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Inaugural Anti-Austerity Week aims to educate students

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its first ever Anti-Austerity Week Sept. 14 through 18. According to SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Affairs Emily Boytinck, the events and workshops were intended to educate the McGill community.

 “The purpose of Anti-Austerity Week was to develop baseline public education for folks who haven’t been involved in anti-austerity work before, or those who still want to learn a little bit more, and to invite people with different perspectives about anti-austerity to speak in workshops,” Boytinck said.

SSMU Mobilization Coordinator Nicholle Savoie echoed Boytinck’s sentiments, explaining that the aim of Anti-Austerity Week was not to organize students against austerity, but rather to inform them.

“A lot of people who were interested in getting involved didn’t necessarily know what was going on, or know a ton about austerity,” Savoie explained. “So we thought that it would be good to start-off the year with a week to get informed and hear some different perspectives [….] SSMU isn’t in any way leading the anti-austerity mobilizing on campus. Our role is to facilitate the spread of information and to support groups that are already doing [anti-austerity] work.”

Savoie additionally explained how students can continue to take part or learn more about the movement in other ways. 

“Build links with other campuses and organizations and the McGill students who are already mobilizing on campus,” Savoie said. “Read about anti-austerity through the Montréal media co-op [….] Francophone universities have been really active in pushing the anti-austerity narrative, which has trickled into McGill campus, and now we’re starting to get really involved.” 

Molly Swain, president of the Association of McGill Support Employees–Public Service Alliance of Canada (AMUSE-PSAC) led an informational workshop on Sept. 15 entitled “Mobilizing from the Margins.” Swain discussed the history of the anti-austerity movement in Montreal and shared what she would like to see happen in the future.

“My hopes for the future of the anti-austerity movement is that it begins to expand to its conceptions of struggle, and its analysis of austerity as a fundamental part of capitalism, rather than simply a neoliberal trend that can be solved if certain kinds of public funding is reinstated,” said Swain. “The anti-austerity movement should be reflexive to the needs and realities of those participating in it, and its strategies and tactics should be determined that way, rather than by relying solely on what may have been effective in past struggles.” 

SSMU hopes to continue the conversation on austerity in the future, though plans to do so aren’t yet certain. 

“There are no specific events planned right now, but we will definitely be hosting more soon,” said Boytinck. “We also will be organizing contingents to various demonstrations throughout the Fall.” 

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