From the archives: student activism at U of T

Below is a selection of some of the best articles regarding student activism in The Varsity’s archives from the 1940s to the mid–2000s. Each story offers a unique perspective on U of T’s rich history and evolving attitudes towards political engagement at Canada’s premier post-secondary institution.


“Ask $20,000 For Student Relief” — Tuesday, January 27, 1948, Vol. 67

“We have a serious responsibility to the hundreds depending on us as the only source of aid. It is too serious to ignore,” suggested International Student Service’s Art Maybee. U of T allotted an unprecedented aid quota for the relief of university students in post-World War II Europe and Asia.



“STRIKE: In 1895 U of T students went on strike — for the first time, and won” — Wednesday, January 27, 1955, reprinted and sourced from Vol. 91 (1971)

William Lyon Mackenzie King may have initiated U of T’s first student strike, but the embattled editors of The Varsity, James Tucker and J. Montgomery, secured the students their first victory.

Online - 1955 (1971)



“Petition Ottawa to seek cease-fire in Vietnam” — Monday, January 11, 1965, Vol. 84

U of T group Student Union for Peace Action employed multilateral inclusion of other campus groups to sway the Canadian government to endorse a cease-fire in one of history’s bloodiest wars.

Online - 1965


“Rally support for March 27” (The Varsity Editorial) — Monday, March 17, 1980, Vol. 100

The Varsity editorial calls upon students to strike while the iron is hot ahead of a March 27 rally against tuition increases and failure to improve student aid.

Online - 1980


“Students: the new guardians of the state” — Thursday, February 13, 1986, Vol. 106

Canadian youth struggled to find their place in the political sphere of the 1980s. As students became more focused on career development, their values became more conservative. Rather than pushing for new progressive reforms, students across the country were limited to defending established rights, “working within the system, rather than against it.”

Online - 1986


“What did the student strike accomplish?” — Tuesday, March 14, 1995, Vol. 115

Of the 40,000 to 80,000 estimated protestors at the national day of action, 4,000 hail from U of T. With little media coverage and a deeply divided central message, it is “amazing” students accomplish anything at all.



“New York State of Mind” — Thursday, September 16, 2004, Vol. 125

Twenty-six U of T students and a university professor were among those present for a protest of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

Online - 2004