by Kristen McEwen
History is appearing to repeat itself as the University of Regina has recently reached a point of crisis, forcing a dormant University Council to meet on March 6.
Parallels can be drawn between what is currently happening at the university and what happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to alumnus and former Carillon editor-in-chief Don Kossick.
“When we were organizing in the late 60s and early 70s, there was kind of a similar situation happening where the university was being corporatized,” Kossick said. “We used to actually call this, when Ross Thatcher was the premier of the province, the ‘University of Sas-Thatcher-wan’ because he would try and impose his corporate view of development on the university.”
Kossick was a student at the Regina campus from 1964 to 1968, which was then part of the University of Saskatchewan. In 1967, Premier Ross Thatcher attempted to gain control of the university budget.
The students, faculty members and employees of both the Regina and Saskatoon campuses created a campaign to prevent this from happening. Kossick said he and a group of others would hold teach-ins to inform students about campus issues. Sometimes these meetings would take place in the pit located in the middle of the Administration/Humanities building, where students would pack the area to listen.
“I was thinking about parallels (to today). I think the university community has to talk to the wider community,” Kossick said. “And we did a lot of that, we used to put out the Carillon. That would be distributed to every town in the province because people who are taxpayers kind of look at that and go, ‘Oh, university’s costing us so much money.’ We kind of buy the line that the investment is not worth the outtake without realizing what the university does for a community, for their children and how it keeps a province and a culture alive.”
Don Mitchell - former Student Union president, Carillon editor-in-chief and mayor of Moose Jaw - said the reason why students appear to be disengaged toward issues on campus is because many students lead busy lives, balancing part-time jobs on top of their course load.
He also said technology has allowed students to be aware of issues without having to physically be at the location.
Kay Niedermayer is on the board of directors of the Regina Public Interest Research Group and recently helped organize Israeli Apartheid Week. As a student activist, she said trying to get students interested in issues can sometimes be disheartening.
“But universities are where we learn to identify and criticize injustice and construct creative strategies for change,” she said. “For this reason, student activism has defined my time at this campus, for better and for worse. But I must admit that without the community of active students and professors that I am now grateful to call friends, I doubt that I would have stayed in Saskatchewan to finish my degree."
Kossick said people need to be engaged to ask questions about what’s happening to both universities.
In the middle of a provincial boom, the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan are in crisis and have some of the highest tuitions in the country, he said.
“I think this is off the table now, no one is talking about tuitions, they’re always talking about what it takes to go to university,” Kossick said. “It’s all about who’s going to get cut back, how many courses are going to get cut back. I think (money’s) being diverted to a place that doesn’t serve the purpose, and the vision and principle of what a university should be.”
He added that the movement in the '60s and early '70s focused on building up the liberal arts.
“I think (the University of Regina) young faculty is cool and some of the older faculty as well,” Kossick said. “(If you have) the liberal arts community that served everybody alongside the younger faculty alongside a really vibrant student movement, I think you could make some good change.”