The increasing militarization of education, lack of democracy, accountability and transparency in the university governance structure, and the gentrification of campus galvanized University of British Columbia (UBC) students in the summer of 2007 to form their very own Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) âe” a consensus-based, open and inclusive collective that is unafraid to use direct-action to enact radical social change.

Since its inception, SDS has been a vociferous and active opponent of military recruitment on campus and employed several anti-military recruitment strategies to dissuade the military presence here. We’ve also helped host Ward Churchill, Malalai Joya, Obdullah Omeish, and Mark Weisbrot to speak on campus as well as co-organized panels in support of Venezuela and Shawn Brant.

A few SDS members recently ran for student government and won, thereby inserting themselves into the student governance structure to enact change from within. Other SDS activists are members of the Anti-Poverty Committee (APC), Students for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), editors and writers of The Knoll, and organizers of TrekPark âe” a direct action campaign to reclaim public space on campus. We are committed to being an active body and we are passionate about the possibility of creating a better university and, more generally, a better society.

One of the projects that we’ve spent the preponderance of this semester on is hosting a Week of Resistance at UBC. This week, March 3-7, is the first ever Week of Resistance. During this week we’re hosting a conference, “Resisting the University,” rebuilding TrekPark, and engaging in spontaneous and theatrical acts of resistance.

Resisting the University is about resisting the commodification and corporatization of education with an anti-militarization, anti-gentrification and direct-action bent. Our conference unites community activists, UBC professors and students and aims to create a dialogue about the nature of the University. We have two keynote speakers for this conference: David Noble, a radical professor at York University, and Denis Rancourt, an anarchist professor at the University of Ottawa. Moreover, we have panels everyday about issues that affect us as students and members of society but that aren’t usually addressed in the classroom.

An important panel that we’re hosting is about academic freedom and features Kevin Annett and former assistant professor Robert Fredricks, who was fired from UBC in 2003 because he allowed Kevin Annett to give a talk to his students âe” a talk about the genocidal history of Canada’s past with reference to indigenous peoples. Another important issue that we’re addressing is the rise in sessional teachers. Due to the increasing difficulty to obtain tenure, the role of professors as public servants has been undermined âe” more and more instructors are unwilling to take a critical stance on important issues because they fear being denied tenure or, as in the case of Robert Fredricks, they fear being fired outright.

To promote our Week of Resistance, SDS built a Mountain of Student Debt on Wednesday, February 27 in front of Brock Hall (one of the financial centres at UBC). Our mountain was made of garbage bags (which we filled with recyclable material) and symbolized student debt. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the average student debt in BC is $27,000.

We, as students and members of SDS, believe that education is a right, not a privilege. Therefore we proudly shout, “Zero tuition!” We marched that day with a red megaphone, flutes, buckets and drums throughout the Student Union and Old Administration buildings and Brock Hall letting everyone know, especially the administration and their security hawks, that students are alive and kicking. Complacency, pessimism and passivism are our biggest enemies as activists; there is nothing more empowering than becoming aware of your agency through a nice protest.

After our Week of Resistance, we’ll be organizing to commemorate Iraq’s invasion and occupation by the U.S.-led imperialists. SDS at UBC plans to resist injustices so long as they exist. We place ourselves within UBC’s radical history and the history of student activism across the globe.