Picking protest methods
By Sara Marett
Students at Ontario universities continue to protest proposed tuition increases with methods ranging from sit-ins to delivering ice to administration offices but the powers that be do not seem to be warming up to the idea of freezing fees.
Students at McMaster, Guelph and Trent universities are the latest to jump on the protest bandwagon Guelph for the second time to stop tuition hikes. The proposed increases are a result of the provincial government's decision to allow universities to raise tuition fees for the 1997-98 year by an average of 10 per cent.
Trent is taking yet another approach to protesting. The university's Central Student Association has decided to run a referendum next week for Trent students to decide whether or not they are opposed to the tuition hikes. The results of the referendum will be taken to their Board of Governors March 21.
"We have had a lot of trouble with student concerns being ignored this year," said Matt Gallinger, president of the association. "We want to make the Board of Governors more accountable to students by trying to make the referendum binding."
Guelph, which was considering sending a bus to today's rally in Toronto, protesting tuition increases with Ryerson Polytechnical University, York University and University of Toronto, decided instead to stage a second sit-in tomorrow, said Kirsten Middleton, external commissioner for Guelph's Central Students' Union.
Middleton added the sit-in will be held in Guelph's University Centre and will be a symbolic protest to continue student awareness and involvement.
Guelph's first sit-in, which took place in February, did not achieve its desired results. "We didn't receive much co-operation with the administration. We have not won what we want," Middleton said.
Thirty-five McMaster students began a sit-in March 5 outside their administration's offices. Although the number of students has dropped to six or seven, they continue to inconvenience the administration's daily activities.
"I have had to relocate to another office and can't do my regular work," said Mary Keyes, McMaster's assistant provost of student affairs. "There have been approximately seven to 10 people here at any one time, but they have been very peaceful."
The sit-in was organized by a group of McMaster students called Students Against Tuition Increases, a combination of student union members and students-at-large, said Saverio Veltri, vice-president of McMaster's Student Union. They are asking the administration for a freeze in tuition fees and no curriculum changes, he added.
Velti added McMaster students have also held two rallies in front of the administrative offices with approximately 150 students participating. "At this point, however, we feel our message is falling on deaf ears," Veltri said, adding McMaster will be sending a bus of students to the Toronto rally.
"We are certainly listening to what the students are saying,"Keyes said. "[But] if we want to maintain the quality of the programs we just can't freeze the fees they are our only source of revenue."