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Dougie, The Students Are Over Here

As you have probably already heard, last Thursday, Minister Merrilee Fullerton took to the stage to announce that the Ontario government would be amending the Ontario student aid program (OSAP) to reflect the 2016-2017 model. In addition to regressing previous understandings of financial aid, the Progressive Conservative government reported that the six month interest-free grace period would be eliminated. Therefore immediately following graduation, students are to be promptly faced with an anxiety fuelled obligation to repay their debts. Standing confidently behind a podium which read ‘for the students’,  the Minister announced that tuition fees were being cut by 10%, framing the advanced policies as geared to support students in the greatest need.

 

 

It did not take long for students to encapsulate the jeopardizing effect these decisions had on our respective academic futures. Premier Ford’s proposed course of action inherently threatens the essence of campus life as his strategy includes balancing the monetary difference through the endorsement of voluntary student unionism. In other words, Ford seeks to make formerly mandatory non-tuition fees (such as the UofT $2.81 fee to the Varsity Publications) optional.

These policy decisions are problematic and serve as nothing less than an attack on students.  Through the attempt to cultivate an opt-out system to unions, the provincial government is actively weakening the voice of our student community ensuring that we, the students, no longer pose a united obstacle to future administrative decisions.

It is imperative to wholly understand what the implications of these decisions are to our lives as university students. At first glance, it may not appear as concerning. Speaking from personal experience, my knee-jerk reaction to this policy was simply that our unions should lay low on expenses and cut down on staff. Nonetheless the negative effects of Ford’s decisions are weightier, as the costs extend beyond just the numbers.

Our student and course unions are at risk. Whether this be in the form of facilitating our concerns to UofT administration, academic advocacy, providing facilities, or helping safeguard our individual rights. Not only does this apply on the larger scale to organizations similar to ASSU, but smaller college councils such as the UC Lit, and USMC are also likely to be impacted, inhibiting the flourishing of student targeted events. Cultural and religious clubs will also be impaired, preventing the university’s capacity to ensure safe spaces for the diverse student body it attracts. Staff members employed by these unions are likely to lose their jobs. Lastly, student journalism; one of the key sources of administrative and academic accountability may lose prominence under the new framework. By losing previously guaranteed funding, student leaders will need to resort to other methods of funding possibly implicating the autonomy these student initiatives take pride in.

Provided the vast size of the University of Toronto -- home to over 88,000 students, it suffices to say that the walls are not the easiest to navigate. Although each may have their own flaws, student organizations at UofT help bridge connections between students and their academic, recreational and social needs. They are essential to our character development and who we are as students.

With this in mind, the OSAP cuts helped highlight a rudimentary flaw in the current Ontario government’s understanding of education. It appears that Ford’s government operates under the assumption that equitable access to education is a privilege not a right. That we, the students are mere obstructions to his attempt to 'balance' of budget.Therefore it is on us, as students to continue mobilizing and resisting these changes to our framework.

 

The time to use your voice is now.

Image Credit: The Eye Opener

 

 

***Note: There is a student march set to begin at Yonge and Dundas,  Friday January 25, 2019 at 2:00 PM. Furthermore a student coalition titled “Students for Ontario” has helped provide a set of contacts and tools to help you find out how to play your part in this fight against students.

**The views articulated in this article are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations I am associated with.**

 

Lina is a second year Political Science and Criminology double major at the University of Toronto! She’s a self proclaimed pun enthusiast who argues that her pizza puns can’t be topped.. Besides writing for HC, you can find Lina shopping at the dollarama for some dark chocolate or sprinting her life away as she desperately tries not to miss the next Go Train.
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