Monthly Archives: November 2014

Social Justice Synonyms #10: “Tranny”

Welcome to Social Justice Synonyms, your friendly column at The Talon that discusses specific words we hear and see being used, explains why they may be problematic, and provides some alternatives.

This week’s term is tranny. Being our second instalment of SJS dealing with topical words in transgender communities, refer to last week’s article for a Trans 101 primer.

I would like to inform readers that the following article contains details around the harmful use of the word tranny and may be triggering to some.

Tranny is a slang word you might have heard thrown around by people you know, in the media, in comedy and entertainment, and perhaps even in gay and/or queer communities. While tranny originated as the short form for transsexual or transvestite, it is viewed as a slur against trans women and trans men.

Generally ‘tranny’ is used in ignorance, for derogatory purposes, or in jokes where trans people are the punch line. A pervasive caricature of the trans woman as a delusional man in a dress particularly makes comedy at the expense of trans people reliably accessible. To many, the idea of men inhabiting femininity is wholly disturbing, and involves the lowering of one’s self, inviting laughter either in discomfort or ridicule. Not to be ignored is the fact that ‘tranny’ also takes on sexualizing and objectifying dimensions. To many, ‘tranny’, ‘shemale’, and ‘chick with a dick’ are synonymous. This stems from mainstream representations of trans women, especially trans women of colour, in the pornography industry and survival sex work – both are realities for many due to intersections of greater marginalization in society. That is, trans women on the margins often struggle against class and race oppression, as well as transmisogyny; to the latter, Laura Kacere writes “trans women experience a particular kind of sexist marginalization based in their unique position of overlapping oppressions – they are both trans and feminine. They are devalued by society on both accounts.”

Thus when trans women are referred to as ‘trannies’, many are in effect are being reduced to devalued caricatures and sexualized bodies by society. Unfortunately, the continued viewing of trans women as ‘trannies’ reinforces marginalization where trans people can be treated as less than human. This can intersect with dimensions of class, gender, and race, as well as colonization, leaving trans people highly vulnerable to poverty and exploitation, as well as physical, verbal, mental and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, some react to the existence of trans people with extreme violence. A sobering reality is that ‘tranny’ is often a slur used against trans women before they are murdered.

You may be unconvinced that ‘tranny’ should be treated as a slur all the time; after all, don’t gay men and drag queens call other drag performers and trans women in their communities trannies all the time? Some argue that it’s a term of endearment, as there is a history of its use in a transgressive, edgy manner. Some say it follows the pattern of a marginalized group taking back power by reclaiming a word that had been historically used against them. The Talon’s first SJS article is a good resource on the ethics of reclaiming words. Nevertheless, while drag queens may have sometimes been the targets of the word ‘tranny’, the right of gay men to reclaim the word is more tenuous.* While the transgressive performance of gender may invite ridicule, it is typically the physical embodiment of that transgression that invites extreme marginalization and violence. Thus while ‘tranny’ can be endearing to those who can leave their gender transgression behind once the performance is over, trans women are those who are left facing the brunt of society’s violence and marginalization on a daily basis. When we think back to the implicit messages behind the slur tranny, it is not surprising that the message can be received differently – being recognized for a performance as a sexualized male may be endearing to a drag queen, but can be violent and invalidating for a trans woman.

As a trans woman who holds LGBTQIA2S+ communities dear to her heart, I am not asking for censorship, but conscientiousness around the use of the word tranny. A movement away from ‘tranny’ towards the terms trans and transgender helps reshape societal consciousness around the realities of trans people. For most cisgender people, that will probably mean abandoning the use of it entirely. For gay men, it may mean being considerate of the narratives being generated on behalf of trans women when ‘tranny’ is used.

Finally, telling a trans women that tranny is simply something they should ‘get over’ and reclaim for themselves is especially not cool. A relatively dominant group telling a marginalized group to ‘get over’ something that continues to oppress them is simply repeating histories of protecting status quo interests. Thus while it is important to celebrate the beautiful tapestries created in our resistance to oppression, we also need to cultivate the insight that we can inhabit both the roles of oppressor and oppressed. So in the interest of learning not to be an oppressor, let’s learn some alternatives to the word tranny!

Use/Context Alternatives
“I will need to get the tranny box fixed before I take it on a road trip” Short form for a car transmission, which is an object, and not a person. Use away.
“Dang, you’re one hot tranny mess” Maybe, if you’re a gay or trans person saying it to a friend, and that is simply how you two communicate. Very, very context dependent. Alternative – “You’re one hot mess! Oh, and trans people are beautiful people who deserve all our love.”
“Look at that tranny over there!” Is that ‘tranny’ you’re referring to a person? Then just no. Smile if you make eye contact and walk on like you would any other person. Alternative – “I think I know that person. She’s rad and wrote this one piece for The Talon.”
“That tranny is FIERCE!” Do you know that person, are they trans, and are you tokenizing them? Is there a friend who could overhear and think that it is okay to use it to refer to all trans people? Alternative – “I really admire that person’s confidence and assertiveness in expression of who she is. She’s FIERCE.”

* On reclaiming tranny, let’s presume that gay male communities have a right to use the word on the basis that it has become an embedded part of drag culture, and trans women in their communities are comfortable with it. That is all fine wine and glitterbomb rainbows, but there is the issue of being responsible in using it, and making sure the language stays within the community where it is understood a certain way so as to not perpetuate stigma and marginalization. That may mean not introducing the trans friend who recently came out to you as your ‘tranny friend’, even if they had formerly been comfortable with the word as a drag queen. Unfortunately, I have heard too many stories of women and their partners dropping the word tranny in reference to trans women they see, or trans women they know because their gay best friends are using it as a short form for transgender. Unlike the ‘N’ word, where it’s generally understood that only Black communities should use it, mainstream culture has tended to perceive gay men and the trans women they know as being representative voices on trans issues. Thus there is still a certain mainstream acceptability of its use among cisgender folk. While this understanding is changing, many continue to frame it as a ‘political correctness’ issue of ‘fringe’ trans activists wanting to squelch tranny from the lexicon of gay male communities.

Tara Chee is a local trans and queer activist, and board member of Our City of Colours. She enjoys writing long-winded Facebook rants on her free time, in hopes that it can help make the world a better place.

I Lowered My Hands to Write This

“He was the leader of the pack for my [children]. He was meek. He was humble. He was tall. He was a man. He loved dogs. He loved people. He loved anything that had life in it; a plant. And that’s why I can’t understand why that happened to my child.” – Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s Mother

I try to shake away this sinking feeling, but I am far from surprised. I know the answer. Michael Brown was an easy target. Michael Brown was Black.

