Students occupy Queen's

Matt Thoronton, Occupy Kingston protester, helps set up the on-campus Occupy movement in the Queen's Centre during the National Day of Action on Wednesday.
Matt Thoronton, Occupy Kingston protester, helps set up the on-campus Occupy movement in the Queen's Centre during the National Day of Action on Wednesday.
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The Occupy movement came to Queen’s on Wednesday when 30 students, faculty and community members set up camp in the Queen’s Centre.

By approximately 11 p.m. occupiers had left the Queen’s Centre voluntarily without prompting from Queen’s administration.

The National Day of Action, also on Wednesday, captured many students in solidarity across Canada with the Drop Fees Campaign, which advocates for lower student fees and greater student funding.

This day of action is organized through the Canadian Federation of Students and its aim is to promote equality within the educational system.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the average tuition fees for Canadian undergraduates were $1,714 in 1992.

However, by 2012, the average fees increased to $5,366.

This was only one of the issues raised by the Occupy participants who gathered at the Queen’s Centre.

Anne-Marie Grondin, vice-president of campaigns and community affairs for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), said financial barriers may prevent her from finishing her graduate degree.

“Part of my work in this campaign is also to try to put into place the mechanisms that are going to make sure that other students don’t face the same barriers,” Grondin said.

During her time in post-secondary education, she said she’s seen a massive change in what universities focus on.

“[Universities] are about us, and there’s a long-standing tradition of student involvement in deciding the vision for universities,” Grondin said. “More and more this is getting kind of trampled on by the prioritizing of only financial concerns.”

The future of Occupy Queen’s will depend on decisions made by the assembly of attendees.

“The plans are going to be very flexible obviously because it’s all just in the spirit of Occupy — it’s all directed through the general assembly,” she said. “The same kind of idea applies to how we’re going to organize tomorrow’s events.”

Grondin said the aim of the event is to be positive and educational for all attendees, and removal by administration is not expected. On Wednesday morning, occupiers held a pancake breakfast at the corner of University Avenue and Union Street, before walking to the Queen’s Centre.

“We’re not seeing this as a violent kind of tactic or as a threat to the University in any way,” Grondin said. “Students are coming together to learn about all kinds of democratic processes … we’re telling the Queen’s community that we want to hear their concerns.”

Grondin said the fact that Phases 2 and 3 of the Queen’s Centre have been postponed indefinitely won’t be a main focus of Occupy Queen’s.

At the first Occupy Queen’s general assembly on Wednesday, Matt Thornton, an Occupy Kingston protester, said the Kingston movement will be relocating to the Memorial Centre in March, where an open source action centre will be set up.

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