On Campus

A big week in the Quebec tuition dispute

The streets are quiet but plenty is happening

Quebec anti-tuition protesters (DmpstrBaby)

The nightly demonstrations against the Quebec government that crippled Montreal in the spring have dwindled to nearly nothing this summer. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Here are three important updates from the past few days:

1. Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUC), says that protesting students are now focused on defeating the Liberal government in the next election. (She also says the “strike” will resume when classes start up at 14 junior colleges (CEGEPs) and some universities on Aug. 17.) Pundits expect Premier Jean Charest to call a September election. At least the students and the government can agree on one thing—it will take an election to settle the dispute. See The Gazette.

2. The Quebec government has “quietly adopted several controversial measures it says will broaden access to higher education in the province,” reports The Canadian Press. The measures include increasing the number of people eligible for student loans and allowing graduates to repay loans in proportion to their incomes, as is done in the United Kingdom. It’s not clear why it’s “controversial” to give students and families more flexibility, but Desjardins is stridently opposed.

3. University professors in Montreal won’t go back without a fight. The Université de Montréal’s professor’s union has filed a grievance over the university’s plan to allow students to return to classes on Aug. 17. Among their complaints is that the university “unilaterally imposed” changes to their semester start and end dates. Professors at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) are still negotiating. Professors at some universities outside Montreal have agreed to return.

In case you missed it, Quebec student groups representing hundreds of thousands went “on strike” in the spring to protest a tuition hike of $1,778 over seven years. Nightly protests disrupted the economy and caused many classes to be cancelled for weeks. That prompted a controversial emergency law that has been criticized by the UN for its limits on demonstrations. Law 78 also forces students back to classes in August. For the full story, read Quebec’s new ruling class.

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