Blackness has been constructed in a way that is synonymous with dirt, impurity, and evil. We are made to feel ashamed not only of our physical characteristics, but of our very being. We are ill-represented. We are hated.

Black is the opposite of white. Black must be promulgated as bad, not only by those who only view blackness in passing, but by those who carry the colour themselves. In a white supremacist society, this systematic brainwashing is one of the most effective ways to maintain subordination.

If society is able to make me hate myself, if society is able to make me ashamed of something I have no control over, of something that I was born with, of something that my father had, my grandmother had, my grandfather had, my great-grandmother had, then that, my friend, is power.

By saying that Mike Brown was Black, some may accuse me of looking past the facts, seeing only colour. Darren Wilson could not unsee colour. I cannot unsee colour. You have trained me from birth to see colour. You have trained me to see my own colour and to be ashamed of it. You have taught me to mould myself into something I will never truly become. I will never be white. I can never be white. I can change myself, contort myself, distort myself, even eventually destroy myself, but I am and always will be Black.

Ferguson

The distortion of facts is common to any case. However the death of an unarmed Black teenager is plain fact. A cop with a gun, a cop who refused to carry a taser has openly shown no remorse since Mike Brown’s death is as clear as day.

There are thousands of Mike Browns. There are millions. How can we do them the disservice of not looking at their colour when the very cops who have sworn to protect them are trained to see colour? How dare we claim to not see colour, to not see race?

Race was constructed to create a hierarchy; a hierarchy based on colour. Mike Brown did not simply become Black when he was murdered. He did not become Black when social media took up the case of his death. Mike Brown was born Black. From the moment of his birth he was taught to be wary of a system that had sworn to protect him. He was taught that one step out of bounds would lead to his destruction. This is what he was taught. This is what we all are taught. Blackness is a threat, therefore blackness becomes a target.

I see my colour. I love my colour. It is a part of me, so ingrained in me I could not imagine life without it. It shapes how people see me, what people say to me, how they relate to me. I understand that, but I will never be ashamed of it. Never again. I will take pride in the skin of my ancestors. I am a person deserving of humanity. Mike Brown was a person deserving of humanity. We are human beings.

What’s the difference between a white person and a Black person when they argue about race? The white person never has to prove that they are deserving of humanity; the Black person always does.

This Friday, November 28th, at 5:00pm, come keep vigil in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and Black communities across the world. Come listen to Black people speak about their oppression, about their fears, about their successes, about their hopes. Give them a chance to speak openly, and give yourself the chance to truly listen. We are not irrational. We know our oppression. We love ourselves and now it is time for us to speak.

The Communist Who Ruled the AMS: An Interview with Blake Frederick

By

Five years ago today, on November 27th, 2009, news broke in The Ubyssey of a scandal that would polarize campus for months to come. Two incumbent members of the AMS Executive, President Blake Frederick and Vice President External Timothy Chu, had gone behind the backs of AMS Council and taken drastic action to try to start a conversation about rising tuition and the barrier it represents to postsecondary education.

In what is now colloquially referred to as “UN-Gate,” Frederick and Chu filed a human rights complaint to the United Nations against the Government of Canada. With the help of PIVOT Legal Society, a local NGO, they argued that the Canadian government was violating its commitment to make higher education accessible (and eventually free) for all.

Frederick and Chu’s action started a firestorm on campus and in the broader Canadian media. Their opposition camp accused them of wasting AMS money on frivolous legal support, claimed they were wasting the UN’s time, and said they had embarrassed the university on the global stage. Meanwhile, their supporters thanked them for standing up for students and congratulated them for calling widespread attention to an issue that is consistently swept under the rug. In January of 2010, Frederick was very nearly impeached as a direct result of the incident.

In honour of the action’s fifth anniversary, Blake Frederick sat down with The Talon to talk about the UN scandal, what it was like being a radical leftist in the AMS, and whether or not UBC students can actually count on our student society to win meaningful compromise from the university in the fight for lower tuition.

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Could you tell me the story of your action, in your own words?

The UN complaint came at the end of a very long and frustrated political effort on my part to push the issue of tuition in the AMS. […] It was one of the main motivating reasons for why I was involved in the AMS, and why I wanted to run for President in the first place. I made that clear in my campaign and then Timothy Chu and I were constantly pushing in the AMS to adopt a policy to lobby for lower tuition, which we thought was a pretty modest idea but we confronted a lot of resistance. Every time we tried to put a motion forward to the council it would be rejected, so council wouldn’t even consider a motion about tuition.

Eventually this idea came up of putting forward a UN complaint at our Executive Council. So we instructed our policy manager to look into it and to contact PIVOT. Then we decided to file it because of the frustration that had built up to that point, but also because it was designed primarily to put the issue of tuition into the media. That’s really all it was designed to do – to get the issue of tuition into the media so that we could talk about it and why it’s an issue and why it acted as a barrier for students accessing post secondary education. The secondary purpose, which we were somewhat aware of at the time as well, was to piss off AMS council. And that effort succeeded on both fronts. But it was never part of any larger movement. It wasn’t part of any other action, other than our own personal efforts to push the issue of tuition.

Why did you initially decide to use the AMS as a platform for activism and radical politics?

Because it’s what I already knew and what I was already involved in. It was when I came back from a program I did called Canada World Youth after my second year at university. Half of that program I lived in Cuba, and I became open to different ideas when I was there. […] I was really inspired with the fact that education was free there. Obviously there’s a lot of problems but I was really inspired by that so [when I came back] I naively thought “Oh yeah we should push for this at UBC and the student union is the place to do that”. It was naive because I didn’t understand at that time that it was a conservative-leaning institution that had no interest. It’s a business. It’s operated as a business and the money just goes in to fuel this bureaucracy which then supports this business. I didn’t understand that at the time.

I also didn’t understand that the people who are getting involved are the people who are the least affected by the policies of UBC and the government. So, I was involved in this policy-writing job. And I was young and I thought: ‘All we need is good policy, if we just convince the university with our good arguments they’ll build more housing! We just need to convince them that its a good idea.” And then as I met them, as I met Brian Sullivan who was the VP of Students and I tried to talk to him about housing, I started to piece things together and realize that they weren’t actually committing to the agenda, they were just trying to pacify us to go away. It’s really the experience that I had in the AMS, interacting with the university, that radicalized me, guaranteed. So I just continued down that path. I was a bit involved with the Resource Groups as well but I just stayed on that path that I’d already started.

