Protest may lead to negotiation
By Sara Marett
It seems the powers-that-be who set tuition levels may lend their ears when Western students deliver their concerns about rising fees in a protest later this month.
On Jan. 28, the University Students' Council and the Society of Graduate Students will team up to hold a peaceful protest on Concrete Beach as part of the National Day of Action. The purpose of the event is to lobby both the government and the university's administration against tuition hikes, decreased government grants and poor student aid programs.
After the provincial government's announcement in December to allow universities to raise tuition by 20 per cent over the next two years, Western's administration must now decide how they will set tuition fees. For students, it is a time to have as much influence as possible on this decision-making process.
"We felt it was important for both undergraduate and graduate students to have the opportunity to voice their discontent as unsatisfied customers," said USC VP-student issues Sam Castiglione.
So will the administration be listening to what students have to say? Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said the senior administration is in favour of protesting an issue when it is something that needs addressing. "A rally is often an effective way of impressing your concerns on the community. Even if it does not perhaps lead to concrete results, it often leads to negotiations."
The protest is receiving mixed reviews from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the national lobby group to which Western's undergraduate students belong. The event is being organized by CASA's rival organization, the Canadian Federation of Students and CASA national director Hoops Harrison said he has some concerns about Western taking part in the protest.
"It tends to happen that if one group does something inappropriate the entire student body is labelled negatively the USC must take full responsibility for what it gets involved in," Harrison said.
He added CASA is holding a "National Debt Day" on Feb. 2 to promote awareness surrounding student debt and the need for an improved student aid program. Following this day, CASA will be meeting with members of the federal government to express these concerns. "It's sometimes more effective to inform people this way than to shove it down their throat."