Students ponder life in a corporate-driven world

By Georgia Black
Bishops College
St. John's, Newfoundland

Students and professors discuss corporate infulence

Young people attending the annual general meeting of the Council of Canadians are looking for ways to counter the messages they get every day from the corporate world.

The Council is a group of people from all across Canada who challenge the government and corporate power. They work with organizations throughout the country and around the world to promote economic justice, to advance alternatives to corporate-style free trade, to preserve our environment and to assert our Canadian sovereignty.


At its meeting in St. John's, the COC held numerous workshops including one called "Beyond McWorld", facilitated by Rob Altemeyer, a native of Winnipeg. Only six people participated in the discussion but the diversity of the group brought the session to life.

Melanie Thomas and Colin MacDonald are studying political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). They said most high school students haven't come to the realization that they would have a twenty-five thousand dollar debt after they'd completed university, and therefore, should be doing something about it now.

Tony Middleton, a computer science professor at MUN, came to this workshop because he wanted to know "what students are up against" and what their impressions of today's world were.

The group talked a lot about student debt, which was no surprise due to the presence of a university professor and students and Laura Coultos, a student at the province's publicly-funded college, the College of the North Atlantic.

"We're being beaten with the same club," said Middleton, meaning that it's not just the students who are suffering from tuition increases and educational cutbacks, it's also the professors and the staff. He thought that the three groups should form some sort of Concerned Faculty Council and tackle the common opponent as one large ensemble.

Students talk about cuts to education

 The topic of conversation then moved onto partnerships between big corporations and educational institutions. The liaison between Bishops College in St. John's and Nortel was mentioned, praised for its financial benefits to the high school but also criticized for Nortel's dealings in Burma. The group noted that many schools were facing the same issues.

"Educational institutions (like MUN) are strapped for cash so they turn to the corporations for money," said MacDonald.

He's worried that an "unbreakable" dependency was forming between the two and he was also scared that if corporations decide to stop funding, then where's the money going to come from?

Rob Altemeyer leads the discussion

Thomas talked about how corporations aren't democratic and have too much power, and Middleton piped up saying that, "We vote for people who don't have democratic power."

"If you hear something long enough, you start to believe it," said Thomas, in regards to corporate slogans, and she finds that most people welcome these with uncritical acceptance.

 So, you may be asking yourselves, are there any solutions? Of course there are! There are approximately 5.3 billion of them and that number is increasing daily.

"We underestimate our power," said Thomas about consumers.

As Rob Altemeyer said, "You vote for your government every four or five years, but you vote for your future every time you buy something."

Everyone's opinion was that we need to educate the general public to support local businesses whenever possible and not to support the huge industries that don't offer us, as the consumer, alternatives.

Did you know that the average Canadian watches 23.6 hours of television per week? That's over three hours a day! So, the feeling of the group this weekend was to switch the TV off whenever possible, read a book, ride your bike, walk or use public transportation instead of taking the car. Remember: it's your choice!



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