Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/11/2009 (2761 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The submission features a litany of old grievances about high tuition and education funding, but quickly goes off the rails.
"We submit," the AMS writes, that the B.C. and federal "governments have engaged in a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations."
The AMS, UBC's students' union, wants an independent expert or special rapporteur to look into the matter.
Now, forget the fact that the AMS offers virtually no evidence demonstrating that high tuition is an impediment to accessibility. Enrolment has remained steady among all income groups since the early 1990s when tuition began to rise dramatically.
And, forget the murkiness of claiming higher education is a universal right. Wouldn't universality also entail extending educational opportunities to those who fail to meet academic standards?
Accusing a country of "gross human rights violations" should be a serious issue, and not the expression of a fantasy that equates Canada with some violent dictatorship.
There is some debate over what the difference is between a "gross" violation of rights, and a garden variety violation, but over the 1990s consensus congealed around a few key points.
A gross human rights violation includes, as outlined in a 1993 paper presented to the UN Economic and Social Council: "Genocide, slavery and slavery-like practices, summary or arbitrary executions, torture, disappearances, arbitrary and prolonged detention, and systematic discrimination."
Comparatively lesser violations such as infringements on due process, free expression and other civil and political rights are no doubt serious, but it would be insulting to equate them with genocide and torture. Identifying a human rights violation as gross is usually reserved for conflicts in Darfur or the Congo, or with Apartheid South Africa, not with the tuition policy of the peaceable Canada.
Apparently to bolster their case, the AMS complaint includes an impact statement from a Tristan Markle to demonstrate the negative consequences of rising tuition. It is not entirely clear what the point of Markle's statement is.
In his impact statement, Markel claims that he is $42,000 in debt. But, this was after he initially graduated with a degree (and no debt) from the University of Toronto while living at home.
Markel's debts accumulated when he chose to move to Vancouver where he completed a second program. After graduating in May of this year, he found a "suitable" job in four months.
Yet because of his debt, he argues, he "will not be able to attend graduate school as soon as (he) would like."
Are we to feel sorry for Markel? He has completed two university programs and has been successful in finding work in a tight job market. What does this have to do with university accessibility? And how exactly is postponing graduate school for a few years representative of a gross violation of human rights?
So, does the AMS really believe that Canada's tuition policy is equitable with torture? Maybe. I don't know. What does seem clear is that they, like anti-tuition advocates everywhere, view people who choose not to go to university as a poverty-inflicted mass, who desperately want to pursue post-secondary education. All they need is a $500 reduction in tuition fees.
Anti-tuition advocates appear to be so impressed with their educational experience that they think naturally everyone else wants to emulate them. If they don't, there must be something gravely wrong. This is not a reflection of empathy for the disadvantaged. It is narcissism.
Carson Jerema has an MA in politics and is a former editor of The Manitoban.