Students take a seat in Hogtown
By Donna MacMullin
Rising tuition costs is an issue of prime concern at universities across the province and students at the University of Toronto have reacted by holding a '90s-style sit-in at their president's office.
The university's president, Robert Prichard, was greeted by 20 students Monday as they marched into his office to protest proposed tuition increases. Students have occupied the space ever since. "I applaud them for speaking up on the issue but it is uncivil to use my office," Prichard said.
Last week the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training announced colleges and universities in the province can increase their tuition fees up to 10 per cent for the 1997-98 year and fees for any one program can be raised up to 20 per cent.
Prichard said he has not spoken to the protesting students. "He has responded with great patience and is working in another office, going about his duties," said Susan Bloch-Nevitte, director of public affairs at the university.
Charlotte Reeve, a field worker in U of T's Graduate Students' Union, said the protesting students are calling for a freeze on tuition and the action is part of an ongoing campaign against the increases. The students in Prichard's office are an organized number of representatives of student groups on campus, she added.
"Our council has examined the tuition fee schedule and we want [the administration] to think about non-stop tuition increases and their cumulative effects on students," Reeve said. She added because of high housing and transportation costs in Toronto, increased tuition will affect student accessibility to the university.
"Inflation is rising two per cent, tuition is rising 10 per cent, but scholarships and student aid are not rising that much," she said. "They are asking students to assume a larger debt in an uncertain job market."
Prichard said administration is currently taking initiatives to offset effects of rising tuition costs for students. "We are increasing provisions for financial aid by taking $4 million dollars from our base budget," he said, adding they are actively seeking funding for bursaries and scholarships for which they have set an ambitious goal of $20-40 million.
"We are absolutely determined to keep a high standard of quality education."
A larger rally is expected to take place in March, including students from U of T, Ryerson and York universities.