Silent protest meant to make loud request
By Dave Yasvinski
Students marched in silent protest Thursday in Sudbury in an attempt to direct public attention to the lack of government focus on post-secondary education.
The protest consisted of about 70 university and college students who marched from Sudbury's Cambrian College to the Four Points Hotel, the site of an Ontario Progressive Conservative Caucus retreat, said Andrew Boggs, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. At one point students carried a casket to symbolize the death of affordable education, Boggs added.
"This was a silent march to get across the message that students are feeling voiceless," he said. "Deregulation has lead to increasing student tuition and changes to student aid haven't come yet."
Boggs said OUSA is trying to persuade the provincial government to agree to form an advisory planning committee for student aid in the province which would unite student representatives, university representatives, banks and provincial ministers. Such a committee would give students a forum to discuss issues such as student aid and offer recommendations to the provincial government to help improve the existing system.
Western's VP-education, Nick Iozzo, said the protest gave students the opportunity to try and convince several Members of Provincial Parliament to make the advisory planning committee possible.
"All the stakeholders agree we need a forum to discuss student aid but Harris and Johnson have not budged. We need to focus attention on it," he said. The problem is so many changes have been made to student aid the provincial government does not know the effect of what they are doing, added Iozzo.
"We need to get this in place. It is one thing to have vision and an alternative, it's another thing to have your alternative taken seriously," Boggs said.
Rob Savage, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said he was on hand for the Tory Caucus meeting but did not really notice the silent protest. "I'm not sure that much attention was paid to them," he said.
Savage said he was aware students were there to raise concerns about accessibility and the provincial government is always willing to listen. "We have put dollars forward to make sure post secondary education is accessible to all qualified applicants," he added.