Faculty joined in rally, saying education is a valuable resource

Mount Royal University was awake Wednesday morning with the thud of beating drums and the low chant of eager protestors. Students, teachers, faculty and members of the public wanted their voices to be heard.

“I have a 3.7 average and I can’t get into the program because there’s not enough money,” said Emily Catsirelis, who is trying to get into Mount Royal’s education program.

“I’m here because we should get the money that we deserve.”

Mount Royal students, teachers and faculty alike gathered together to march to Alison Redford’s office and protest budget cuts that will affect the school.

Photo by Jill BattisonMany of the more than 200 protestors gathered outside of Mount Royal’s East Gate had red felt cloth cut into the shape of Alberta pinned to their jackets or hats. Others waved signs that read, “We are Alberta’s future,” “Advanced education is not an enterprise,” “Student’s are Alberta’s resource,” and “Education is not a debt sentence.”

Upon re-election, the provincial government had promised post-secondary institutions a stable budget, including a 2 per cent increase for the 2013-2014 budget year.

Instead, in a budget announcement last month, Mount Royal University’s Campus Alberta Grant was cut by 7.3 per cent. The university now faces a $14 million deficit for its 2013-14 operating budget.

Frances Myketyn Driscoll, a Mount Royal fourth year anthropology student, said she helped organize the group to try to raise student awareness about what’s happening with the provincial budget cuts.

“We just wanted to have a visible showing to help us educate more students and inform them of what’s going on and show the provincial government that we’re not happy about this budget.

“Seeing that professors and students and even staff members are in support of each other shows that it’s not just the students making a fuss,” she said.

The protest that started on campus began to move toward Alison Redford’s office, located only a few blocks away.

During the march, protestors began to chant, “No ifs, no buts; no education cuts” and when they reached Redford’s office, chants became more personal, targeting Redford directly.

“Redford you are out. We know what you’re about: cuts, losses, more money for the bosses,” chorused the crowd outside of her office.

Despite the chanting crowd, no one from Redford’s office made an appearance.

First-year Mount Royal student Sierra Francisco, who is trying to get into the bachelor of science program said she moved here from Montreal thinking that Alberta was a rich province.

The Government of Alberta cut Mount Royal University’s Campus Alberta Grant by 7.3 per cent.

Photo by Jill Battison“Coming here and seeing what she’s doing with the place, I feel betrayed,” she said.

It is not only students, however, who are upset about the budget cuts. Several professors and department chairs ready to defend education were found in the crowd as well.

“I have been in Alberta for 40 years and every time there’s a problem with oil money it always comes out of education and health. We’ve got to be a little bit more foresighted, planning ahead and not taking the cuts in education because an educated population is a high resource,” said Irene Naested, chair for the department of education and schooling.

Roberta Lexier, assistant professor in the department of general education and one of the organizers of the event, said that she was very pleased with the support.

“I think that we as a public need to be involved in these discussions and feel empowered and know that we can have a voice in what’s happening,” Lexier said.

“People said that students won’t get involved and that people in Alberta don’t protest and don’t get concerned about things. But we proved them wrong and we had a great turnout.

“This is hopefully just the beginning of all of this.”

jbattison@cjournal.ca

Read more about the protest here.