Around the current tuition hikes there has been a big debate about that sort of strategy, about whether the best way to fight the decisions is to sit at the university’s table and play nice rather than protest. What do you think about the AMS’ tendency to take the ‘play nice’ route?

Well, I can speak from when I was involved. A lot of my fellow executives who were elected and the council members are explicitly interested in currying favour with the higher-ups at UBC because of the work prospects that that will bring them after they graduate. I think that’s one reason why the AMS tends to be more conservative.

The other reason is that a lot of the people who are involved in the higher echelons of UBC – like the VP Students position and the President – when you interact with these people they are very very effective at disarming you and making you believe that they are well-intentioned and that that’s good enough. […] These are powerful people and you want to believe that they’re telling the truth. What I’m trying to get at, I guess, is the level of charm that’s involved with their “look at my world, everything’s nice over here”. They’re rich people, the people who you interact with at the UBC executive level. They’re rich people and they know exactly what students want to hear.

Another aspect of it is that, the people who get involved, that’s what they think is an effective way. They don’t want to ruin their relationship because of some belief that if you say the wrong things that UBC will no longer work with the AMS. One of the aspects of the SUB project that I hated so much was that it increases the propensity to do nothing on political issues because of this multi-million dollar partnership that the AMS and UBC have. When Tim and I would get political over issues like tuition, Brian Sullivan (the VP Students) would often come back and be like “Now, we’re also working on the SUB project, we need to be very careful how our relationship proceeds because the SUB project is really important and blah blah blah blah.” So there’s just a lot of institutional relationships that I guess the people involved in the AMS worry they will be breaking if they get too political.

My response to that is that the whole purpose of having a student union is to act as a political organization, to represent the students. Your purpose is not to be a service provider. Your purpose is not to run an effective business. The purpose is to advocate on behalf of students and push for their agenda.

Around some of the initial planning for the #IAmAStudent teach-in and movement, AMS folks such as President Tanner Bokor expressed concerns about protests damaging their relationship with the university.

I think its naive. This Tanner fellow probably believes that if he just makes the right argument he will convince UBC to do the right thing. That’s completely wrong. The university is a business. It is run as a business, and in order to make it do something that’s contrary to its business interests, you have to force it. You don’t force it by talking in a room at a table – that’s not leverage. It doesn’t make any sense. He can play his game of suits and ladders and whatever, but at least use the student protests behind you to your advantage. That is your bargaining power, that is your everything. If you have no threat of disrupting the business as usual then you have nothing.

Yeah we’ve seen some of that type of pushback against I Am A Student, the recurring claim that we can only stop the proposals if we bring the right types of arguments and thorough financial research to the university.

One thing that most people involved, even at the Council level, do not understand – or haven’t had the chance to see I guess – is that UBC acts like they’re well intentioned when they are dealing with the AMS… they are not. They are extremely aggressive and manipulative. It became very clear through the SUB process. They would sneak in clauses, they would try to screw the students out of millions of dollars through these interest rate clauses. We had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on lawyers to even understand what they were trying to do. They would lie to us – they would agree to something but then they would put it back in. It’s a historic pattern of lying and manipulation. […]

It always comes back to that point: they’re operating as a business, they are aggressive, they are trying to cut costs. And there’s a lot of ways to do that using the AMS as an enabler of sorts.

One thing that came up (off record) during the Knoll interview series was that during Tristan Markle’s time as VP Admin, the AMS would go to the legislature to try and lobby for post-secondary funding and then the BC Liberals would de-politicize the action by offering internships to the students. Did you have experience with that too?

Yeah, I went through that before I was President. I was Associate VP External at that time and I went to “Lobby Days”, that’s what it’s called. It’s a junket, it’s like a political junket. It’s the people who are involved in Council spending students’ money to go have wine with the decision makers. […] It was so fascinating when I went because I did not understand the relationship between these people who were involved in the AMS and the people who were involved in government until I went there, and I saw and experienced it – people putting on suits and going to the meetings and being all happy and jovial with one another when myself and some other people were there… we were angry! We were angry and mad as hell, right, and this was our opportunity to confront the people who were responsible for a lot of the injustices that were going on on our campus. And … they were just shaking hands and taking photo ops. Literally, they were taking photos with one another. My partner was there too and she was told by multiple Ministers how cute it was, that she reminded them of their granddaughter, who really wanted to make a difference. And she was like: “I’m not here to ‘make a difference’, I’m here to tell you that you are the problem.”

I remember that Tristan refused to wear a suit on one day and he got into this super heated argument with this guy named Matt Naylor. […] He was yelling at him about how disrespectful it was to not wear the right clothes and it was so obvious to me that we are coming here to become them rather than to push against them. So I went to that and the next year, when Tim and I were in office, we cancelled it (laughs). We just didn’t do it. And they really wanted to, they would not accept that. We mentioned that we wanted to cancel it and they were like “well we’ll pass the resolutions and do it anyways.” So we’re like “Ok, we’ll do it, we’ll do it. Don’t worry, we’re planning the meetings” and then we just never did.

[Note to reader: Lobby Days still takes place]

So besides the UN scandal and the new SUB, what else was happening with the AMS during your time as President?

Another really interesting involvement of the year when I was involved was – the university and Translink were working together to put an underground bus loop in the middle of campus. It was going to be funded mostly by Translink and so UBC was in favour of it because it was free infrastructure money. Everybody knew it was a terrible idea. Even the non-left-leaning students on Council showed up to all the consultations and made a lot of noise about it. So, I had meetings with UBC and they told me “we have information that the bus loop might be in jeopardy, don’t tell anybody.” And I was like “I’m not going to not tell anybody… like, if you’re telling me this I’m going to speak about it.” And they’re like “Okay, as long as you don’t tell anybody outside of council.” I was like “I’m going to tell council, and its going to get out anyways, but if you guys want to tell me what’s going on….” And so they told me that Translink was thinking of pulling the funding but they weren’t sure yet.

I immediately issued a press release (laughs) to the effect of ‘the underground bus loop was in jeopardy and needs to be cancelled for all these reasons.’ Well.. that somehow landed on the 6 o’clock news and then I felt the full wrath of UBC come upon me. They were not happy. I got a phone call from the President telling me that I was jeopardizing the reputation of UBC.

Stephen Toope?

Yeah, like I singlehandedly was jeopardizing the reputation of UBC – as if I had any ability to do that. He sent a letter to Council telling [them] that I had done this horrible action and that the value of a UBC degree could go down as a result of what I had done and they believed it. The people on Council believed it because it was like their boss telling them that they were being reprimanded. So I got censured for that and that was one of the first instances where the university really tried to punish me in an explicit way.

