Image by K. Ho

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!

  • Wylie Fuller

    thank you

  • Guest

    We really do have to wonder why university administration decided that backing down from engaging in conversation while still claiming to ‘appreciate our feedback’ would be the better option at this advanced stage of protests. The motto of “tuum est/it’s yours” really falls short of itself when our collective body has been utilizing every opportunity to express ourselves and taking charge of what affects us, but somehow refuses to be heard by those who have been encouraging us to do so from day one. Thank you Kelly for your riveting and empowering speech that really encapsulates this!

  • Iman Ghosh

    We really do have to wonder why university administration decided that backing down from engaging in conversation while still claiming to ‘appreciate our feedback’ would be the better option at this advanced stage of protests. The motto of “tuum est/it’s yours” really falls short of itself when our collective body has been utilizing every opportunity to express ourselves and taking charge of what affects us, but somehow refuses to be heard by those who have been encouraging us to do so from day one. Thank you Kelly for your riveting and empowering speech that encapsulates this!