Bristol students join picket line

A significant number of Bristol University students joined an estimated 20,000 strong Workers’ Union strike in peaceful protest against government reforms to public sector pensions on November 30th.

Students joined picket lines alongside university lecturers and staff before joining the general public and marching through the city.  Demonstrations ended in Castle Park, where several representatives of the main public service unions addressed the crowds.

School and university staff are angered at government plans to raise the state pension age to sixty-seven while making public sector workers pay more into their pensions, which unions feel will leave them working longer for less.

Politics lecturer Ryerson Christie stated that “[today] is about us trying to protect public education in the face of privatisation. We see you as colleagues; we don’t see you as customers. David Willets [Government Minister for Universities] does”.

Indications of public sympathy and support have been given, with BBC figures estimating that sixty-one per cent of people are in favour of strike action, with a total of two million public sector workers having joined the protests.

Criticism has come in the form of public figures and students expressing hostile views, with presenter Jeremy Clarkson proclaiming: “I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.” Protestors have condemned such comments.

Catholic University reintroduces same-sex housing

The Catholic University of America will implement a single sex housing policy following the dismissal of a case by the D.C. Office of Human Rights accusing the University of discrimination.

The case, which alleged that CUA’s return to same-gender dorms after twenty years of co-ed housing discriminated against women, was raised by George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III.

In its dismissal, representatives of the Office of Human Rights stated that Banzhaf had not demonstrated that women would not have equal access to educational opportunities or be subject to any material harm. Failing these criteria, they ruled that the policy did not violate the District’s Human Rights Act.

Citing increased rates of sexual activity and drinking, CUA first announced its plan to reinstate the single-sex housing policy in June. Victor Nakas, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs at CUA stated: “Even as [President John Garvey] began his tenure at Catholic University, he was thinking about the possibility of transitioning to single-sex residence halls, and the prior administration at CUA had begun to study the idea as well.”

Leslie Martin, the speaker of the Student Association General Assembly at Catholic University has spoken about her appreciation of the meaning behind the decision, “after hearing the explanation from President Garvey, I understand the policy is supposed to emphasize respect for each sex by giving space between the genders”.

Ontario Liberal party announce thirty per cent tuition grant

The Ontario liberal government is fulfilling a major campaign promise this month by handing down a thirty per cent tuition grant. Those eligible this year will receive $800 if they are university students and $365 for college students, with expected totals rising to $1600 and $700 respectively in September 2012.

31,000 students immediately qualify, with recipients expected to grow annually, according to Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Glen Murray. The grant is set under a strict set of parameters and has received criticism from organisations such as the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS), due to its limited number of eligible applicants.

“Despite Dalton McGuinty’s repeated promise to reduce tuition fees, his government is introducing a grant that will reach just over 300,000 of Ontario’s more than 900,000 students,” stated CFS Chairman Sandy.

The Ontario Conservatives have also expressed their disappointment with the grant, arguing that a government facing a $16 billion deficit should not be launching such an expensive program.

Addressing financial concerns, Murray stated: “The only negative is that we had to find the money within existing funding … The only direct student aid program that’s gone is the technology and textbook grant which is about $150.”