GUELPH, ON – On January 17, 2019, the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) government launched a reckless plan for post-secondary education in the province, leaving students in Ontario worse off. This announcement included:
*A guaranteed 4 per cent cut in institutional funding;
* A reduction in non-repayable grants and an increase in student loans;
* The elimination of the 6-month grace period for loan repayment.
Additionally, it included a proposal the government is calling the “Student Choice Initiative” which would break compulsory fees into “essential” and “non-essential” fees and allow students to opt-out of non-essential costs.
On behalf of the UofG Central Student Association and the undergraduate students at the University of Guelph, Your CSA castigates the ‘Student Choice Initiative’, as it would act to defund essential services and clubs that operate on our campus and campuses across the province, whose fees have been approved through a democratic referendum process and can be removed through the same process should the students wish.
We broadly oppose the removal of mandatory ancillary fees and condemn the proposal to do so as a direct attack on-campus groups that fight for equity, human rights, political rights, and any campus group that relies on ancillary fees for necessary funding.
“It appears that the proposals are rooted in a consultation process that polled a minuscule portion of the student population, and although it may not be intentionally malicious, it is still resolutely malevolent.” said Jack Fisher, President of the CSA.
“What is really being called into question is the nature of student agency. Do we not get to determine what happens with our money? We have established a democratic, and fair way of deciding what gets funded by us and what doesn’t. We vote. Some referendum questions are phrased as an opt-out and some aren’t. The provincial government is not affected by these fees. Fees that can be re-worded if a student is passionate enough to do so.”
Fisher adds, “What it shows to us, is that there is contempt for students coming top down. There is a perceived denigration directed toward post-secondary education and willful ignorance to gather information before making decisions.”
The “Student Choice Initiative” is first and foremost an attack on student democracy and should be recognized as such. We call upon our partners and associates at The University of Guelph, across the province of Ontario, and Canada to acknowledge and challenge the ignominious proposals made by the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.
In a letter signed by student association across the county, it is noted “[the Student Choice Initiative”] assumes that students don’t have [a] choice in how their student fees are spent. Through consultation with student governments, you will learn that each of us conducts regular referendums related to student fees. Adding an “opt-out” option, then, would be the same as allowing voters to opt-out of paying their taxes to police services or libraries. Elections and referendums allow students to guide their fees, and that brings continuity and stability to student budgeting. Without stable, predictable funding student unions will be forced to end a wide variety of programs and services — everything from mental health to sexual assault supports and” displacing thousands of student workers and volunteers “…With a 10 per cent tuition cut and no additional public funding, we know institutions themselves won’t pick up the slack.”
Secondly, we call upon Doug Ford and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to reinstate the 2017 OSAP plan and the Ontario Student Grant that made education more accessible for everyone. We implore the government to ask the right questions to determine functional changes to the post-secondary funding system that will help solve for the inequities inherent in the system rather than guessing at what band-aid solution to an already struggling post-secondary industry might win them the most votes.
The current process of consultation has been lackadaisical and ignorant. We demand the government to immediately rescind their proposals in favour of informed consultation with University and College administrators and students. Proper policy is not created by consulting only those that agree with you.
Respectfully in contempt,
Jack Fisher, CSA President
Aidan Paskinov, CSA VP Student Experience
Natalie Clarke, CSA VP Academic
Kayla Weiler, CSA VP External Affairs