By Catherine Abes
Socialist Fightback Students (SFS), a Canada-wide Marxist student group, is pushing for a referendum for a one-day student strike to take place at Ryerson.
On Aug. 29, SFS brought forward the idea of a student strike at an open meeting hosted by We The Students RU (WTSRU). The meeting was the first of the academic year.
WTSRU is a collective comprised of a wide variety of campus groups, such as student unions and student press. It was founded in January in response to the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI), cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and cuts to education funding.
The open meeting was meant to establish WTSRU’s campaign goals for the upcoming semester, including a day of action planned for Nov. 6. However, much of the meeting instead focused on the logistics of a student strike. SFS members expressed that walkouts are no longer enough to effect change.
The meeting comes after the March 20 walk-out when hundreds of Ryerson students gathered on Gould Street in protest of the provincial government’s changes to student group funding and OSAP.
“Students are tired of talking. They want action”
Ryerson’s walkout was one of 16 protests held across the province. It was organized by WTSRU and supported by the province’s largest student advocacy group, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.
The SFS members present at the open meeting expressed that a strike should take place on WTSRU’s planned day of action. On top of protesting OSAP cuts, the SCI and cuts to university funding, the strike also advocates for free tuition.
SFS members called on representatives of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) to support a general assembly on Sept. 25, where students can determine a plan of action and express whether they’re for or against a strike.
The campaign is “open to all students and student groups who agree with the principles we put forward,” says SFS. “We hope as we continue to organize that more groups sign onto the initiative and organize under the banner of Ryerson Student Strike.”
“Students are tired of talking. They want action,” said Marco La Grotta, a Ryerson graduate and editor of Fightback.
The Eyeopener previously reported on a motion at the RSU’s Annual General Meeting which asked the RSU to commit to organizing a one-day strike against cuts to education and OSAP. The motion, put forward by SFS president Hermes Azam, passed.
SFS said they will continue with the general assembly, with or without endorsement
RSU vice-president equity Naja Pereira, who attended the meeting, said it’s important to make the movement accessible to students who can’t attend open meetings or general assemblies. She suggested that organizers “meet students where they are,” making votes available online as well as reaching out to students through their classes or course union.
CESAR President Nicole Brayiannis said that continuing education students also need different methods of mobilizing, as some of them may only take online courses or evening courses after work.
“We are currently working to grow the [campaign] through in-person outreach at Orientation events, in which we have received very receptive engagement from incoming students,” Brayiannis said in an email. Brayiannis added that CESAR’s next step is to branch out to more campuses.
Representatives from both unions concluded that they will discuss supporting the strike with the rest of their teams. However, no final agreement was made.
SFS said they will continue with the general assembly with or without endorsement.
DISCLAIMER: Representatives of The Eyeopener were present at the WTSRU meeting to report on events, as well as to participate in the meeting. The Eyeopener is just one of many student groups that have been largely affected by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Student Choice Initiative.