On March 15, roughly 600 protestors marched from the University of Alberta to the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton to rally against provincial budget cuts to post-secondary education.
The provincial government announced a 6.8 per cent decrease to Alberta universities’ operational funding on March 7.
U of A students and community members rallied in support of the Alberta Coalition for Action on Post-Secondary Education, a group that aims to give students a voice on issues raised by the province’s education cuts.
The rally began at a lecture hall at the U of A, where roughly 500 people met to discuss the potential ramifications of the operational cuts. The group then marched to the Alberta Legislature Building in downtown Edmonton.
Fourth-year U of A political science student and event organizer Brent Kelly said the rally was held to send a message to the provincial government.
“I think a diversity of voices is needed. I think the student voice is key in as much as students recognize that the quality of education is going to decrease as a result of these cuts,” said Kelly. “What the government should be doing is investing in post-secondary education, investing in other parts of the knowledge economy, but the government is in fact doing the opposite. From our perspective, the government is in many ways cutting our future.”
Kelly fears faculty downsizing and increased fees at Alberta’s universities and said all members of Alberta’s post-secondary system should be prepared for future struggles.
“What’s going to end up happening here in Alberta is that students are going to pay more money for a decreased quality of education,” said Kelly. “It’s extremely important that students are aware of these dangers and that students are taking action to work together with faculty, staff and administration to oppose these cuts and to ensure that we have stable and adequate funding for post-secondary education.”
Kelly said that the provincial government has not kept its promise to maintain a strong education system in the province.
“Universities are supposed to be autonomous institutions that independently try to search for truth and conduct research in the most effective and efficient manner possible,” said Kelly. “To have the government intervening in university and the academic structure and deciding what should be prioritized is really concerning.”
Other rallies in Edmonton are expected to occur in the following weeks, including a rally on March 21. At this time, there have not been similar movements elsewhere in Alberta.
“One way or another, we’re going to keep planning events,” said Kelly. “What we had on Friday has catalyzed quite a bit of energy, not only on our campus but other campuses as well, which is really positive and really powerful.”