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Opinion: Board of Governors chooses to raise tuition again... SERIOUSLY?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2 Comments

Written by Denise Martins

Yesterday afternoon the University of Guelph’s Board of Governors voted on a budget that included a 4.5% increase to tuition fees for domestic undergraduate students. This board has two elected undergraduate students (Martin Straathof and Guillaume Blais) that accepted the increase, a choice that must be socially reprimanded.

At a recent panel discussion on tuition fees, Guillaume Blais made the claim that getting a university education is a choice. With 70% of new jobs requiring a post-secondary degree this illusion of choice only furthers the agenda of those looking to privatize a socially vital part of our society. Admittedly, he also explained that he was not under the burden of debt unlike other students so maybe we can let his naiveté slide.

I agree that tuition fees are a choice, but not one that falls on students to make. The fact is that having an educated society is beneficial to all of us. Do we want a doctor that struggled to graduate because of the part-time job? Do we want the architects, tasked with the crucial role of building our bridges to keep us away from water, stressed over their student debt? Do people truly think that education is not a common good?

Why is it that Ontario students are so willing to shoulder the burden of funding post-secondary education by themselves? Have we truly reached the level of privilege in universities where we think that graduating 40k in debt just for a useless degree can be justified?

Luckily, this is not the case elsewhere in the world. Students in Quebec have won a tuition fee freeze time and time again through mass rallies and student strikes. Just a few months ago, when the Quebecois government proposed raising tuition fees by 75% over the next few years, students called on their allies and declared a student strike and have consequently suffered firsthand the types of state reprimands most of us have only seen in V for Vendetta and the Hunger Games.  Approximately two hundred thousand Quebec students are currently on strike.  Around 250 000 protestors marched in Montreal on March 22nd of this year, with another major demonstration planned for April 22nd this upcoming weekend.

So what is so different here? Do we really see our education improving 4.5% every year? Should students that, unlike our representatives, have had to carry on the debt and take up jobs to make ends meet really be phased out? Perhaps what this ivory tower needs is a giant wall around the university premises in order to keep pesky working class students out.

Will we also stand idly by when they start charging fees for secondary education, which is something that portions of the Drummond report foreshadowed? Will we happily fill out paper work proving we are financially solvent enough to have our hearts defibrillated? Where do we draw the line?

I refuse to believe students are so unwilling to speak up against tuition fees. I accredit the fact that this pattern of increases has been allowed to proceed due to ignorance. It’s up to the Board of Governors to be honest and open about the decisions their making. If they fulfilled their job in representing campus interests and involving the community in decisions that affect us, I am confident we would make very different choices. I am confident we would put a priority on accessible, quality post-secondary education.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: GavinA on Apr 20, 2012 @ 2:03pm

    The three student representatives for the board of governors are democratically elected and are legally obligated to make decisions that are in the best interest of the University, even when those decisions are tough. To suggest that they should be “socially reprimanded” because they voted in a way that contradicts your opinion is appalling. It goes against the fundamentals of democracy and quite frankly it sums up why students are becoming more and more apathetic to being engaged in campus. Student representatives should not have to fear social reprimanding because of choices they make. That is the type of political intimidation that occurs in fragile states and is by no means Canadian. It is absolutely oppressive and you should be ashamed for suggesting it is appropriate behaviour.

    The Budget was presented in 7 public meetings where no one spoke against the proposed increase. The board meeting had no students attend to voice their opinion or opposition and to go beyond that there wasn’t even an election for the student board of governor’s seats. 2 out of the 3 positions were acclaimed. You are entitled to have an opinion but please do not insult the values and freedom we are privileged to enjoy just because you did not get your way.

  2. Posted by: dgarvie on Apr 27, 2012 @ 1:07pm

    Hi Gavin,

    I would have to disagree with you. If our elected representatives do not represent our interest, it is our democratic duty to criticize them. As a student representative myself, I absolutely accept and admire students that come to us with disagreements. If we cannot defend our views or actions, then maybe we we’re wrong. It is anti-democratic to attack criticism as inappropriate. We can only move forward as students if we discuss the issues openly and honestly and are not afraid of criticism. Do you support an increase in tuition fees? Your rhetoric about the author attacking all that is democratic and Canadian does not address the real issues of decreasing accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada.

    Also, a note on your claims of apathy. I have seen the exact opposite this year. The CSA, with a lot of input and support from students, put forward a document outlining recommendations and concerns, including well-researched information on the inaccessibility of post-secondary education and ballooning student debt. This was discussed in meetings with the student Board of Governors representatives in question, also the rest of the Board of Governors read it and were aware of its recommendations and concerns. Over 200 students have signed a petition to support the document as well as two special status groups and a college government, with more to come. For the document and the petition please check out: https://www.change.org/petitions/undergraduate-petition-to-the-university-of-guelph

    I question your impression that student input was encouraged on the budget. As a Commissioner at the CSA I was not invited or aware of the seven public meetings you mention. I really doubt the rest of the student body had any idea that these were taking place. In fact, we at the CSA had to ask for a separate student session for comment on the budget. Also, you suggest that the BoG meeting had no student attendance. Actually myself and another CSA exec were there but were not permitted to speak. Why would students come to a meeting if they are not allowed to contribute? These are not open and public meetings... not that they shouldn't be.

    I do not believe that critical debate on tuition fee increases is what is causing apathy. I think it is the opposite. When students do not see elected representatives representing their interests or when they don’t even know that the Board of Governors exists, because there is no outreach to students, then they don’t know where to express their frustration. I will note that students tend to figure it out in the long run and your claims of apathy are fortunately unfounded. Last Sunday in Montreal, 300 000 students and community members held the largest protest in Canadian history, with one of the demands being an end to the increase in tuition fees in Québec. We could use some of that here! Or would that be anti-democratic in your view?

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