So did you ruin UBC forever?

Yeah, I think it was ruined before I got there.

Ayotzinapa Protest and the Importance of Solidarity

On September 26th, 2014, 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Mexico.

On November 20th, people of Vancouver’s Mexican diaspora and allied community members took to the streets to protest the lack of government response to the fact that these students plus over 20,000 more have gone missing in the past 8 years. These students were apparently on their way to hold a protest against discriminatory funding and hiring practises by the Mexican government. They were intercepted on their journey by local police and confronted. They were later turned over to the Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), a local drug cartel, and most likely killed.

These atrocious acts of censorship and abuse of institutional and political power mirror the recent Burnaby Mountain protests and the acquittal of Darren Wilson. There are clearly many layers of injustice here; why has there been so little investigation on the whereabouts of these 43 students? Why is police brutality still so prevalent when they are meant to protect us? Why does the Canadian government still consider Mexico a “safe country” for refugees? Why have so few Vancouver publications reported on the protests that happened in the heart of Downtown?

What if 43 UBC students went missing at the hands of police? This week Vancouver held local elections. But democracy does not exist when you can’t hold your government accountable. This is what the students of Ayotzinapa were doing. They were studying to become rural teachers and their biggest crime was being young, poor and idealistic.”No One is Illegal

UBC students, Alejandro Dounce and Bernado Garcia Espinosa, who both originate from Mexico participated in Thursday’s protest and shared their experiences with The Talon.

On the structure of the protest:

“It worked like a forum, where protesters were able to take up a microphone and speak to the rest of us about what troubled them; their reflections, and/or calls for action. One of the more outspoken protesters mentioned that Enrique Peña Nieto – the Mexican president – started taking the Ayotzinapa issue seriously only after the outrage started going global.”

On solidarity:

“The importance of protesting from Vancouver is to show solidarity with our people back home and to show the government that those of us who make up the international Mexican community are not happy with what is going on. It gives a global dimension to our plight, and protesting from outside the country, to some extent, allows us to denounce the state crimes of our government in an international stage.”

“On November 20th,  237 marches in solidarity took place around the entire world, including in Mexican cities.”

“It starts with the Mexicans that are scattered around the globe and little by little it trickles out to people who don’t necessarily have ties to the country. The BC Teachers’ Federation was present at the protest, and the president spoke out against the state crime, declared the union as standing in solidarity with our movement, and called for the Canadian government to denounce what was happening in Mexico. One of the best things we could ask for is official international pressure on the president.”

“We’re in a privileged position where we’re largely unaffected by the day to day corruption and injustices that occur in Mexico so, in a way, we owe it to the people back home who face that on a daily basis to spark a worldwide conversation about what is happening in our country. This is the value of solidarity.”

“The thing that made me the happiest was seeing the union of Mexicans united all around the world. There were pictures of the protests in Mexico City showing all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, roles, etc. marching against Peña. Learning that Mexicans stood up in Mexico City, in Paris, in Vancouver, in Cancun and so on is a very touching; unity bound by our culture and against a single cause – our clear inconformity with the way things are being run.”

On politics:

“We had a shift in government on 2012. From 1929 to 2000, we were governed by a political party called PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). In 2000, the first president from a different party – PAN (National Action Party) – was elected. In 2006, the second PAN President declared a ‘war on drugs’ that has led to massive casualties. People weren’t happy about the insecurity that developed, and so in 2012 we went back to PRI. One of the most important points Peña tried to make while he ran for office, was that he was less about fighting drug cartels and more about empowering the economy and ensuring Mexico became a world leader.”

“That background considered, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Peña would’ve paid more attention to Ayotzinapa if the image of a stable Mexico, a Mexico that’s attractive to foreign investors, that he is trying to present to other countries is being soiled by protests happening around the world.”

“In Mexico the media is largely influenced by political affiliations, and only 30% of the population has access to the internet. So for large, large sectors, television and newspapers are their only source of information. Many still believe Peña was able to win thanks to catering to lower economic sectors, far more unaware of the day to the day news regarding corruption, or more details over the shady backgrounds of his party. So, even if a vast majority of the internet world is clearly against Peña, there’s a lot of work left to be done. We want to inform voters, get the information to other Mexicans.”

On continuing struggles:

“One of my close friends in their 20s was unhappy with the state of affairs and wanted to go to one of the three protests that took place yesterday in Mexico City. But she kept second guessing herself because of how the government might respond to what were supposed to be peaceful protests. Excessive use of force or unprovoked violence by police, soldiers passing off as civilians and inciting violent outbursts and so on… she, and some other friends, were afraid of what might happen.”

On geographic privilege:

“We didn’t have to be afraid of how the government [in Vancouver] would respond, of how brutal police might be with us for expressing our dissatisfaction with the Mexican government. In a sense, being in a city outside the country gives us a safety blanket that people back home didn’t have when they took to the streets. And, I think, this is the bare minimum we could do to support the people in Mexico who protest despite any fear they might have and any repercussions they might end up enduring.”

On exposure:

“I think the most important thing for me was always exposure. Social media has become the ground for the movement to take off. Students have been the most active members to push this forward, to speak up, to criticize and the reaction that pushes other members to hop in.”

“So, social media has served hugely as the way for this whole “movement” to take off. Students and protesters have coordinated through Facebook, spoken up on Twitter, shared pictures in Instagram. In that sense not only is participating from here our way of showing solidarity and taking an active role, it’s a way of trying to give exposure to the movement.”

3 Talon-Approved Events: November 24-December 1

  1. An Examination of December 6th: 25 Years Later

UBC Access & Diversity in collaboration with the AMS  Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) hosts a panel on the École Polytechnique massacre, which will have occurred 25 years ago come December 6. The talk will feature discussion on the event and its position within a broader social picture. “What are the gender-based barriers faced by women in Canada and around the world? What aspects of gender-based violence often goes unseen?” The talk will examine discourses around gendered violence and the reasons why the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (established in honour of the victims of the Massacre) is still relevant today.

Tuesday, November 25, 12:00pm

Media Centre, Simon K.Y. Lee Global Lounge and Resource Centre, 2205 Lower Mall UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

 

  1. A Talk By Harsha Walia: Author of Undoing Border Imperialism

Writer and migrant justice activist Harsha Walia gives a talk at UBC campus. Walia does work with No One is Illegal, the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy and the provincial Social Housing Coalition, among other groups. She will be speaking about her latest book, Undoing Border Imperialism. An event not to be missed.

