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Nationwide day of action sends the message that education is a right

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

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  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

  • Photo Credit: Denise Martins

    Photo Credit: Denise Martins

Written by Stephanie Rennie

On Wednesday February 1st, students of the University of Guelph gathered in solidarity with post-secondary schools nationwide to rally against rising tuition fees. The rally began at 2pm by an introduction from CSA Academic and University Affairs Commissioner Jessica Carter. A large banner was designated for students to write their thoughts on the rising tuition fees and to express their frustration towards ensuing debt.

External Affairs Commissioner Demetria Jackson spoke of the thirty percent tuition grant recently implemented by the provincial government. Jackson showed frustration against the fact that the grant is being advertised as a rebate for students, when in fact the grant only assists two-thirds of students. Jackson expressed that “approximately 600,000 students in Ontario will not benefit.” The long list of exceptions to the tuition grant demonstrates its exclusivity of mature students, students four years of out of high school and those in professional or graduate studies. Jackson highlighted the issue of international students facing overwhelming debt and students that are unable to get parental support, even though OSAP and the tuition grant takes the income of parents into consideration for providing students with assistance.

Following Jackson’s address, Communications and Corporate Affairs Commissioner Drew Garvie addressed the crowd of students holding banners proclaiming “Drop Tuition Fees.” Garvie spoke of the day of action at a federal level. “Students from coast to coast are saying that education is a right and are putting demands on the table and putting pressure on the federal government to provide funding for post-secondary education.”

Garvie broke down misconceptions that post secondary school is not a federal issue, and claimed that money that is intended for education, needs to actually be spent on education. “Students are asking for a post-secondary education act at the federal level…to make sure federal dollars go to providing post secondary education,” Garvie stated.

He also addressed the controversial remark made by Stephen Harper last week regarding increased cuts. Garvie stated that Harper’s statement that “the cuts are going to come stronger and faster than anticipated” is not necessary within the current economic crisis. “If you look at the military budget spending $20 billion dollars on the military budget each year, it would cost $6 billion dollars to eliminate tuition fees for every undergraduate student in the country,” Garvie commented and expressed that students need to be informed of what is going on at the federal, as well as the provincial level.

Following the CSA Commissioners, Jaime Brenes-Reyes addressed the crowd by speaking of the future of post-secondary education for his four year old son. Brenes-Reyes was applauded by students rallying in the University Centre when we proclaimed that “education is a right, not an investment.”

The floor was open for students to express their own frustrations with the rising costs of tuition fees. One English and Theatre Studies student shared a powerful and emotional story of her personal struggle to finish her undergraduate degree because of the soaring tuition costs. She addressed Drew Garvie’s earlier statement that “education is suppose to be the great equalizer in society, it is suppose to be where all people can come and learn what they want to learn and get a decent job to better themselves and better society,” as she spoke of the unfairness of rising fees.

The rally concluded with one Guelph student leading the crowd to form a human mic, a concept derived from the occupy movement. Students chanted into unison against increasing tuition fees. Following the chants, a large white banner displaying messages, comments, and debt calculations was attached to a series of red balloons and went soaring upwards, much like our tuition fees.

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