Sizzling Senate: Debate heats up over Western's tuition hikes
By Brendan Howe
The Student Caucus on Governance is set to launch their attack against tuition fees in a Senate meeting today, but administration members have already launched their counter-attack.
A motion will be presented by students today to instruct the Senate Committee on University Planning to allow for only a five per cent increase in tuition for next year, as opposed to the possible 10 per cent hike. University administrators have fired back with a nine-page document, included in the Senate package, on why Senators should reject the motion.
The document calls the maximum five per cent tuition hike "seriously misguided flawed in process and wrong in policy." It explains that in the last five years, government grants to Western have fallen by $44 million and while tuition fees have increased a jump of only five per cent next year would cause a shortfall in the 1998/99 operating budget.
The authors of the document, VP-administration Peter Mercer and VP-academic Greg Moran, were unavailable for comment but Western President Paul Davenport talked about one of the main points raised. "The central issue set out in the paper has to do with the very difficult decline in appointments over the past few years."
Full-time staff has decreased by almost 20 per cent over the last five years while part-time staff decreased by about 13 per cent, he said.
Students argue with their motion that a five per cent increase takes into account a 1.6 per cent inflation level for the operating budget and will maintain the quality of education currently at the university.
"If one examines the history of the university it would seem we have enough funds to offer quality education at least until student aid is reformed," said Sam Castiglione, University Students' Council VP-student issues. He added tuition has consistently increased in the last five years while maximums for the Ontario Student Assistance Plan have not increased at all.
As for the debate the motion will draw, Castiglione said he predicts it will be a political battle on the floor of Senate rather than a close look at what is good for the university.
"I think we all have to wait and listen to the debate," Davenport said.
One senator, dean of arts James Good, said he is sympathetic to student concerns but would have a hard time voting to reduce revenue for the university. His 'No' vote, however, is not cast in stone. "Somebody may say something at the meeting that changes my mind."