Students from several schools plan to camp out in the cold to support tuition freezes

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Student sitting in the snow outside of the UCC

Joyce Wang

LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MOMMY AND DADDY STOP PAYING TUITION. Several universities' students are camping in the winter weather to protest increasing tuition fees.

Students will brave the cold beginning Jan. 31 to protest Ontario’s rising tuition fees, culminating in the Canadian Federation of Students’ Feb. 7 Day of Action.

Student unions at Ontario universities like Toronto, York, and Laurentian are participating in a campaign entitled “Freeze for the Fees” and camping out in the winter weather for a week to support freezing and lowering tuition fees.

“The reason we’re camping out is to raise awareness for the rally coming up one week after the first day we pitch the tents,” said Emily Shelton, U of T Students’ Union VP-external. “It’s a creative and fun campaign that students can really plug into... we’ve had a really great response.”

Students from political clubs on campus won’t be the only ones participating, Shelton said.

“Students from the campus clubs like the outdoors clubs will be participating, as well as students who really feel passionate about the tuition freeze,” she said. “We believe we’ll raise awareness by people asking what the tents are doing in [Toronto’s] King’s College Circle... it has a great visual effect.”

Because Western’s University Students’ Council isn’t part of the CFS, it won’t organize any Day of Action events. However, all students are welcome to participate in demonstrations across Canada in front of each province’s respective legislatures Feb. 7.

“There’s going to be a big rally in front of Queen’s Park and in front of Parliament in Ottawa, as well as at some universities and colleges for students who can’t participate in the larger ones,” Shelton said.

The Western New Democrats are disappointed there won’t be any large-scale events at Western Feb. 7, said WND President Devin Johnston.

“We feel that it’s important to stand in solidarity with the broader social movement in Canada in the struggle for educational rights, universal access, and lower student debt,” Johnston said.

The Society of Graduate Students, a member of CFS, will hold a discussion on campus on the Day of Action, and Johnston hopes WND and SOGS can reach out to students about tuition issues by setting up a table in the University Community Centre.

Simply talking with students to raise awareness is garnering support for both the Freeze for the Fees event and Feb. 7, said Gabrielle Lemieux, president of the Francophone Students’ Association at Laurentian.

“We’ve been doing some tabling and talking to students about debt " in nine days, we’ve totalled $6.6 million in debt. It’s really getting students talking.”

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