sleeps of apathy to take on the message that reflected the weather r—freeze the fees.  Ample meaning to the occasion, perhaps.  Nothing like being jolted awake after falling asleep in that warm, stuffy classroom… mmmmm heat…

Remember on a wind-chilled afternoon last January, when the kids took on bay Street and “staged” – memorize this word because it’s important – a sit-in?

And remember two years ago, when the student union shipped blocks of ice to Claude’s office on the 13th floor of Jorgenson just to demonstrate the same message?  Yeah man, like ice, we want to freeze the fees… Hey that’s a catchy phrase, write it down dude, we’ll use it next year…

How about the year before that, yeah that’s about three years ago, when – yes, in the dead of winter – some brave souls marched up to Queen’s Park?  After a few shattered doors and, yes, another sit-in on the Parliament’s lobby, a group of students, er protestors, were charged with intimidating the legislature.  Did anyone know that they were really just trying to get in from the cold?

Most Ryerson students probably will not remember the first of these protests.  Yes, the last great march was in January 1995.  On that day, thousands of students, Ryerson included, marched in protest of tuition hikes.  An army of U of T and York students stomped onto Gould and Victoria and, as a group, then joined by comrades from outside the Toronto area, the mass wormed its way onto Nathan Philips Square.  The power of numbers was in full view and it sent a message to Ottawa and the provinces.  As other universities across the nation joined in, the day was recognized as the largest student uprising in three decades.  Thirty years.

And yes, it was a cold, winter day.  Funny how it’s hard to live up to your former self.  What is disturbing about every single protest that has followed The Great One in 1995 is that the chants are starting to ring hollow.

A protestor is a child who wants attention. T he first cries will bring the parent to attention – but following screams will only serve to irritate, like the girl who cried wolf.  Soon, even students decide to ignore the protest, and the message falls on, you guessed it, ears that aren’t listening.

As the Canadian Federation of Students embarks on its week of action, it is important that they remember why they decided to take action to the streets in the first place.  It was to get attention, then to get the government to change its policies.

Because since that year, every protest has become a side-show circus that comes to a campus near you.  Hey, it’s winter, isn’t it time that we take to the streets?

Maybe it’s time to take a warm cup of coffee, sit down with a couple of government bureaucrats, look over the options and have some face-to-face discussions with those who can change our fate.

And maybe it’s time to come in from the cold and face reality.

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