Tag Archives: tuition fees

Ontario students: it’s time to step up

10 Sep

In 2005 during the last college professor strike, CSA organized students to protest their professors by wearing pawn hats and making signs like these.

I’m writing this listening to April 26 1992 by Sublime. If you’ve never heard it, you must. It was in Québec City where I first heard this song many years ago and, having had the FTAA protests, it’s a pretty appropriate place to be introduced to such a song.

So, while writing this, I’m inspired by songs of rioting. I just thought it was useful for you to know that.

This week, Statistics Canada should release its tuition fee data. If it’s like the past two years it will come out late next week. Or, if it’s like the 2 years before that, late October.

Québec students just had a massive victory. After the longest student strike in Canadian history, a high profile campaign that embarrassed the hell out of the establishment and sticking to principles of direct democracy, they managed to block the hike like they said they would. They also embarrassed the hell out of Jean Charest who’s next political step will have to be behind the veil of patronage that is given to all failed politicians who, despite having received a veritable shit kicking, still slide their selves into high paying consultant positions or new, high profile law firms.

Actually, if Charest receives anything less than a Senate appointment, my guess is that we can assume he was snubbed. Or maybe he’ll take over for Dalton McGuinty.

Now, for activists who believe that higher education should be free, this isn’t a total victory. The PQ will continue to increase tuition fees by the rate of inflation, but it’s much better than what Charest was promising.

Indeed, the students have won enough hearts and minds of Québecers to truly influence government.

Québec’s fees will remain relatively stable next week in StatsCan’s data. So will Newfoundland and Labrador’s, where students, united, have been successful at rolling back tuition fees at a rate unseen in any other Canadian province.

For Ontario, the data will demonstrate, again, that students will be paying more. With the seventh consecutive tuition fee increase of up to 8%, Ontario’s tuition fee gap as the most expensive province in which to study will continue to widen. On average, undergrad tuition fees will likely rise from $6,640 per year to $6,972. That’s nearly $7K *on average*.  For graduate students, their average fees will likely be around $8,184 (this number is misleading: StatsCan has admitted to excluding MBA tuition fees from this calculation because, as they told us at the CFS at the start of this practice, it skews the average…. wtf).

None of what I’ve written here, though, will be a surprise to any student who has just received their tuition fee bill.

This is the fault of neo-liberal wolves wearing some sheepskin trying to pretend that they’re of the enlightened humanist class (just read the Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities says online…) Ontario students cannot afford to keep accepting these tuition fee hikes.

And yet, “student” organizations like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Student Alliance strangle any hope of activism on their campus through their confusing use of doublespeak, faulty logic and outright lies. OUSA’s last major submission boasted that they had the plan to increase quality without any additional cost. This, coming from an organization that supports higher tuition fees, is outrageous and certainly not reflecting the opinions of anyone on their campuses who aren’t members of the Young Liberals or babysitting the houses of their university administrators. The College Student Alliance was too busy playing a public relations game to support college management during OPSEU’s recent round of negotiations to even discuss quality or tuition fees any time recently on their website, though their last coherent position on tuition fees was that they should rise by (wait for it………) five per cent.

Ontario students have to take back the student organizing on their campuses. They have to approach their students’ unions, use their resources and organize through the structures that they can access. If, like at McMaster University, their General Assemblies have been taken over by Liberal/Conservative students who are only interested in raising student fees to give the administration more money for student activities, the students have to rise up and take back their students’ union.

It’s absurd that Ontario students, studying right beside Québec, pay three times more for the same education. The only difference is that students in Ontario have been betrayed by all three political parties and the popular movements that support lower fees are more organized in Québec.  So, some lessons:

College students: take back your students’ unions. College students in Québec have *free* education and you can too. You need to get organized, take control back from student union staff who have built fiefdoms around them and kick them out. It’s your money, it’s your campus and it’s your right.

University students: everything I said for college students goes for you too, other than the free education part. Get organized. Reject the rhetoric of “pragmatic lobbying” that so many Liberal-controlled students’ unions hide behind and democratize your students’ unions.

