Volume 90, Issue 64

Friday, January 17, 1997

double talk


Town hall hoopla

By Donna MacMullin
Gazette Staff

Students sitting down to lunch in CentreSpot yesterday received a side order of university politics with their meal.

The University Students' Council held a town hall meeting at noon while the community centre was buzzing with mid-day activity. The open meeting was an opportunity for students to participate in discussion with council members on a number of issues including tuition levels and student fees.

Among the most contentious issues was the debate between USC president Dave Tompkins and VP-student issues Chris Walsh. The two went head-to-head on the topic of tuition increases and whether post-secondary education is a right or privilege.

"It really doesn't matter [if it is a right or privilege] because it is necessary," Walsh said.

In contrast, Tompkins took a more pessimistic stance. "In reality a university degree is nothing more than a flimsy piece of paper," he retorted.

Later, Tompkins clarified he was arguing from a taxpayers point of view and emphasized the need for Canadians to be conscious of their own attitudes towards post-secondary education. "It is a Canadian philosophy that two-thirds of university funding comes from the government and one- third comes from the student," he said.

However, some spectators present may not have realized Tompkins had taken on a staged role. "His opinions are extremely harsh and not at all fair to the university majority," said Kerry Neal, a second-year political science student.

Tompkins said he was concerned about audience perception of the views he was presenting. "A number of students approached me after and said they were disappointed with my point of view," he said. "Really, I was playing devil's advocate and trying to present the viewpoints which are often presented to me by those in the community."

He added the meeting was designed to solicit debate on issues which affect them and combat student apathy.

Laura Wilson, a second-year psychology student, said the meeting was good for raising student awareness but felt there should have been more advertisement of the event.

Jerry Topolski, VP-communications and organizer of the meeting, said the USC hopes to have more town hall meetings in the future. "We received some great feedback – we hope to have one a month for the rest of the year."

Overall, Tompkins also thought the open forum went well. "If the meeting made students think and maybe caused them to debate issues on their own – it was all worth it."

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca