The situation of the Latin Quarter and the institution at its heart, the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), is the subject of many concerns. While the Berri-UQAM sector reflects the image of a decrepit and fractured neighborhood – with its closed windows, open drug trafficking and widespread homelessness –, we learn in particular that the Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) of the Government of Quebec over 10 years devotes $28,500 per student to McGill University, leaving UQAM with crumbs, or $357 per head of pipe.
Does Quebec still take seriously the mission of an institution that is supposed to be the symbol of the democratization of higher education for Francophones?
It is important to contextualize these observations in order to avoid conveying stereotypes about people who live, work and study in the Latin Quarter. It remains a living or working environment for a wide variety of people, activities and dynamics, and must be understood in this unique reality in Montreal. Its revitalization must all the more be at the heart of the revival of the sector, and more broadly of the reinvestment in the mission of UQAM.
It is the bastion of university education in French in Montreal, thus assuming a fundamental responsibility for the preservation and promotion of the French language, generating both cutting-edge fundamental research, while ensuring access to students whose parents have never had this opportunity, and in particular to the children of immigrants, the second generation. In fact, the Uqamian community has been particularly affected by the impacts of the pandemic: isolation, return to the regions, obligation to return to the workplace, etc.
Despite everything, UQAM is the daily theater of vibrant projects led by a unique community at the service of the community, both in terms of teaching and research and creation. UQAM has also always been one of the main engines for the vitality of the district: more than 30,000 students and thousands of professors, lecturers and staff members who come, live and work there.
If UQAM is going through a period of uncertainty, it is precisely time to ask the real questions of the government and the people of Quebec: are we taking seriously the socio-economic and scientific role of UQAM in Montreal, in the Quebec and around the world?
Not reinvesting in UQAM’s mission would be to abdicate on a vibrant Francophone Montreal in our cultural, economic and scientific spheres. In the same way that we must ensure the integrity of other institutions such as the Orchester symphonique in Montreal or even a French-speaking state corporation such as Radio-Canada in Montreal, a Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and the flourishing French-speaking CORIM.
Today more than ever, it is imperative to recognize this distinctive mission: it is not UQAM that needs to be supported, but its distinctive missions in which society must reinvest. We must go beyond the funding logic based on parametric calculations essentially linked to the number of students in class, and ensure that UQAM pursues its mission in its space and time. We need UQAM now, but above all we will need UQAM tomorrow.
UQAM is also a space for reflection and action where we try sincerely, with rigor and in a committed manner to respond to the challenges of humanity: it is the place where we value difference, where where we take a stand and where we carry out research to find alternatives to the dominant models. UQAM does not only play a role in its neighborhood. UQAM is also the university that seeks solutions to the fundamental questions of our time. That’s what my UQAM is: it’s the development of high knowledge, transmitted and disseminated to the public and in political circles in French.
What is and what will be our contribution to the revitalization of the neighborhood? Putting our driving forces such as the School of Design, the School of Social Work or the Galerie de l’UQAM into the revival of the neighborhood, to imagine a Knowledge Hub so that our units are invested in supporting the downtown community. city, to provide spaces for living, working and collaborating to allow urban fabrics to take shape, whether with the CHUM, the Grande Bibliothèque, via the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and community circles and of course with the City of Montreal.
This is how we contribute to this neighborhood and could also help revitalize it to reinvest together in UQAM’s mission and transform current uncertainty and challenges into collective opportunity.