If you go to a school where your students’ union is a member of the Canadian Federation of Students, your task will be easier. Show up one day and volunteer, call a general assembly or organize an action. If you find it isn’t that simple, leave a message below and I’ll hook you up.

Québec (and Newfoundland and Labrador) show Ontario students that it is possible. It’s totally possible. All it takes is strategy, solidarity, some risk-taking, creativity and a relentless drive for fairness and justice for you and your classmates.

Welcome back to school. I too have three classes this semester and will be feeling your pain..though as a student through the University of Saskatchewan, my tuition fees this year were lower than they were at Ryerson when I started in 2003.

What will it take to make it stop?

3 Sep

I can tell when I’m being mocked.

I spent the day painting, sanding and caulking. I sat down at my computer with some tea and thought it was time to write something for this blog. But I couldn’t think of what.

Thankfully, Louise Brown at the Toronto Star came through (just like old times when I worked at the CFS). She posted this.

Now, I’m not going to spend time deconstructing the journalism of the story, or why it would be the case that this is news, now (on a Sunday of a long weekend, 3o days before the subject of the article is set to be released), but I am going to go bananas on the content of the article.

Glen Murray’s at it again. And, knowing the yesmen and yeswomen that he has built around him at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, he’s not going to get the advice that he needs to hear.

I’ve wrote about this plan a few times. Here, for Huffington Post. Here, on this blog. In case you missed it, here’s a primer:

A document was leaked that promised to push through a suite of changes to higher education in Ontario that included:

Shortening degrees to four years
Placing 1/3 of all undergraduate courses online
Forcing schools to offer education in three semesters
Docking university budgets by 3% if this plan isn’t implemented
Boosting university budgets by 3% if the plan is implemented and the president calls Glen personally to say he’s really, really smart.

[ok, I made up the last part]

The plan was panned by nearly everyone that matters in the sector.

In a stunning show of idiocy, Murray’s Ministry continued with the plan as if nothing had happened. A discussion paper was issued and consultations occurred over the summer. But, because we *already* know the plan, we know that the results are already figured and that these consultations are a dog and pony show, similar to the one Bob Rae was torn up over by Ontario’s students, staff and faculty, in 2006.

On Sept. 30, Murray will either announce exactly what was contained in the leaked document from February, or soften it somewhat so that it’s a “good news story” full of consultation and a pleased OUSA and CSA.

Here’s what’s absolutely certain: nothing will actually come of these changes. OUSA and CSA will be pleased.

One year tomorrow I was stuck at the door of the Liberal Party platform launch at a hotel in downtown Toronto. Dalton McGuinty, with an adoring Murray looking on (I’m guessing), announced that tuition fees would be reduced for Ontario undergraduate students by 30%. One year later, we now know that the program offered a grant of less than 30% to one in nine Ontario students.

This plan is going to be similarly distorted. We know this because it’s happened with the credit transfer system promise (other than the creation of a committee, nothing’s happened) and the online institute (something happened, and it was shelved).

Heather Mallick wrote this in response to the last time this report was written about. It’s really good and I’m not going to repeat what she says.

But, I will say this.

Ontario students do not want three year degrees. This can be said with certainty as we look at how nearly all of Ontario’s three-year degrees were phased out since the elimination of OAC.

Ontario students do not want three semesters. It’s not practical. Thanks to the same government, working during the summer is a necessity. The working theory that Murray et al. had was that if students could study all summer, they could take advantage of a job market less saturated by workers, like during the winter. Except the job market doesn’t work like that. There aren’t thousands of workers taking summer holidays leaving open spots for students. Instead, they’ll be fighting each other over Tim Horton’s and McDonalds jobs in January.

Ontario students do not want to be forced to take an online class. Ever taken an online class? IT ISN’T THE SAME AS CLASS IRL. It just isn’t. Allowing students the choice to study online isn’t what’s being proposed. As Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy once said in a pre-budget consultation, no 17-year-old proudly announces to their parents that they’re going to school, and runs into his room, closes the door and goes online.

