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Austerity sparks student mobilization on a quiet Manitoba campus

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kaitlyn Gibson and Ian McDonald. Both are undergraduate students at the University of Manitoba, as well as organizers in the campus' new Student Action Network, an organization that is at the centre of the fightback against administration attempts to make major cuts.

As university campuses go, until quite recently the University of Manitoba has been a relatively politically quiescent one. It's not that nothing has gone on -- today's guests mention the existence of a feminist group that has been doing some important work, for instance -- but the general student political culture at U of M has not at all been oriented towards activism or critical engagement.

This year, though, that has started to change. It began in a trickle, as staffers with the Canadian Federation of Students took some steps to stimulate autonomous student organizing on the campus. (And without getting into the range of both supportive and critical analyses of the CFS as a whole among left student organizers in different parts of the country, subsequent events indicate this intervention has undoubtedly been a useful one.) And this trickle became a flood when the administration of the U of M announced that they would be bringing the global agenda of austerity to campus by making substantial budget cuts. With the surge of student concern about what impacts these cuts might have on their access to a quality education, the University of Manitoba Student Action Network has taken off and has been working collaboratively with various campus organizations and unions to oppose the cuts. They have been doing outreach and education among undergraduate students, and organized the first mass demonstration on the campus in many, many years.

Gibson and McDonald talk with me about the campus, about the threatened cuts, and about the upsurge in student organizing prompted by the arrival of austerity on their quiet campus.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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