Thursday, November 27, 12:00pm

Room 100, Geography Building, 1984 West Mall, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

 

  1. Quilt the Colonization

Described as “an interactive workshop and dialogue on decolonization and Indigenous resistance,” this event will be led by Emely Baker and Patricia Herrera from the Vancouver Canadian Roots Exchange team. This is how the event is explained on the event page: “Using blankets to represent the lands of what is now called Canada, participants will learn about the distinct cultures and nations which occupy those areas to this day.” Cool eh? The workshop will explore the history of colonialism, treaty-making, Indigenous culture, and defiance.

Friday, November 28, 6:30pm

Building 1, UBC Global Lounge, 2205 Lower Mall, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

 

BONUS: Wixáritari indigenous resistance to Canadian-based mining

Join representatives of the Wixáritari indigenous people of Mexico for a presentation of the documentary Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians. Since 2009, multiple mining concessions have been granted by the Mexican government to multinational corporations to exploit the area of Wirikuta, one of the most sacred sites for the Wixáritari. La Luz Silver Project is a proposed venture by Vancouver-based First Majestic Silver, which would effectively destroy these sacred grounds.

Director Hernan Vilchez and two Mara’kate (Huichol spiritual leaders), the father and son protagonists José Luis Ramírez and Enrique Ramírez, will introduce and discuss the film. Members of Stop the Institute, a group raising questions about the new federal mining institute headquartered at UBC, will also be present.

Friday, November 28, 12:00pm

098 Henry Angus Building, 2053 Main Mall, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish territories

#ReasonsToResist at UBC: Finance and Labour

This is Part Two of a Five-Part series from The Talon on Reasons to Resist at UBC. See Part One: Tuition and Housing here.

The focus of this series is to reflect and extend the current state of activism on campus, by evidencing yet more potential issues related to financial and negotiating power at the University. It is by no means intended to cover all legitimate grievances, and even in the areas on which it focuses, it should be taken as nothing more than what it is: the angry research of a debt-encrusted grad student.

It shouldn’t take much to convince people that how an institution moves its finances around and negotiates labour compensation are incredibly important. In fact, more often than not, workers struggling for fair conditions and pay are given decidedly unfair offers based on numbers that might not be accurate, due to how these funds are distributed and reported. Such tactics highlighted below do not only impact workers on campus by depriving them of the opportunity for fair work and compensation; they also rob increasingly pressured students of the same funds, and maintain a detrimental culture on campus of underpaid and under-appreciated labour by those that literally keep the University running.

This capitalist culture of profit over labour compensation degrades service quality over time, among other privatization problems, and it encourages management to drop said compensation to the lowest rates with which they can functionally and legally continue. Increasing profit-mindedness in a public institution will always generate these results in some fashion, and they have a tendency to spread to other parts of the institution. Additionally, all campus workers are deserving of the same rights, protections, and public support of anyone struggling to get by, and they are also often being rhetorically spit on in negotiations by the same administration that does the same to students, with similar justifications.

Finance and Labour

Reason #34. It is very important to note that, yes, UBC is a public institution, and even a not-for-profit entity and a registered charity (“therefore exempt from income taxes under section 149 of the Income Tax Act”) (p. 6), but the University contains multiple subsidiaries that aim to make profits, particularly through housing and development loans and financial investments, and makes significant profits every year (p. 2).

Reason #35. For example, the sole purpose of the Student Housing Financing Endowment (SHFE) is to charge interest on loans to Student Housing and Hospitality Services when they build new housing, in order to contribute to the Spending Account for the TREK Endowment Fund. But even the standard 5.75% interest rate has been increased for more recent projects, such as the Orchard Commons housing, to about 6.15% (p. 7). Where’d the extra amount come from? Administrative fees (p. 8) from the University’s wholly-owned subsidiary Investment Management Trust Inc. (IMANT), who manage the majority of the University’s investments across 6 portfolios, totaling $2.8 billion.

Reason #36. UBC’s main endowment fund managed by IMANT sat at an all-time high of about $1.3 billion in March 2014, gaining an average return of 10.1% a year over the past 4 years. (2014: 15.6% return, 2013: 10.9%, 2012: 3.1%, 2011: 10.8%) In the 5 months from March 31st to August 31st this year, the SHFE made $35.1 million, and the IMANT endowments made $66.7 million. Other endowments in excess of $100 million that the University holds elsewhere earned $4.7 million in that time.

Reason #37. While endowment funds managed by IMANT generate over $100 million a year for both further investment and creating new funding programs, the amount able to be spent is limited in order to maintain the fund over time. The current spending rate is 3.5%, the lowest rate in over 20 years, despite high performance for almost 10 years straight. The University uses low performance in the 2008 financial crisis as justification to keep endowment spending low (p. 3), even though, in the long-term, endowment funds have almost only grown.

Reason #38. A financial “Report on Ability to Pay” commissioned by the Faculty Association provides a decent summary on the background of this profiteering issue at UBC, and also gives reason to question the budgets we are presented. According to the report, the University consistently has an annual “unrestricted operating surplus” over its spending, or in other words: profit. A “restricted operating surplus” must be spent on certain things, but the University can mostly do what it wants with unrestricted surpluses. These profits have run anywhere from $44-135 million a year between 2008-2012, for example (p. 2).

Reason #39. What do they do with these profits? The University moves the majority of them, along with other funds to easily total over $150 million a year, into two places: administration, management, and professional staff and financial investments (p. 1-3). This movement of funds has also created deficits, which can be reported to the public for the University to act broke (p. 3). It’s easier to do this when unrestricted operating revenues are not disclosed on financial statements and unrestricted and restricted surpluses are always consolidated in reporting, as is standard practice at UBC (p. 2).

Reason #40. As the above demonstrates, besides downplaying profits from the public eye, profiteering by public institutions in general almost always runs into problems. Primarily, they tend to do everything they can to redirect profits away from workers and into capital investment and management benefits. For a more detailed example, we’ll look at the 2012 labour dispute and strike from the TA union, and its relevant history. To start, the strike was over largely the exact same issues they striked over in 2003: stagnant wages and high costs to work.

Reason #41. Despite the fact that TAs must pay tuition in order to be employed, in 2003 UBC had refused to consider tuition waivers for them. Instead, UBC Public Affairs Director Scott Macrae suggested that struggling students push to “advance financial assistance.”

Reason #42. A Freedom of Information request later revealed that the only reason the 2003 strike was stopped by the government is because then President of UBC Martha Piper directly asked the province to protect the school year from being “lost” due to the TA union’s withdrawal of services. A BC university president not only can, but in fact did call provincial legislators in order to shut down a legitimate labour strike. Despite President Piper’s fears, Quebec has, for example a 54 year history of 12 student strikes, and their provincial government threatening to cancel semesters at least 8 times, but has never “lost” a term.

