Panelists at a Fight the Fees event at Dalhousie University on Thursday stressed the importance of showing strong numbers and solidarity when students campaign for change.
“Even if it’s not an issue that you feel affects you, it’s affecting the person next to you, or the person who can’t be next to you,” said El Jones, one of the panelists and Halifax’s former poet laureate.
“It’s so important to show up,” added Dalhousie Student Union President Kathleen Reid, because a large turnout for protests demonstrates how many people are affected by tuition fees.
“It’s not fend for yourself, it’s fend for each other,” she said.
The Dalhousie Student Union teamed up with food co-op the Loaded Ladle to promote the upcoming Day of Action on Nov. 2. The student union hosted a panel of speakers campaigning for accessible education while the Loaded Ladle provided free lunches to students.
“From my own personal experience, it took me five years to graduate, not four, because I was working as a part-time student so I could work three jobs,” Reid says. “And I’ve seen this happen with a ton of my peers as well.”
Jones is finishing her PhD and considers herself both a grad student and a faculty member – she teaches at Mount Saint Vincent and Saint Mary’s universities.
As a professor, Jones says she understands that students sometimes have to come to class exhausted and unprepared.
“Education may not be their first priority if they’re working 40 hours a week,” she says.
“The quality of education we’re allowed to offer when students are under these burdens decreases. We are mortgaging our ability to educate young people.”
Rebecca Stuckey, the outreach and education coordinator at South House, a volunteer-based sexual and gender resource centre at Dal, also spoke at the panel.
“As an Indigenous person … potentially graduating this semester with over $20,000 in student debt,” Stuckey said, “when I have to pay my loan back this spring, I don’t know how I’m gonna make those payments.”
“Students and our communities are just struggling. We’re really feeling the burden of all these things that these institutions are putting on us.”
Dalhousie’s Day of Action march starts at the university’s Killam library at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 2 and ends at Province House.