And, contrary to Louise Brown’s article’s assertion, no student wants to be one of 3,500 fucking students in a single first year class. No one. I don’t care if Jesus is playing the banjo for the duration of the course. It’s not education. At best, its entertainment. At worse, it’s the rock bottom of a system that has had the shit kicked out of it so badly by government after government that it will never recover.

Just like the current assault on teachers, this is an attempt to destroy Ontario’s higher education system. The most outrageous part is that words like “innovative” “creative” “transformation” and (my personal favourite because it makes me want to drill my fist into the monitor of my computer) “spend smarter” are taking the place of the words that should actually be there: austerity, cut backs, destruction. If the Ontario Liberals haven’t figured out how to “spend smarter” after being in office since 2003, it’s time to resign.

Each one of these changes will need to be approved by Senates, Boards of Governors and unions/faculty associations. There are enough obstacles to stop it that, if unified, students and workers should be able to. It’ll also likely be opposed by free-thinking administrators, who will likely oppose this just as much as the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

But, they going to have to oppose this with everything they have. And it’s not going to be easy, with OUSA and CSA cheer-leading from the sidelines.

Glen: I know you love the Internet and I assume you’re an avid Googler of your name. When you eventually find this, I need you to read this to yourself, internally, using the voice of your mother. Stop this hair-brained scheme. Stop it immediately. You’re going to fail or (what’s worse) you’re going to destroy Ontario’s education system. It’s the opposite of what Ontario needs, what students want and it shows that you’re dangerously unqualified for the portfolio you hold.

If you want to maintain the facade of capability, make this plan disappear.

 

Students VS Asbestos THE ULTIMATE SMACK DOWN

3 Jul

Back in April, Québec Premier Jean Charest announced $21 million for college/university grants and loans. After several months of a student strike, that was apparently the most Charest could find.

All in, CLASSE argues that of the $85 million dedicated to grants and loans, just $26.6 million in new money will reach students to offset the proposed tuition fee hike.

Students who argue for craaaazzzyyyyy ideas like lower or free tuition fees are often confronted with the question “where’s the money coming from.” While the answer to this question is usually pretty straightforward (um, from anything that’s stupid and wasteful like….corporate bailouts/Pan AM Games/G20/some account related to the celebration of the Queen/her son/his sons etc), in Québec, the argument just became really easy.

On Friday, Charest announced a boost to the asbestos industry. A large boost. A boost to the ratio of 2:1 for asbestos over students.

$58 million to be exact.

First off, anyone who passed Grade 7 and saw this shot of the winning asbestos mine, who doesn’t invest the millions into a modern version of the Globe theatre is a down-right plebe.

Secondly, if all it takes for the millions to roll out is for a town to be named after an industry, Université Laval should immediately name itself it Institute of Higher Learning Laval. But anyway.

Maybe Charest is on to something. Sure, the residents of Asbestos Québec are drooling, but does it really make economic sense to pour $58 million into 435 jobs and some local honour? Why not spend it on students?

Well.

$58M could give free university education to 23,025 students. Instead it’s paying for 435 jobs, hoping for 1000 spin off jobs and maybe enough votes for Asbestosers to vote Liberal in the next election.

Let’s look at this more logically.

After the $58 million investment…

ASBESTOS–1 year: 435 happy miners are working away like crazy. They’re thrilled to be employed. Their kids are thrilled to be in a middle class family.
UNIVERSITY–1 year: Thanks to a full scholarship, 23,025 happy students are studying full time. No economic benefit to their communities as they’ve saved enough money to avoid jobs during the school year. Instead, probably being loud on Friday nights in the streets.

ASBESTOS–4 years: ~370 happy miners are working even harder. Some have quit, some have died in unfortunate accidents, some are injured. But, the mine is pumping away. The town voted Liberal.
UNIVERSITY–4 years: just 1000 students found employment right out of graduation. 10,000 are working part-time or contract work not earning enough to contribute to the economy. 10,000 have gone on to a higher tier of education to better their job prospects, 3,025 have left Québec for Europe or similarly exciting life escapes. Each cohort has spent too much time listening to Democracy Now! and reading Marx. Those remaining in Québec are split between supporting Québec Solidaire and anarcho-syndacalism. A third of those fully employed support the Parti Libéral du Québec.

