By Noah Love
Universities are becoming more like department stores and less like schools, said the vice president of George Brown college at a round table discussion on the state of post-secondary education.
“Education is seen as a commodity,” said Michael Cooke. “Students see themselves more as consumers, treating the system like they would a purchase at The Bay.”
The forum was held last Thursday at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and featured speakers from the provincial New Democratic Party, Bell Canada, the University of Toronto and York University.
Dave Gouter, a reaching assistant at U of T, spoke at the discussion.
He said government cuts have already affected his profession, increasing the number of freeway fliers, TAs who spend their day on the road and make a living by teaching a single course at different universities.
“In 1995, before the cuts, TAs would be hired for 280 hours and teach 50 students,” said Gouter, who teaches history.
“Now it’s still 280 hours, but 80 or 90 students. You teach more, you focus less on your own studies, and your degree takes longer to complete. It’s a cycle of exploitation and it’s created a job ghetto.”
“We’re in a recession and if things get tougher, there will be even less money,” said MPP Rosario Marchese, the NDP education critic.
Cooke blames the conservative government for not providing the proper resources for education.
“Most of [Premier Mike} Harris’ policies involve repeating mistakes that have already been made,” said Cooke.
He said the cuts could mean trouble for the quality of graduation students in the job market.
“There’s a decline in funding and a changing workplace landscape,” he said. “Right now the public are just looking for accountability and results.”
Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse said the cash crunch has meant less support for faculty members, an increase in class sizes, and fewer services for students.
“[Government funding] has made the challenge of providing a high quality, relevant education to our students more difficult,” he said.
“Thanks to the faculty members and staff who really made some sacrifices in the last 10 years, we’ve kept the quality [high].”