Reason #43. In response to President Piper, the BC Legislative Assembly forced striking student workers to stop striking and return to their jobs with Bill 21: “The University of British Columbia Services Continuation Act.” While this act has not been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as other similar “back-to-work” legislation efforts in BC, the text of the act specifically states that it performs its function “despite the Labour Relations Code,” putting a “cooling off” period in place between the union and employer (by specifically stating old contracts will be applied to present employment, in effect settling the dispute in favour of the administration). The act lasted for almost 3 weeks, ensuring nothing but talks (which had failed so spectacularly for so long, leading to the strike) were the only legal means available to the union.

Reason #44. The right for a union to strike was effectively, if temporarily, removed. The entire Bill 21 was rushed through all stages of legislation in a single day (March 12, 2003) thanks to special designation under the little-known Standing Order 81 of the BC Legislative Assembly. Can you think of another provincial law that passed every stage of ratification in a single day?

Reason #45. The actual discussion of Bill 21 in the legislative assembly saw MLA Joy McPhail demonstrating (p. 5463-65) that not a shred of evidence could be produced that suggested the on-going strike negatively affected students, and that the urgency with which the proceedings occurred were unfounded. The opposition’s argument (p. 5465-67) focused on students’ term papers and final exams approaching in a few weeks, and lack of TA-led sessions, stating these were urgent enough reasons to force the union back to work. Apparently they had not been told that extending a term and negotiating emerging issues between students and faculty seems to have worked fine for Quebec’s tumultuous university labour history. Regardless, the Labour Relations Board already heard all these arguments prior to this, and determined them to not be significant enough evidence of a service disruption to students to warrant action (p. 5463, 5467). The bill passed anyway.

Reason #46. This was all shortly after then UBC President Martha Piper successfully pleaded that her wage was significantly lower than those in comparable positions, allowing her to circumvent the Public Sector Employers’ Council’s guidelines of a 0% wage increase (p. 3). She gained a 63% wage increase, making UBC President one of the best paying jobs in BC’s public sector, a tradition it has not failed to carry on.

Reason #47. Top managers, directors, admins, and execs at UBC got raises in compensation between 10-30% in 2009, before the BC government’s “Net Zero Mandate” from 2010-12, which prevented public union wages from rising more than inflation (~2%) without equal cuts to benefits.

Reason #48. During this 2010-12 Net Zero Mandate pay freeze, management and administration positions at UBC that make $75,000+ a year in compensation received an average 4% annual raise, allowed to circumvent the Net Zero Mandate due to the language of their contracts, which require financial awards for reaching certain expectations of “merit” and “performance.” These increases total $9 million or half of the entire striking TA union’s wages in 2012. This is not surprising, considering UBC’s history of giving all those involved in labour disputes nice raises, except for underpaid workers that bring labour disputes.

Reason #49. From 2005 to 2011, administrators and managers at UBC received steady wage increases, and top executives’ wages went up by double digits, sometimes 20-30%. Despite UBC’s “world class” research reputation built on the work of its faculty, as of 2012, faculty salaries at UBC were 19th in Canada. The University’s faculty professional development funds are the lowest in BC, restricting them from advancing their ability to maintain that reputation. Faculty not accepting a raise far below the rate of inflation as a legitimate raise offer makes the university “extremely disappointed.”

Reason #50. In 2012, after 2 years of trying to bargain, the university proposed 0% wage increases per year for the TAs for 2010-12 and 1.5% wage increases for 2012-14 (or 0.75% a year for 4 years total), not even matching half of the rate of inflation or tuition increases. BC’s Net Zero Mandate is again used as their justification.

Reason #51. UBC employees that earn over $75,000 a year alone draw $452 million a year in compensation from the University, about 45% of total compensation paid to all employees. A “Living Wage” in Vancouver in 2012 was considered $19.14 an hour, or around $40,000 a year.

Reason #52. It is not particularly unusual for top executives at UBC and its real estate subsidiary UBC Properties Trust, already making over $100,000-$200,000 a year in total compensation, to get annual raises of 10-20% or more.

Reason #53. UBC Properties Investment Ltd. (the trustee of UBC Properties Trust) acquires, develops, and manages real estate for the university. It’s four senior administrators average over $300,000 a year (p. 4).

Reason #54. Former UBC President Stephen Toope made $587,366 in total compensation in fiscal year 2013-14, making him the 3rd best-paid public sector employee in BC at the time. Of this, $378,000 was his base salary. Current UBC President Arvind Gupta’s base salary on his April 2014 contract is $446,750. If all other benefits maintain their value from the previous year, this would make President Gupta’s total compensation for 2014-15 about $656,116.

Reason #55. According to An Analysis of the Gender Pay Gap in Professorial Salaries at UBC, female faculty make an average of over $14,000 a year less than male faculty at UBC (p. 2).

Reason #56. $3,000 of this difference is “considered discriminatory” (p. 2). While the report was not meant to address hiring practices, it attributes about $9,000 of the difference to the facts that “women account for about 38% of faculty members at the Associate and Assistant [lower pay] level, [and] they account for only 21% at the Full Professor [higher pay] level,” and less women are in higher-paying departments than men (p. 2).

Reason #57. Faculty pay isn’t the only gendered labour compensation issue at UBC. Childcare workers and early childhood educators, the vast majority of whom are women, earned significantly less wages than most other skilled professional workers on campus in 2012. This did get slightly better in 2013, but only as the direct result of a union caucus campaign that included strike notice.

Reason #58. Perhaps a potential child care workers strike was so effective because UBC has an established history of intimidatingly long waiting lists for child care. This also disproportionately impacts women students and workers, whether already with a child or considering one. These waiting lists are consistently anywhere from 6 months to 3+ years long. If you want infant child care at UBC, you are advised to get on the waiting list within the first few weeks of conception.

Reason #59. Cost of childcare services at UBC have risen about 25% in the past 3 to 4 years. Most campus workers’ wages, child care or not, have not risen at all when considering inflation.

Reason #60. There is significant evidence, partly made available through Freedom of Information request, of a shady capital flow procedure in which that UBC took a $3.5 million “contribution” in 2010 from developer Modern Green through its subsidiary UBC Properties Trust, explicitly in exchange for allowing the construction of the pricey Yu at Wesbrook condo building. The payment also just happened to precede multiple regulation changes or relaxations in early 2011 that would have prevented the eventual approval of the building’s permit in 2012. This potential bribe, claimed by CFO of UBC Properties Trust Don Matheson as simple collateral should Modern Green go back on their lease payments, calls into question UBC’s ability to ensure compliance with existing financial policies and regulations.

