Volume 91, Issue 68

Thursday, January 29, 1998



Students supported in tuition rally

©Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
BACKING THE CAUSE. University Students' Council President Ryan Parks addresses protestors on the Concrete Beach yesterday.

By Brendan Howe and Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

Yesterday's National Day of Action protest on Concrete Beach proved students are not alone in their fight against tuition increases and high levels of student debt.

Western President Paul Davenport was the first speaker in the two-hour rally and told an attentive crowd littered with "freeze fees now" placards some surprising news – the administration plans to discuss the possibility of a tuition freeze along with its implications over the next two months.

He also urged students to continue voicing their concerns about student debt. "This is not yet a done deal. The political leaders need to feel the pressure from groups such as this," Davenport said.

The rally, organized by the Society of Graduate Students and the University Students' Council, attracted over 200 students, faculty, local union members and university administrators who demonstrated that cuts to education not only affect students but society as a whole. Participants braved the cold weather to listen to speeches, sign a petition protesting tuition increases, munch on some hot dogs and observe a dollar sign ice sculpture.

Professor Andrew Osler, president of Western's faculty association, spoke for all of his colleagues when he said, "Harris, Chrétien, if you are listening – please hear that we are starving our universities to death and killing our kids and our society in the process."

He told students they have the support of Western professors in their fight against tuition increases and referred to debt levels and current loan repayment programs as a fearful illness.

Helen Roos, president of SOGS, said the event at Western was part of a large-scale protest as students from Newfoundland to Victoria were rallying on their campuses yesterday.

"Over the next few weeks the boardrooms will be buzzing. Let's ask the government and administrators to think before they raise and listen before they act," she said to a crowd chanting "grants not loans."

One member of the crowd, graduate student Rebecca Fahrig, said she was amazed at the turnout and was pleased both undergrads and grads were united in protest.

"It really does show the magnitude of the problem," she said. "I think it's really important students be here and that we show our concern."

Kaili Phillips, a first-year kinesiology student, did not think the turnout was that good. "I don't think it was really publicized well enough because a lot of people didn't know about it."

Brian Humphrey, a member of local union 2361, representing tradesmen and caretakers at Western, agreed. He said out of more than 20,000 students at Western, he would have liked a few more to show up for the rally.

Organizers of the event were pleased with the turnout and happy with how it went. USC President Ryan Parks said he was ecstatic with the amount of support, considering the history of low-turnout at Western protests. He added it was great that Davenport stayed at the rally for over an hour to listen to concerns being expressed by students and speakers.

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Copyright © The Gazette 1998