Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Aquatic Centre Gym, Part II

First, I should note an addendum to my previous post. Rec has released their proposed fee reductions. They're very good. They're 25-30% in the Elite (refereed) divisions, and 45-50% in the Co-rec. This is a very welcome development.

Something interesting happened with the Aquatic Centre Gym closure. Note Tuesday's Ubyssey - there were two stories, one dealing with the closure, and one covering student reaction. And really, that's fair. Student reaction and outcry has been nothing short of remarkable. Those of us who've been around a while can't remember anything like it.

How has it worked? Quite simple. The first people were tipped off by people in HKin - a Facebook group was established that became a central online gathering point for people to a) find out, b) get information, and c) invite more friends. But most importantly, it became a hub to tell people where to apply pressure, whom to e-mail. I have no idea how many e-mails were sent, but people sent them to the right people. Moreover, the AMS swung into action with a rapid response and applied pressure. In short, the student lobbying arm worked like it's supposed to.

What's been the outcome? As of now, the University has agreed that this needs to go through the committee, and that the original decision bypassed that. They've called a meeting for some time next week, though haven't indicated when it will be yet. They haven't provided any more information, are unprepared to present a case for action. In short, they got caught with their pants down and are desperately trying to pull them back up.

What are the lessons for the student movement?

  1. Students need to know HOW to make a difference. This is kinda obvious. But not really. See every student has a beef with the University, but doesn't know that they have the power to get it fixed. And the AMS ought to help empower them. Which leads to...
  2. The AMS needs to lobby WITH students. If this was just a case of the AMS complaining, we wouldn't have got anywhere. Conversely, without properly applied AMS pressure, student e-mails would have just been dismissed. Both groups need each other.
  3. Use new media and Facebook. It has huge power. And can be a really easy way to reach people without that pesky e-mail list. If the AMS has a lobbying priority, use Facebook to mobilize student support. It's kinda simple, really. And in doing so, the AMS can work with students to get it all done. The communication between Jeff and the Facebook group has been so encouraging.
Admittedly, it's still not done. But things look good. We've seen a relatively successful grassroots student uprising... the question is how we, as students, can replicate it in the future.