Reason #61. The University’s Vancouver Senate is also trying to change the admission standard (p. 21-27) for international students receiving extra English training at Vantage College to be admitted into UBC in their second year. “The proposed change clarifies” that successful completion of the 11-month Vantage College program itself will suffice to meet the requirements to transfer into another department at UBC. Regardless of whether an individual student has actually improved their English through the program, the fact that their professionally priced tuition has been paid and they have passed their classes means that their ability to comprehend English language instruction is expected to meet any second-year Arts or Science lecture in a UBC program. This makes the entire program seem far more of a money grab than a language learning platform.

Reason #62. It is very likely a result of UBC’s profit-seeking that a little under half of students who have been around campus for awhile to see campus developments as not concerned with students. The longer students attend, the less they believe that “campus is being developed with students’ needs in mind” (p. 4). 43% of 1st year students agree with that quote, and 20% of them reject it. But 23% of 5th year students agree with that quote, and 41% of them reject it.

 


 

Students should be as concerned about the how their university funds itself and deals with its workers as any faculty member, labour organizer, or education minister. It is far too easy to lose sight of economic and social sustainability amidst the trendy rhetoric of environmental sustainability, but all are equally as important to establish and maintain practices that don’t further oppress those we’re often allegedly learning how to help in university.

All our oppressions are linked. Whether you’re a student, worker, student worker, or their family, capitalist influences in the University are not only paying you less and charging you more, but they are also moving funds they do have away from you and toward further investments.

With that in mind, I feel an appropriate way to end this is to warn anyone looking at UBC budgets and projections to remember this, from that “Report on Ability to Pay” commissioned by the Faculty Association: “As with many universities, UBC’s budgeted figures for the future tend to be pessimistic and should therefore not be relied upon as a basis for assessing ability to pay” (p. 2).

If you have something that should be added to this list, spread it on Facebook or Twitter with #ReasonsToResist, or just all over campus with old-school flyers, wheatpaste, or tags. Or, stuff executive and administrator mailboxes with reasons why you don’t condone their actions.

This instalment of #ReasonsToResist was completed with additional files from UBC Insiders.

 

Social Justice Synonyms #9: “Transgendered”

Welcome again to Social Justice Synonyms, your friendly column at The Talon that encourages reflection on specific words and phrases we use and hear every day, and why they may be problematic. See our first week’s SJS article for wonderful suggestions on how to think about language.

This week’s term is transgendered.

You may have seen or heard transgendered used in media and literature, by organizations and institutions, or even by a friend. Some may wonder, what does this term mean and where did it come from? For a little Trans 101, the term transgender, sometimes conjugated as transgendered, was originally an umbrella term meant to encompass the histories, identities, and experiences of folks who did not conform to the gender roles associated with their sex assigned at birth. This term combines the prefix trans, meaning across, and the word gender, and originally included drag queens and crossdressers.

Currently, Transgender is used almost exclusively* to refer to trans men and women – people who identify as a sex or gender different or opposite from the one they were assigned at birth. Thus a trans man is often someone who is assigned female at birth (FAAB), but now identifies as a man and likely lives as one. Vice versa, a trans woman is often male assigned at birth (MAAB), but identifies as a woman. The language of ‘sex assigned at birth’ is an acknowledgement that people are often born with a sex assigned to them based on the presentation of their genitalia, without considering how a person may self-identify later in life. It is also recognition that for most people, gender roles are enforced from birth based on this assignment.

Back to the term ‘transgendered’. As a trans woman of colour, I cringe whenever I come across it. Here’s why – transgenderED would grammatically imply an action done unto a person, or a condition. Think about the terms gay and lesbian: they typically describe attributes of people, and you would never say someone is ‘gayed’. Similarly, transgender is correctly used as an adjective and not usually as a verb or noun; I may self-identify as transgender, but I am not ‘a transgender,’ and we are not ‘transgenders’ (unless we claim it in the spirit of self-identification). This is because most transgender people do not want to be reduced to or defined by society’s perceptions of gender and body norms; a noun is defining, while an adjective is describing.

All these distinctions may seem small, but they are incredibly important to the dignity and agency of transgender people. Unfortunately, society continues to ‘other’ transgender populations and individuals. When trans people are othered for embodying a breaking of gender norms, they are often dehumanized, and treated with less respect and dignity. Countering this othering process is partially why the terms ‘cis’ or ‘cisgender’ were developed to describe people whose experiences of their gender match the sex assigned to them at birth. Cis is the Latin-derived prefix meaning ‘on the same side of’, and is meant to complement the prefix trans, meaning ‘across from.’ This language is useful for identifying divergent experiences of cis and trans people, as well as their degrees of social privilege and disprivilege. At the same time, this language puts people on the same plane of understanding (where cisgender experiences are not automatically centred as the norm), being only different based on whether their gender identity matched the sex they were assigned at birth.

The persistent othering of trans people by society raises concerns around simply accepting ‘transgendered’ as a default term for describing trans people. As described above, the use of the word entrenches trans individuals firstly as ‘transgendered’, secondly as a person. This allows trans people little room to navigate how they want to define themselves. For example, a person may acknowledge that they have a history of cross-gender identification, yet not identify as transgender. Another person may actively identify as trans/transgender because they want to increase the visibility of a marginalized population. Both of these pathways to self-identification are minimized when people are labelled as ‘transgendered’.

So if you had ever used transgendered before, do not fret and be happy to know that there are alternatives! Besides transgender, you can also use ‘trans’; it is shorter and rolls off the tongue better, and allows for greater self-definition outside the gender binary. Preferences aside, below are some Talon-approved alternatives:

Use/Context Alternatives
“We provide services to women (including transgendered women).” “We provide services to all self-identified women.”
“Sexual Orientation –
Gay □ Lesbian □ Bisexual □ Transgendered □”
Just, no. ‘Transgendered’ is not a sexual orientation. I have actually seen this on a survey put out by an organization focussed on diversity… Do yo research!
“I love transgendered people! They are like, so brave!” “I love and admire trans people for who they are!”
“Laverne Cox is hot, for a transgendered man.” Laverne Cox identifies and presents as female. Therefore she is a woman, not a man. (You can also skip the trans or transgender qualifier unless it is relevant.) Alternative – “Laverne Cox is a beautiful possibility model for trans people everywhere.”
“I am transgendered” The Talon is not in the business of policing identity unless it is highly problematic, and you should not be either, so this is fine. An example of something problematic would be non-indigenous people identifying as Two-Spirit, as it is appropriating a term that is culturally meaningful to many Aboriginal groups.

