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Teachers torn over Day of Action

Students at last year's Day of Action. Photo by Pau Balite

Students across Canada will hit the streets Feb. 1 for the second annual Student Day of Action. The protest counters rising tuition fees, education budget cuts and the increasing limit on the student debt cap.

Last year’s rally drew thousands of determined students out into blizzard-like conditions to oppose the steep costs of post-secondary education. The excitement and commotion caused by last year’s rally leaves many wondering if this year will measure up.

“You can’t tell as it is now,” says Gabe Hoogers, national executive representative of the Canadian Federation of Students Nova Scotia and president of the King’s Student Union. Hoogers said that with the province committing to a three per cent hike in tuition fees and a three per cent cut to university grants he is quite optimistic that students will be equally, if not more, eager to fight back this year.

The objective of the protest remains the same, but Hoogers hoped the size would change significantly. According to a previous article in the Gazette, last year the event was confined to Dalhousie, University of King’s College, Saint Mary’s University, NSCAD University and Mount Saint Vincent University.

“This year the rally will be nationwide,” Hoogers says, “and we’re pulling out all the stops.”

Despite the quick dispersal of the protest, Hoogers says outreach is being done every day to ensure that as many people as possible know about it. Students have been hearing about the Day of Action both in and out of the classroom, but the message still hasn’t reached some of Dal’s professors.

Dal is recommending academic amnesty for the event as it falls on a Wednesday. This means that the decision as to whether or not students will be penalized for skipping class to attend the protest is left up to each individual professor.

Camilo Ordonez, a professor from Dal’s science department, had no knowledge of the protest, or what it represented. Since he had not received any information about the event, he left it up to the discretion of his students.

“I think students should already be responsible for what they prioritize in their academic and personal lives,” says Ordonez. “It’s your decision whether you miss classes or not. As for me, I am planning to have a lecture on that day, as I need to go through a lot of material in very little time and I don’t want to miss on any classes.”

Erin Wunker, an assistant professor in the English department at Dal, was well aware of the protest, and gave some liberties to encourage student involvement.

“I actually changed the syllabus to encourage the students to take part in the Day of Action,” she says.

Bruce Greenfield, also a professor from the English department, was equally encouraging.

“In general I’m sympathetic to students being involved with the politics of their own education,” he says. “So, in such a case, I’d even encourage them to take part.”

While many professors support student participation, students’ interests in the rally range from ardent to apathetic.

But Sam McGrath, who was planning last week to attend the rally said that there is power in numbers, and the matter is most definitely one of importance. “I think it is important to make sure that people are talking about it,” he says.

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