Rally supports tuition freeze
Saying they believe their campaign for a two-year tuition freeze in Saskatchewan is gaining support, U of S students staged a noon-hour rally in Place Riel and marched on the Administration Building Feb. 9.
Led by U of S Students’ Union President Gavin Gardiner, more than 300 students gathered to hear speeches urging the tuition freeze, and about 200 of them carried placards and marched through the Arts Tunnel, Thorvaldson, Geology and Physics Buildings, then through the Bowl to stage a noisy 15-minute protest in the atrium of the Administration Building.
Gardiner led them in chants calling for the tuition freeze and the students then released dozens of helium-filled balloons in the building. Being noon-hour, most staff in the building were away for lunch, and the students didn’t meet with any administration representatives.
Gardiner urged students to keep up the pressure on the provincial government by signing postcards calling for the tuition freeze. “We have thousands of (signed) postcards, and we need thousands more,” he told students. He will present them to the government in a few weeks.
At the rally, the students were cheered on by Canadian Federation of Students Saskatchewan chair Nicole Berard and U of S Psychology Professor Emeritus John Conway, who spoke from the stage and said tuitions are causing onerous debt for students.
“Some students have up to $60,000 in debt,” Berard said.
Conway charged that tuition fees have gone up at the same time as support for the College of Arts and Science has gone down and the U of S has directed a lot of funding to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron. He encouraged students to ask U of S President Peter MacKinnon how much the synchrotron is costing the University and “why more than 40 faculty have been cut from the College of Arts and Science?”
And he said they should ask why U of S Arts and Science students pay the fourth-highest tuition fees among the 15 medical-doctoral universities in Canada. And, “ask (President MacKinnon) why you should pay national-norm tuition fees when your family income (in Saskatchewan) is below national norms and when you graduate to jobs paying below the national norm?”
Conway noted recent moves in Alberta and Ontario either limit tuition increases or stall them until government provides more funding to universities.
USSU President Gardiner told the 300 noisy students, “The crowd today represents undeniable momentum” for the tuition freeze campaign.
“We’ve had enough and we’re calling on the provincial government to freeze tuition fees.”
Gardiner said a two-year freeze would cost the government about $14 million.
“Out of a $300-million (government) surplus, that’s a drop in the bucket for the province, but it’s life and death for students,” he told the crowd.
He said a tuition freeze would be the first step in ensuring “affordable, accessible post-secondary education in this province.”
He said governments across Canada have recognized the problem and are taking action. “We join New Brunswick and P.E.I. as the only provinces in the country which do nothing for students,” Gardiner said, to cries of “Shame!” from the student audience.
He added that Saskatchewan is the only place in Canada where university enrolments are dropping.
Gardiner vowed that students will keep up the pressure.