Prez virtually swamped
By Laura Koot
Western's president Paul Davenport has taken notice of the students who are virtually sitting in his office.
As he sat down to check the number of messages sent to him by disgruntled students yesterday, he explained his computer was not handling the influx of emails too well. "This thing is really screwed up geez, these things are coming in all the time.
"Oh yeah, they are up to 258," he said, confirming a continued response to the University Students' Council's virtual sit-in.
Following the occupation of presidents' offices at six Ontario universities, Western's students' council launched a virtual sit-in to protest rising tuition yesterday morning, where students could log onto a website and send a protest email to Davenport.
With 363 students having joined the protest as of 10:30 p.m. yesterday, USC president Dave Tompkins said he was pleased and encouraged by the support they were receiving. "I guess if we crashed his computer it was less of a nuisance than over 250 students sitting in his office."
Davenport had a candid response for the method of protest being used. "Western is proud of its tradition of leadership in the area of advanced technology and it is only appropriate that our students would be the first in the country to have a virtual sit-in."
While Davenport said he has no intention of responding to every email that is sent to him, he did answer the one from Tompkins. "I've written back to Dave and told him that, while I'm out of town tomorrow, I would be pleased to meet with him and his colleagues on Monday."
Tompkins said he is satisfied until Monday with the president's response.
On Tuesday while the USC was planning its protest, Davenport was meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien at a meeting of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, an organization which Davenport serves as vice chair of. He was quick to point out that he had given a presentation on the importance on increased student aid. "I spoke about working co-operatively with the provinces, creating a clearer jurisdiction and the increasing student debt."
Although Davenport was taking measures to improve student aid, Tompkins said student aid may not be the answer. There are other demands they want met including a tuition freeze adjusted to the inflation rate for 1996. "If we have better student aid five years from now, but tuition is double, it's not going to be much help to students."
Frances LoPresti, a fourth-year sociology student, said she does not have a problem with the university administering the optional 10 per cent differential fee. "I wouldn't take the time to go and [protest on-line]," she said. "I think the USC should concentrate on spending the money they do have more effectively."
The Society of Graduate Students is also exploring its options for protesting the cost of rising tuition. The society's president, Andrew Hui, said he supports the efforts of the USC. "The virtual sit-in is a unique idea and it will gather a lot of attention."
Hui will be meeting with his executive today to discuss what further action they will take.