Proletarianize the University! Expand the Transitional Year Programme!

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A primer written by the Revolutionary Student Movement – University of Toronto chapter

Situation of proletarian First Nations and Canadian youth

Proletarian youth make up a large fraction of the Canadian population! Living in this country means our lives are shaped by the capitalist state’s exploitation of people, plunder of the land, and of resources. Capitalism exists for profit and for expansion, both outside and inside Canada’s borders.

Today, corporations are fleeing the country to set up factories, call centres and offices where labour is cheapest. They’re importing temporary migrant workers from the “global south.” What does this mean for working-class youth? It means that we experience a high unemployment rate of 20%. That’s 1 out of 5 youth! For immigrant youth, the rate is closer to 1 out of 3!

What prospects are left to us? Jobs that are, on whole, non-permanent and casual. These kinds of jobs increases underemployment and subjects youth to precarious work. Nowadays, immigrant youth are competing with, and/or working side-by-side with their parents as well as other temporary migrant workers.

The education system in Canada is embroiled with contradictions. Out of 10 youth, only 4 continue to post-secondary education. This rate is even lower amongst First Nations, Black, Latino and Filipino youth. Those who make it to post-secondary education are plunging themselves deeper into debt as tuition fees and student loans continue to rise at a rate faster than inflation. We work hard to stay in school and graduate with a degree, only to join the ranks of unemployed and underemployed.

While youth in Canada and all over the world have mobilized against worsening poverty, military occupation, and imperialist wars, politicians are putting more money into building super-jails and funding psychiatric mega-complexes. The ruling class deals with our “unruliness” by throwing us in jails and into the psychiatric system; this is especially the case with First Nations, Black, Latino and Southeast Asian youth, who are overrepresented in the prison system.

It is in this context that the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) exists. TYP is full-time, 8-month, access to University program for adults who do not have formal qualifications for university. The majority of TYP students are First Nations, Black, single mothers, and other working-class people. A number of TYP students are also survivors of the criminal justice and psychiatric systems.

Post-secondary education has become the minimum requirement for a many sectors of industry in the country. While post-secondary graduates face increasing rates of un/underemployment, not having access to a degree puts proletarian youth at an especial disadvantage – resulting in fewer career options and channels them to lower-paid, more precarious jobs.

It is in this context that the University of Toronto administration is threating to eliminate TYP!

The People’s History of the Transitional Year Programme (TYP)

Influenced by the militant student movement of the 60s and early 70s , the founders of TYP were students themselves. They saw the need to create a specific program that will prepare working-class, Black students to access post-secondary education, while at the same time, transforming the university to become a site of revolutionary struggle.

Timeline:

1968: The Black Education Project (BEP) opened a the Universal Negro Improvement Association building at 355 College St.; That summer, BEP prepared Black students for admission to York University and the University of Toronto

1970: the summer program was relocated to Innis College at the University of Toronto and included other communities – Native, working-class youth and women; after many negotiations with the University, a full-time TYP was opened

1970 – 1976: TYP operates as an “equal opportunity” program at UofT, a traditional and elitist institution; the program was constrained by inadequate funding and constant scrutiny; institutional support was tenuous

1976: The Crowe Report was published, citing “racial tensions, administrative problems and Marxist content in the curriculum as endangering the program;” the report criticized the program’s community participation

1976-1977: University administration temporarily suspended TYP resulting to denial of access to 50 students; Father John Kelly of St. Michael’s College was selected by the university to carry out another review of the program

1977: TYP was resumed after restructuring, administration now reports directly to the Provost –new changes sacrificed early community involvement

1982: TYP moves into its current home, 49 St. George Street

2009: UofT administration threatens to dismantle TYP; the mobilization of the Transitional Year Program Preservation Alliance (TYPPA), an alliance of TYP students, alumni and non-TYP students postponed the elimination

2011: The university launches a $2-billion fundraising campaign: Boundless, which includes “Access and Opportunity” as one of its priorities

2012: UofT Vice-provost gives TYP two options: amalgamate with Woodsworth Academic Bridging Program and lose autonomy, or face complete elimination

Summer of 2013: UofT administration threatens to seize 49 St. George to make space for the construction of the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship; plans relocate TYP to Woodsworth College; Provost instructs TYP administration to suspend hiring of sessional faculty

Fall of 2013: TYPPA launches “Expand the TYP” campaign; current TYP students conduct survey amongst peers and identify three main demands:

1) to stay in 49 St. George or be relocated to a space that serves their needs

2) guaranteed autonomy

3) boundless expansion

Revolutionary perspectives on the TYP and the university

For the Revolutionary Student Movement, the establishment and existence of the Transitional Year Programme was an overt political effort to proletarianize education in a myriad of ways: in increasing the admission of proletarian students in campus, providing accessible and tangible support for its students, and in designing and delivering a progressive curriculum.