ASBESTOS–10 years: ~200 happy miners. Their kids are nearly grown up. Some can afford CEGEP! Jobs are starting to dry up as countries are slowing their demand for asbestos due to lawsuits. 30 or so are experiencing respiratory illnesses. Global asbestos deaths have surpassed 1,070,000 people.
UNIVERSITY–10 years: nearly all 23,025 students are or have been married. Most of their loveless marriages have fallen apart, with a few heart-warming exceptions. Not enough have children to buoy Québec’s birthrate. Some have created new industries but who the hell cares, they’re socialists.

ASBESTOS–30 years: all originally employed workers have died. The industry has contributed to nearly 50 million deaths world wide due to a surge in asbestos-related deaths, predicted in 2011.
UNIVERSITY– 30 years: ~20,000 of the original students are still living and working. None are voting Liberal because of how they treated youth when they were young. Charest spins in his grave.
I’ve talked myself into understanding the logic behind this decision. I hope you see it too.

You can’t fault Charest for doing what Conservatives and Liberals do best: self-preservation, sucking up to industry, not giving two shits about the future, spending accordingly.

The era of the publicly assisted entity

30 Jun

For months, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray, has been promising a revolutionary, new, innovative, amazing, spectacular, life-altering, history-creating, groundbreaking *policy* change that would bring higher education into some fictional reality most of us aren’t privy to.

Well, its discussion paper (whatever that means) has been released. It’s here. It’s SO revolutionary that you’ve probably never heard of it before. It’s the hipster version of policy delivery.

*Spoiler alert* it’s written as if the conclusions are foregone.

I could waste a lot of time telling you why I think this entire thing is a charade, but I respect (most of) you too much to waste your time. So, I’ll stick to the most obvious signal, for me, that this will be an exercise in the generation of vacant buzz words rather than progressive, positive policy development.

At the FIRST mention of universities, the discussion paper (whatever that means) refers to universities as “publicly assisted” rather than public.

This is important.

This year, nearly all Ontario universities will collect more revenue from private sources than from public sources to fund operations. This effectively means that they’ve been privatized by stealth. It’s worth noting that, before Glen blocked me and others on Twitter, he called us liars when we pointed this out. Look it up yourself. Make sure it’s comparing operating grants to tuition fees, otherwise, it’s lumping in a bunch of other funding envelopes that will skew this number. But, anyway, we’re past the era of public universities and the government is obviously aware of this.

So, what’s wrong with such a line in such a discussion paper (whatever that means)?

It’s a foregone conclusion. It readily admits that the government is uninterested in increasing its funding to universities. And, if they don’t, students do.

Saying that the system isn’t sustainable and there’s a problem, but then admitting in your own definitions that you’re uninterested in any solution that includes increased government funding is simple cognitive dissonance. Underfunding *is* the problem. How can you have an open consultation process when you’ve already settled on the idea that government is not going to pony up the dough?

I’m living in Québec now, I should stop caring about Ontario. But, it’s really hard. The Liberals there are a making worse decisions about higher education than Mike Harris. Re-read that 10 times aloud, please. It can’t be said enough. Dalton hasn’t once reversed any of the garbage tuition fee decisions that were made by Mike Harris. In fact, he layered a 71% fee increase on top of Harris’ fees.

This “crisis” that Glen is hoping to solve through twitter conversations (seriously, he’s asked for twitter comments on this, unless he’s blocked you, like all vocal student critics in Toronto at least once have been), was created by him, previous Ministers and his government. Actually, Nick Falvo talks about this in the broader Canadian sense, here.

Sorry if I’m pessimistic about this exercise, but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s like bringing the thief who broke into your house and stole your Gibson back as a consultant to give advice on thief-proofing your guitars.

