Talks for protest in the works as Western opposes increases
By Charles D'Angelo
Western students may end up demonstrating on the concrete beach if a new University Students' Council committee decides it is a good idea.
Council passed a motion last night which formed an ad-hoc committee to discuss protesting options in response to increasing tuition rates.
Brad Johnston, a social science councillor, brought up the motion and said he believed the student body would support a protest.
"The time for talking is really done. We've talked," he said.
Because high school students will be on campus during March break, the time for a protest would probably fall between March 12-14 as it will create more media attention. Johnston said it will send a stronger message than any letter.
"I think this is a fantastic idea," said Chris Walsh, VP-student issues. "I don't think we do enough we're too conservative."
Scott Graham, municipal affairs commissioner, said a peaceful protest occurred two-and-a-half years ago over a government decision and one could be effective again this time around.
Another motion passed by council last night was to oppose differential increases to 1997-98 tuition levels for all undergraduate programs beyond the level of inflation.
As outlined in the recommendations made by Western's VP-academic Greg Moran Feb.13, the tuition fee rates for first-year general programs will rise by 9.4 per cent. Other programs such as applied health sciences, business, law, dentistry, medicine and education would rise up to 20 per cent.
Dave Tompkins, USC president, said Moran's recommendations were made after consideration of program costs, potential level of income upon entering the work force and the marketability of the program to entering students.
External affairs commissioner Brian Astl offered a business student's perspective against differential increases. "Yes, there is a possibility to have higher earnings when graduating. But there is no loan system in place to ensure [students] can take the program," he said. "It raises questions of accessibility."
"If we are going to attract undergraduate students we have to keep the costs down," added Justin Lalonde, representative for Saugeen-Maitland Hall. A second motion against any increase in tuition levels for undergraduate programs was put forth and passed.
Walsh explained because of the recent provincial government decision not to further cut funding to education this year, there is no reason for tuition increases. "It has been made clear that students cannot afford tuition hikes without a better student financial aid program," he said. "The government however, has not delivered on the income contingent loan repayment plan."