TYP students have the option of taking courses from different streams – majority of them intended to relate to the students’ experiences of oppression and encourage critical thought. Because of TYP’s autonomy over curriculum development and implementation, many courses study significant anti-colonial, anti-capitalist literature. While supporting students to successfully complete post-secondary education, TYP itself provides a temporary refuge from the brutal material conditions that its students struggle with on the day-to-day.

For the Revolutionary Student Movement, the pending elimination of the TYP is a testament to the active role played by the university in the capitalist and imperialist system! The dismantlement of TYP means that the university will continue to bar more working-class youth from entering its gates, and that it has and will continue to be bought out by its corporate donors. While threating the program’s dismantlement, it even had administered tuition schemes to either discourage poor students from applying or bury them into further debt!

Despite heavy student opposition, the university is moving forward with replacing the back campus with toxic astroturf in preparation for the PanAm games in 2015.  At the same time, it has chosen to fund the parasitical expansion of the Munk School of Global Affairs, Rotman School of Management, and the Engineering department . It’s becoming more obvious that this institution aims to be the centre of knowledge production that supports & justifies military occupation, extractive industries, and imperialist expansion.

Despite heavy opposition, UofT is replacing the Back Campus Field with toxic astroturf. The administration has similar plans for TYP's current home, 49 St. George St. - demolish it to make way for the construction of the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

We are not fooled by the Boundless campaign’s promises for the community: its aim of “exploring of the University and its community for global leadership” means nothing but dedicating the university to reproduce the next generation of the global bourgeoisie, as well as its defenders, functionaries and sentinels of the existing class society!

For years, the university’s top administration at least went as far as to tokenize the TYP, referring to it as the “jewel in the crown of the university.” Now they deem TYP too costly, and have slowly reduced its budget so much that it compromised the success of its students. When asked why the TYP has not seen any money raised from the Boundless campaign, we were told that TYP should hire its own “fundraising agent!”

What seems to be hypocrisy from the university is no surprise to us, proletarian and racialized students. We know the that TYP doesn’t fit into the university’s renewed commitment to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie!

What needs to be done

A closer look at the history of TYP reveals its revolutionary roots. It was an initiative that was started by proletarian students who recognized the colonial and capitalist ideology propagated in the university, which at the same time, barred racialized and poor students from accessing resources that would allow them to engage and produce critical thought & pedagogy.

For us then, there is no better time than now to preserve and ultimately, expand the Transitional Year Programme! It must be once again led by its founders, the students, serve as an access program to proletarian students, and be at the forefront of the production of revolutionary thought and practice.

In the words of one of its founders, Horace Campbell, “the success of the TYP should result in the removal of the need for TYP when the school system and university at the base of the struggle for democracy.”

The particular campaign for the expansion of the TYP is in line with RSM’s larger struggle to proletarianize the university. The role of the Revolutionary Students Movement is to take education back into the hands of the proletariat, by demanding:

  1. University of Toronto to increase the admittance rates of proletarian youth via programs like the TYP, free of charge and with full state subsidy..
  2. University of Toronto to respond the democratic process through abolishing the Governing Council, an undemocratic body, and replacing it with a democratically elected body, representative of the students, staff and faculty, for decision-making.
  3. University of Toronto to revolutionize its educational content, so as to expose: first, the role of Canadian imperialism and capitalism in the genocide and oppression of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples, as well as proletarians of the third world; and second, the way by which oppressed people have gained liberation through struggle.

Ultimately, these demands cannot be achieved under capitalism. Thus, these demands serve as a preliminary programme for educational reform after the capture of state power and during the transition to communism. The capitalist system cannot satisfy the needs addressed by these points, which reflect the advanced aspirations of proletarian students, and that conflict must ultimately come to a head.

In order to win this struggle, we urge all proletarian, progressive and revolutionary students to join our fight in the expansion of the Transitional Year Programme, and waging a campaign to further proletarianize the campus. We want to lead the transformation of university into a site of revolutionary class struggle!

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