Tara Chee is a local trans and queer activist, and board member of Our City of Colours. She enjoys writing long-winded Facebook rants on her free time, in hopes that it can help make the world a better place.

*Footnote: It is important to note that the terms trans (generally a short form for transgender) is evolving in many communities to be inclusive of those who are non-binary (people who do not strictly identify as male or female) as well as those who are transmasculine or transfeminine. This includes people who identify with both or neither gender, or those who identify more to one side of the gender spectrum, but may not desire to adopt some of the physical traits or social roles attributed to men and women. How a trans person sees their body and their relationship to it is not strictly tied to the gender we see performed every day in society.

Defenders and Caretakers of Burnaby Mountain: We Stand with You

Note: The Talon editorial collective would like to apologize for not having consulted Elders regarding place names on Burnaby Mountain. We understand that Lheklhukxate is one name belonging to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people and as such do not want to erase place names known to and belonging to other nations.

The Talon editorial collective would like to express solidarity with those resisting the Kinder Morgan expansion on the occupied Indigenous territories otherwise known as Burnaby Mountain. The building of the Trans Mountain pipeline does not have the consent of local Indigenous communities, whose land the pipeline would be built on, nor the consent of Burnaby residents, Indigenous peoples and settlers alike. This pipeline would run from Alberta to Vancouver carrying millions of barrels of tar sands everyday, cutting through various communities. We stand in support of those fighting against this colonial corporate greed and Indigenous land degradation.

Since August, the residents of Burnaby, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and the City of Burnaby have come together to resist and oppose the National Energy Board’s decision to allow Kinder Morgan, a corporate energy giant from Texas, to operate on Burnaby Mountain.

This week, however, there was an injunction granted by the courts that allowed Kinder Morgan to forcibly evict and arrest protesters, so that the company could begin its drill work. Twenty six people were arrested yesterday, and arrests are continuing today.

In the larger fight against destructive resource extraction economies, it is only grassroots movements and collective community resistance that can succeed in halting these projects. As such, we call on those who are able to partake in direct action at this time to join Indigenous land defenders and their allies. They need support up on the mountain, where people are both in and outside of the injunction area, and allies to stand in solidarity with them at the courts.

In the fight against corporate development, the destruction of Indigenous territories, state criminalization and ongoing displacement at the expense of profits by the colonial Canadian state, we at The Talon believe that students can and should mobilize.

To get involved or support this resistance, you can:

To learn more about this issue, check out these links:

Kelly Gerlings’ #WeOppose Protest Speech: “UBC, Can You Hear Us Now?”

This speech was given by Kelly Gerlings of #IAmAStudent at the AMS Trek for Tuition and Housing.

Hello UBC!

My name is Kelly Gerlings and I am a student.

I want to tell you a few things. I am a domestic student, a settler here. I am graduating this year, in May (let’s not talk about it). By all means, what UBC is proposing shouldn’t “affect me”.  But it does.

This affects me because I am tired of this system. I am tired of this system that supposedly stands for a “place of mind” becoming and existing as a capitalist machine, run by corporate greed, (what else explains those high level salaries), this ‘university’ that churns out sheep-like thinkers, critical enough to be ‘different’ but never radical, never loud enough.

UBC, is this loud enough for you?

This affects me because I am disappointed. I am disappointed in this so-called “consultation” process, our decisions and the empty promises of this university. Speaking of empty promises, let me tell you a few more things.

In 2012, UBC released its updated strategic plan “Of Place and Promise”, with nine different commitments and “specific promises”, to be followed with a sustainable budget and a “transparent reporting process.” UBC, in case you forgot your own promises, let me remind you. You committed to “act with integrity, fulfilling promises and ensuring open, respectful relationships.” You promised to be “a safe place for significant conversation across profound cultural difference,” to “increase access for all and particularly for historically disadvantaged groups,” to “dedicate [your] resources to dialogues and action on issues of public priority.” UBC, in your own words you promised us this: that it is “your task… to re-imagine what UBC is and who it serves, and to recognize that the University’s foundation is strengthened as the walls between us come down”.

These tuition and housing fee increases do not create a safe place. They do not increase access for all. They do not bring down the walls between us.

Where is your integrity now, UBC? You have re-imagined nothing here. You have forgotten who you serve. Us, the students. If even one student is opposed, and all others silent, you have a responsibility to listen, UBC. With your shiny CEO salaries and corporate glass towers, you have forgotten who you are here for. It’s a damn good thing we are more than one student.

This affects me because I am angry. I’m angry at this “proposal”. I’m angry at the market that ‘necessitates’ such a proposal. I’m angry at the world that excludes, discriminates, vilifies and denies critical quality education to as wide a population as possible. I’m angry at the standards of society that dictate what is and is not “quality education”. I was wondering, UBC students, if you are angry too?

Because I am a student. You are a student. We are students. The Board of Governors is meeting to vote on the tuition free increases in almost two weeks. It is time we got angry. It is time we got loud. If you oppose, make some noise.

Listen up, UBC, this university on the stolen lands of the Musqueam peoples, it is time to put your money where your mouth is.

Can you hear us now? We oppose the proposed tuition increases. We oppose the proposed residence fee increases. We oppose the barriers that limit who can and who cannot attend UBC. We oppose the corporatization of this university. We oppose the dogma that education is a commodity rather than a right. We are students, not commodities.

And you, fellow students, protesters and activists: we need to raise our voices, however few or many of us there are, and make noise! We must resist these institutions, this system- we must fight for a better university.  We have the loudest voices, we have strength in numbers, and we have the courage to fight this unjust system. And so, it is time to be so deafeningly loud that they can’t ignore us any more.

UBC, how dare you think we are not loud enough? UBC, can you hear us now from your mansions? Do our angry voices reach your ivory towers? We oppose!

We have a petition you can sign, both on our website iamastudent.ca and around today! Find us and sign!

We are having a Carnival Against the Hikes, next Thursday November 20th, 7pm in the SUB, Norm theatre.

Find us, find yourself, find your movement #IAMASTUDENT on facebook and stay informed!

Facing Our Debt: A Photo Project

For some background to this project click here.

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“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee increases are a ‘disciplinary technique,’ and, by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the ‘disciplinarian culture.’ This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.”

– Noam Chomsky


 

All photos by Jacqueline Wong. Special thanks to Indi Keith and Alex Mierke-Zatwarnicki.