Volume 96, Issue 94
Thursday, March 27, 2003

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Dozens of students rally against tuition

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff


Over 100 Western students flocked to the Concrete Beach yesterday to push for a freeze on tuition fees and advocate a large student turnout during the upcoming provincial election.

The tuition freeze rally had several speakers, including Jesse Greener from the Society of Graduate Students, Paul Handford, president of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association, provincial Liberal candidate for London North Centre Deb Matthews, New Democratic Party candidate for London North Centre Rebecca Coulter and University Students' Council VP-education Josh Morgan.

"Government has taken a 'user pays'-based system for universities," Handford said, adding corporate investment has been seeping into the university system and has changed the student experience for the worse.

According to Handford, only 13 per cent of tuition was paid by students during the 1970s, while the government paid the rest. Now, the government only pays 30 per cent of tuition.

"These are political choices, no matter how they are dressed up," he said.

"I have seen firsthand what rising tuition has done to students," Matthews proclaimed, explaining that the Liberal Party, if elected in the upcoming Ontario provincial election, will freeze tuition fees and improve the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

"Why would we freeze [tuition fees] at a place that is too high – the NDP will reduce them by 10 per cent," Coulter stated, noting that, if elected, the NDP would also freeze and lower rent to aid students who have to face a heavy financial burden.

"Education is a right – you deserve a right to be here," she added.

After the initial gathering and speeches at Concrete Beach, the protesters marched down Richmond Street with a police escort that to the office of Dianne Cunningham, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, on Waterloo Street.

"There was really a dynamic crowd. I saw a lot of different faces in the crowd, and that's good," said Sarah McCarter, VP-external for SOGS and co-organizer of the protest, adding the potential power of the student vote has been emphasized this year.

"I think that we're starting to make people realize the power of their vote. We had a phenomenal media presence this year – that way the students and the city of London can hear our message," Morgan said. "The next step is getting students out to vote; we've educated them on the issues, they have to educate themselves on the parties. More importantly, they have to come to the polls when the next election is called."

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2002 THE GAZETTE