Opinions

The success and failure of student protest 

Lessons from Dal’s history for the modern activist

The success and failure of student protest photo by : Alexandra Sweny
Photo by Alexandra Sweny.
written by Amie Duquette
January 13, 2018 6:33 pm

Protests in history haven’t always been peaceful nor always effective. This is proven true by the countless movements and protests of modern North America that have ended with arrests and often brutality. Over hundreds of years, hundreds of simple marches ending with the exact same result, with punishments far worse than they are today. 

Even Dalhousie University’s own history has stories of ineffective protests; though, none as violent or negative as current riots around the world. 

In the Dalhousie Gazette’s Feb. 28 2962 issue, they called on students to draw attention to what they believed was needed: “a decent, well-run bookstore.”     

A number of Dal students made the decision of how they’d protest. It was simple, but in this case, simplicity also meant the protest wasn’t fully planned out. A boycott was to happen. And though the actual picket lines had people, there were still students in need of books.  

They hadn’t planned for that outcome: they hadn’t planned that some believed something different from them, they thought everyone would join the boycott. 

They were mistaken. Students still used the bookstore, some even going as far as believing it to be discriminatory against the proprietor. Not even the verbal support from the Arts and Social Sciences Dean, Dr. Henry D. Hicks could assist in this poorly planned protest. 

The Dal Bookstore protest was ineffective due to its simplicity, but it’s still possible for protests to remain simple and organized at the same time.  

Nearly 16 years later, on March 30, 1978 all of the post-secondary institutions across Nova Scotia joined together to go against the Nova Scotia Caucus of the Atlantic Federation of Students due to funding cutbacks.  

How did they remain simple but still come out victorious?  

For starters, there were clear expectations of any possible outcome, and there was support from many schools, making it much more than a few people going against those safe in their towers of power.  

It was simple because it didn’t take away from people doing their jobs. Those in Province House were still able to do their jobs as the march continued on outside. It was peaceful, as no violence or vulgarity occurred. And it wasn’t this big event – it was just a march that made it clear: all the schools were sticking together. 

Much closer to the students Dal’s hearts: the familiar face outside the Student Union Building – and if his face isn’t familiar enough, his food cart definitely is – Gerald Anthony Reddick. Or Ibraham Ali Muhammad as some know him, he’s also been dubbed ‘the Dawg Father’ by those who adored his cart outside of the SUB. 

He’d sell hotdogs and hamburgers, all under $10, to hungry students, who would otherwise pay for overpriced food from establishments in the SUB. The DSU wasn’t too pleased with the clear loss of money, as the Dawg Father’s profits didn’t benefit the building whatsoever.  

So they moved to have him banned from parking on the property in order to get their income back.  

This, of course, didn’t work.  

Taking on an army of hungry students who were now required to bring their own food or purchase overpriced food was bound to fizzle. 

The students fought back. Not with fists, but with their names and adoration for what the Dawg Father did for them. A petition to save his spot was created, and 9000 signatures later, they won. The Dawg Father won his spot back.  

No disruptions happened. Nobody was taken out of class or work, people could still purchase within the Student Union Building. It was a simple and peaceful petition. 

It was effective: the Dawg Father got his spot back. At least until 2015. He lost his spot when he was accused of making anti-Semitic tweets and was boycotted by the same students who petitioned to bring him back. 

Despite the ineffective protests at Dal and its population evolving with time, some protests recycle the same ineffective ideas and receive the same ineffective results as they had prior. Although many new protests bring new lessons to the next. 

In particular, Dal’s had its own triumphs, such as the Cookout for Tuition Cuts on Nov. 9, 2011. 

Dalhousie students made the decision to make a clear point to the government that they were in poverty.  

The age-old dilemma of tuition fees.  

The students made their point with one of the most beloved microwavable dinner options: Kraft Dinner. 

While a premier’s meeting was happening (which had cost $175 a plate to attend according to the Dalhousie Gazette article from 2011,) students took to Cornwallis Park to sell the ooey-gooey noodles.  

The profits from this small-scale protest were part of an even greater protest: the first Student Day of Action. The same cause, but on a much larger-scale. In the end, they raised awareness for the upcoming movement – one of two goals. 

The second goal, to receive the attention of the provincial government was also reached, as NDP leadership candidates Peggy Nash and Thomas Mulcair were both in attendance of the $175 per plate event, as was Halifax MP, Megan Leslie, also from the New Democratic Party. 

More recently: the Second Annual Student Day of Action in 2012.  

Dalhousie students, along with other post-secondary students from across Nova Scotia, took to the streets of Halifax to march, on Feb. 1, 2012 to protest tuition fee increases. The first year the turn out had been around 2000 to 3000 people, but the second year had a turnout of 1000. 

Their goal, attempting to create discussion within the government was especially ineffective: Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia at the time, headed in the opposite direction when protesters approached him. He kept his silence on the topic for the remainder of his time as premier. 

The simplicity of some of these protests were organizational failures: in gaining general support or interest from Dal students. With others, the simplicity and peaceful nature are what made these three situations effective.  

What made some effective and other’s ineffective was that the effective methods didn’t stop anyone. No one was kept from their routine. There was still an option to not participate. Everything was planned out; there were no unexpected outcomes with these, and they came out victorious. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

MENU