Volume 92, Issue 19

Tuesday, October 6, 1998

no funny business


CBC radio program airs student issues

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

The CBC's new voice in London proved to be a forum for discussion for Western students too.

Sunday's live broadcast of Cross Country Checkup, hosted by Rex Murphy and aired from the McKellar Room in the University Community Centre, tackled the issues of the future of universities, deregulation and the impact of the funding crisis on higher education in Canada.

A distinguished panel, including Western's President Paul Davenport, York sociology professor Janice Newson, Globe and Mail education reporter Jennifer Lewington and President of the Society of Graduate Students at Western, Kelly Barrowcliffe, responded to questions from audience members and callers from across the country.

Davenport spoke of the dramatic reduction of core funding per student as threatening accessibility and the quality of education and added there is no better investment than in a post secondary education.

"These cuts have occurred as we're entering into a knowledge-based economy," he said. "Our big problem is too little government support."

Jennifer Lewington said there are growing demands on universities and many students are looking at education in very utilitarian ways. There is more to university than just getting a job, she said. "It's the moulding of a mind."

Barrowcliffe said the debt load many students are graduating with is disheartening and those students who are not from wealthy families may not even apply to university.

She added the bottom line in achieving accessibility is accountability. All levels of government need to take action on what they plan to do, she said. "We have to hold our administration accountable."

From the audience, University Students' Council President Ian Armour questioned the panel on the representation of students in the Board of Governors and the Senate.

In response, Davenport said to increase student membership, administration membership is reduced. "If you look at our Board of Governors and our Senate, a very large per cent of time is spent addressing students."

Barrowcliffe said Western needs more student representation on governing bodies in order for students to have a voice on a national level.

Second year dentistry student Mary-Anne MacDonald offered a compelling testimony of her massive debt incurred so far as a student in the faculty of dentistry.

MacDonald addressed the panel with monetary figures of the cost of increasing equipment and tuition. "How can you claim accessibility for all and ensure that I can stay in school?" she questioned Davenport.

"We think we can work with students and the bank to make sure it's fair to everyone," he responded. "I'm concerned about debt loads all across the university."

Davenport said the government has cut funding back to the point where universities are in desperate situations, but offered two options – increased taxes and making university a higher priority with a greater level of funding.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998