I was saddened to see that the content of the editorial last week (Think Before You Speak ) was, once again, speaking in favor of rising costs for education. As you mention in your editorial, residence fees, meal plan and parking costs are not like tuition fees, yet they are ancillary fees that are barriers to accessible education. At the Erindale College Council meeting where these increases were passed, the undergraduate student speakers, excluding those who worked for the administration in some capacity, spoke against these increases. Considering that the largest constituency on campus had serious issues with both the consultative process (or lack thereof) and the actual increases, I would argue that at the very least, the administrative should have put a hold on the process to gain more student input. Also, it was interesting to see how every single department that requested an increase had also posted huge profits last year, on the backs of broke students. For example, parking made a profit of $118,229 in 2008-09, $69,625 in 2009-10, and with the 3% increase, will be making $93,237 the following school year.
One of the main problems with university fees these days is the downshifting of costs they do each year. With tuition fees increases of a few percentage points, universities, and especially UTM, have been taking costs that were being paid for by tuition fees previously and shifting them to ancillary and incidental fees.
An assumption that you make throughout your editorial is that in the desire to see a reduction in tuition fees, the end result would be a lowering of the amount contributed by students, with no change in the contribution from the government. Let me assure you that this is not the case. There is no assumption that suddenly the university will not have any cost, and that professors will work for free, and that buildings will repair themselves. No. Obviously, it takes money to run a university; the question is where that money is coming from. Students believe that a large portion of the money should come from the provincial and federal government. The reasons are simple; our country is a social democracy. We pay progressive taxes for education, health care and other social benefits. Students should not be double billed. Student should have access to affordable education based on their report cards, not their credit cards.
In the case of the post-secondary sector, there is a simple request: that a university not be run as a business, but rather as an institution of higher learning. Sadly, with the government taking a backseat in how these public institutions function, it is up to students to remind universities why they exist in the first place, to not just post huge profits, but rather to educate and to contribute to the overall knowledge of society.
This brings me to my final point. I can reassure you that students do lobby ministers, MPPs and senior administration. At these meetings, the problems with high tuition fees are presented, alternative solutions are offered and a discussion is held in a respectful manner. But what happens after the discussions, the lobbying and the research? You seem to present mass mobilizations as alternatives only in countries where there is a dictatorship of some kinds, not something to be utilized in a democracy. I wonder why the walk-outs and rallies in Quebec worked, then. I wonder why there were large scale mobilizations to oppose Canadas involvement in Afghanistan and Harpers decision to prorogue parliament. Sometimes, when the government doesnt respond to reasonable discussion and research, it is time to enforce democracy in a more vocal way. As the late Howard Zinn put it, Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.