President to join in action
By Sara Marett
Western undergraduate students will not be alone when they protest on Concrete Beach tomorrow, although their lobby groups will not be standing by their sides.
The University Students' Council and Society of Graduate Students will join the National Day of Action tomorrow on Concrete Beach, protesting student debt. Last Friday, Western's Senate approved a motion to support the rally and President Paul Davenport is scheduled to speak.
York University's Senate also approved involvement with the National Day of Action. Ross McMillan, VP-academic and university affairs for the York Federation of Students said they have also received support from various unions on campus such as the staff and faculty associations.
The day is being organized by the Canadian Federation of Students and will include all provinces except Nova Scotia and Quebec, explained Wayne Poirier, Ontario chair of CFS. "Nova Scotia is participating [on Tuesday] because of a historical event scheduled on Wednesday and Quebec's [protest] has been postponed because of the storm," he said.
In Toronto, students from area universities and high schools, as well as members of labour unions will join the protest on King and Bay Streets at the heart of Toronto's financial district, Poirier said. "We chose this location to highlight the involvement of corporate members on many universities' Board of Governors and their influence on government policies."
However, the two lobby groups Western undergraduates belong to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, are voicing their opinions on student debt in different ways.
CASA is continuing meetings with federal government members and last Friday National Director Hoops Harrison met with Finance Minister Paul Martin. "It was a busy day for [Martin] because it was the day the Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank announced their [proposed] merger, but he took the time to extend the length of our meeting it was fantastic," he said.
Harrison said he plans to meet with Martin again before the federal government announces its budget in February and feels discussion is more effective than protesting. "Our goal is to get public support. If you upset the public you shoot yourself in the foot. I've seen protest after protest and I've never seen anything good come out of it."
OUSA has voiced their concerns by sending a letter calling for a tuition freeze to the Council of Ontario Universities a body representing all Ontario universities. The letter also outlines how higher tuition will threaten accessibility to universities, said OUSA acting executive director Rick Martin.
But COU spokesperson David Scott said the letter from OUSA does not address the consequences of freezing tuition on universities' revenue. "With the [provincial] government freezing their grants to universities, it is not practical for [the universities] to freeze tuition."