I’m likely to write more about this later, and folks at the Ontario Office of the Canadian Federation of Students will likely have something along the lines of what I’ve written (but footnoted!), but there’s something in my stomach that dies a little when I see phrases like “publicly assisted.”

Or, we should at least insist on consistency: publicly assisted hospitals. Publicly assisted dairy farmers. Publicly assisted Rogers Inc. Publicly assisted Inco. Publicly assisted Caterpillar….sorry, scratch that one.

26 Jun

Hey.

I anticipate this will become less contrived as I contribute to it. My goal is to only write after hours, while drunk.

I moved here last week, on Wednesday I think. I’m not entirely sure. Without employment, focusing on the days has become less important. I booked my flight today to Saskatoon and nearly had an aneurism over ensuring the date was correct. But anyway.

While I’m sure you all are interested in the minutia of my life here, I’ll stick to writing something quick about my first protest in Québec.

I was lucky to be relatively unpacked when June 22 rolled around because I could justify leaving for a few hours. As close to 100,000 people rallied in Montreal, we in Québec had a more modest showing. And, by modest, I mean one of the largest rallies I’ve been in, probably since the G20 march on that fateful Saturday in 2010 (the anniversary of which we’re approaching).

I walked out my door and literally bumped into a soon-to-be CEGEP student on his way to the march. Despite our terrible French, he stuck with us the entire time. He starts in the Fall and hopes to make it to Laval for Engineering post-CEGEP.

We walked down Réne-Lévesque to the rally, ran into some people I know from the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa back in the day, waited around. We all heard that the route had been leaked in advance of the march and it would be about five kilometres. I imagined our rallies in Toronto where we struggled to keep people for such a long trek. I’d find out that people here were enthusiastic enough to make the whole march. I noticed the following:

  1. passers-by, including people standing at windows and balconies are overwhelmingly supportive. I can’t over state this. After years and years of rallies in Toronto and other cities, the support I witnessed for the protest is only rivaled by the support I saw from passers-by in Gatineau during other tuition fee protests. Québecers’ support was so obvious that, when we walked up to the old city, you could tell that everyone watching suddenly became tourists, who were a mix of people supportive, not supportive and plain curious.
  2. when the rally tried to change directions, the police formed a veritable barrier making it nearly impossible to pass. While a few hundred did initially, Québeccers tried to re-route the crowd before protesters came face to face with a loud police speaker.
  3. the speakers, with the exception of the speaker from the Parti Québecois, all appeared to be under 30.
  4. the speakers, with maybe one exception, were extremely talented. Their speeches were steady, powerful and all spoke to the need for a solidarity to fight for the social well-being of all Québecers. All were short enough for me to not once think, maaan when will this end??
  5. every time I looked forward or back on one of the massive hills we took on, there were thousands of people ahead and behind. I was shocked at how many people were there.
  6. 6. after the rally, we reconvened on the lawn between the foot of the Assembly Nationale and the wall. Music blared and protesters had a chance to sit. Speeches followed once we were all sitting on the lawn. This was really, really awesome. Ontario: take note.
  7. the crowd was massive and diverse. It was not just students. There were lots of people wearing great costumes and the juggler had red squares on his juggling pins.
  8. that night, we happened upon a rally marching around the fountain on the colline parliamentaire. We sat for about 20 minutes and watched their numbers pick up from a few dozen to a few hundred. A driver in a BMW tried to plow through the crowd (unlike the dozens of cars who put up with the delay and, rather than hitting anyone, simply waited the five minute wait), and a protester broke the car’s window with a casserole. LIKE VULTURES the press ran toward the scuffle faster than the police. Eventually, the car drove away and the protesters went back to their march. This is how radio-canada saw the event. I maintain that it was about as much news as a school-yard yelling match where someone’s ball gets roofed.

I hit my word limit. So, I’ll finish with this:

I live across the street from where I can purchase beer.

I’m spending most my days on a front porch and my laptop.

I’ve already had two requests for people to stay here. Feel free to keep these coming.

I don’t miss Toronto, yet. I’ll keep you posted.