On Campus

The five biggest campus news stories of 2012

From the turmoil of Quebec to the rise of the West

A naked protest in Montreal (DmpstrBaby/Flickr)

It was a record year for Maclean’s On Campus with more readers than ever, but perhaps that’s unsurprising considering how much there was to talk about. Based on clicks and comments, here are the top five campus news stories of 2012.

1. Quebec student groups helped toss a government and won a tuition freeze.

In March, Quebec student groups declared war on a planned tuition hike of roughly $2,000 over five years. By April, students at 11 of Quebec’s 18 universities and 14 of its 48 CEGEPs had declared “strikes” and were skipping classes. There were nightly marches in Montreal that made life miserable for many who lived and worked downtown. Students who dared go to classes, even after judges orders allowing them to return, were stopped by masked protesters. The nightly marches started turning violent and threatened the tourism industry. Something had to be done.

The turning point was Bill 78, the so-called “emergency law” passed by Jean Charest’s government on May 18. The law included big punishments for blocking access to classes, but provisions that required police notification for protests were seen by some as an assault on civil liberties.

PQ leader Pauline Marois donned the symbolic “red square,” defeated Charest’s Liberals and, in her first act as premier in September, rolled-back tuition to its current level: $2,168. She then blindsided universities in December by cutting $124-million more from this year’s budget.

The movement’s most recognizable face, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, was found guilty of contempt of court for encouraging students to flout judges orders. But by then, his red squares had won.

2. Amanda Todd killed herself, prompting a national discussion on bullying.

In September, British Columbia teenager Amanda Todd posted a video on YouTube detailing sexual exploitation by an online predator and the relentless taunts from her classmates that followed.

In October, she killed herself. Her untimely death pushed bullying to the top of the national agenda. There were suddenly bullying-related arrests, discussions about sexual exploitation and cyberbullying, the formation of clubs and roundtables and anti-bullying social media campaigns.

Maclean’s On Campus published commentary from Ravanne Lawday who overcame bullying by focusing on school, Scott Hems, who turned to fitness after he was called “too fat for the team,” and the confessions of one former mean girl, Ishani Nath. Rest in peace, Amanda Todd.

3. Men won support for gender-exclusive spaces on campus.

The executive of the Simon Fraser Student’s Society decided, while budgeting for 2012-13, that they would fund a men’s centre. The women’s centre had been there since 1974, so men ought to also have a place to discuss their issues, the execs argued. Many students disagreed. Some said there should be no gender-exclusive spaces at all. The student’s society was undeterred.

4. Western Canada’s universities rose in the rankings.

In the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings, every university from Saskatchewan to the Pacific Ocean maintained or improved its standing. Most impressively, all four of British Columbia’s ranked universities—the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria—placed in the top two in their categories.

That said, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada still have many impressive institutions. McGill University in Quebec ranked first in the Medical Doctoral category, and the University of Toronto was third. Ontario’s University of Waterloo was third in the Comprehensive category and Mount Allison University in New Brunswick was first again in the Primarily Undergraduate category.

5. Law school and teacher’s college lost their lustre.

Our annual Professional Schools Issue posed the question: Should articling be scrapped? It’s funny to think that law schools would even contemplate this, but there were suddenly so many law students that large numbers couldn’t find the 10-month placements they needed to graduate.

Future teachers were even worse off. Back in 2011, the Ontario College of Teachers noted the wide gap between the number of graduating teachers and jobs available: 24 per cent of new graduates were unemployed and only one-third were employed full-time as teachers. In 2012, wannabe teachers got the message: Ontario’s teacher’s colleges received nine per cent fewer applicants. Still, for those enrolled, the job market was just as discouraging going into 2013.

What campus news story were you talking about in 2012? Tweet us or comment below.