Toronto students paint the streets with protest
By Sara Marett
Toronto area university students will take their voices to the city's streets today to protest expected increases in tuition fees.
The University of Toronto, Ryerson Polytechnical University, York University and Hamilton's McMaster University will unite to present their message to university administrators and the provincial government that students are opposed to tuition hikes.
Following the government's recent announcement to allow universities to raise tuition fees by an average of 10 per cent, many schools have participated in protests against the increases. The four universities decided it would be effective to amalgamate to bring forth a stronger message to the deciding bodies.
A mass rally will begin at 3 p.m. with speeches at U of T's Convocation Hall, followed by a march to Queen's Park, the office of the Council of Ontario Universities and Ryerson. Vicky Smallman, chair of Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, said the rally will help make links between the administrative bodies of all the schools as well as with the government and COU.
"This will let them all know that we are watching what they are doing and we are not going to back down to the pressure," Smallman said. "We know that just one event will not change things, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. We have to keep on their backs about this."
James Hoch, president of U of T's Graduate Students' Union, said he is confident the rally will be effective in getting across the overall message of opposing tuition increases. "Joining forces will strengthen our message. Even though each school has differences, we are all facing the same problem right now and we must face it together," Hoch said.
The effectiveness of the rally in pressuring the administration is questionable, said Adel Sedra, provost at U of T. "We appreciate the students' concerns but [the rally] will not make us change our plan. In order to continue to provide the current quality of education we must increase tuition," he said.
U of T students participated in a five-day sit-in in their university president's office in February to protest the administration's proposal of raising tuition by 10 per cent for 1997-98. "The sit-in was a great way to raise student awareness and a great kick-off for the rally," said Terry Mikolaevsky, liaison officer for U of T's Student Administrative Council.
"The rally will be an excellent opportunity to have our voices heard in a larger forum it is no longer just the opinion of the 15 students who sat in the president's office," she said.
Mikolaevsky added she expects a large turnout for the rally today. "In the past we've had successful turnouts for things like this, so I don't expect this one to be any different. We are hoping to fill Convocation Hall which seats 1,800."
In February, students at Ryerson sent nearly 200 kilograms of ice to their president's office as a plea for them to freeze tuition increases, said Victoria Bowman, president of Ryerson's Student Union. "The response from the administration was positive. They agreed to a town hall meeting to hear students' concerns." She added the RSU has been advertising the rally for weeks to encourage students to participate.