Approximately fifty students were involved in a ‘get back to class’ demonstration outside of the Wallace McCain Student Centre on Wednesday. Students read and studied, sitting at tables in what the organizers called performance art.
The location was chosen due to its prominence for students, and its proximity to Centennial Hall, home of the majority of Mount Allison’s administrators, and its proximity to picket lines of professors. It joins the other strike related events supported by MASU, such as the administration and faculty question and answer periods and the frequently asked question event from the first week of the strike.
Greg McLaughlin, a fourth-year drama student was one of the students involved in organizing the demonstration. “It was an hour long demonstration outdoors, in front of the student centre, where students came, silently studied, worked, and read, independently,” he told The Argosy.
“The goal was to show that even though classes are cancelled, students are still continuing on with their work by teaching themselves and each other,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin echoed MASU’s reasoning in explaining why the demonstration did not side with either the administration or the faculty. “Students have a lot of different opinions and side one way or another, but the bottom line is we are all students, and we’re all on the side of students,” he said.
McLaughlin also said that because students have no seat at the bargaining table it is difficult to discern which side deserves student support, saying, “When we initially started discussing this idea we didn’t feel comfortable taking a side because we simply couldn’t get all the facts.”
“Last Wednesday, I met with Melissa [O’Rourke, MASU president,] and told her what we were planning on doing, and she liked the idea and really wanted to support it, so we teamed up with the MASU.”
“I think it’s really important for students to be active in this whole strike business. It’s really frustrating because we don’t have a place at the bargaining table… but that doesn’t mean we are voiceless. We can still sort of make out frustration known.”
MASU contributed to the organization of the rally. Vice-President, Academic Affairs Ryan Harley was the primary MASU organizer. Harley said that MASU had been planning to organize a protest, but were unsure what to do before being approached by McLaughlin and others.
“We wanted to do a demonstration with the message ‘Students don’t have a voice at the table,’ but then we were approached by the Drama Studies Society, and they really sort of brought that goal into focus. They sold it more like a performance art piece than a protest while bringing the rhetorical and the symbolism and the message behind it,” Harley said.
Harley said that the demonstration well represented MASU’s “nuanced stance, that is in a lot of ways not neutral. It is partisan in the way that we are an interest group. […] Like we said from the beginning our number one priority will always be trying to keep our members in class.”
Harley said MASU did not have specific plans for more demonstrations, but intends to wait to see how negotiations go over the next few days.
“For me right now, I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I’m going to wait and see how things go this weekend before I recalibrate and figure out what the next step is.”