National Student Debt Day was briefly noted yesterday with a macaroni cook-off in the University Community Centre's atrium. But while the pasta concoctions passed the taste tests of many hungry students' palates, the day itself wasn't served up with any substance.
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the federal lobby group Western undergraduate students belong to, declared the debt day and member schools were asked to mark it any way they chose. Western invited University Students' Council presidential candidates to prepare and serve their favourite Kraft Dinner recipes to passers-by next to a giant wall of Kraft Dinner boxes. Flyers were handed out with CASA propaganda and there were some booths set up by banks.
While involving the candidates was a unique idea and allowed them to interact with voters, what did the day as a whole accomplish?
Not a lot. Please Sir, could we have some more.
If Western is going to stage a National Student Debt Day it should serve one of two purposes. It should either inform students about debt, like how to deal with it and how to avoid it, or it should inform people outside the Western community about the massive debt students incur. Yesterday's buffet accomplished neither of these things. Handing out Kraft Dinner tells students, "Hey, you're in debt." To which students reply, "We already know that."
So, if Western is going to help CASA with a day to recognize student debt a year from now, their recipe for success should go back to the kitchen and be reworked.
Take your issues and pour them into a larger time slot. If it is going to be a National Student Debt Day, make it an actual DAY. Yesterday's cause did not last an hour because the participants ran out of Kraft Dinner.
Mix in some financial counsellors to give seminars on how to budget money and keep these people on hand to talk to students with questions.
Stir in representatives from companies that hire summer students and have these employers set up booths in the atrium. Spice it up by offering resume help for students who need to get it all down on paper.
Cool the issue before public interest is drained. Part of the major problem with National Student Debt Day is that it was held right after the National Day of Action. It is too soon to ask for more of the public's attention to the issue of student debt.
Ideally, National Student Debt Day should have been combined with the National Day of Action. But because the Canadian Federation of Students, which declared the National Day of Action, is a rival lobby group of CASA, which declared Debt Day, both are competing for the public's attention on student issues. The lobby groups have very different philosophies and they won't work together, even if it is to achieve the same goal.
Western participated in both the group's days, but the CFS event was far more successful as far as public attention, student participation and the cooperation of administration and students. Hopefully, CASA will provide an itinerary for campuses to follow next time it declares National Student Debt Day and if not, the University Students' Council should take the initiative to dish out a solid menu.
Now add that cheese stuff.