By Jonathan Fowlie
RyeSAC is calling on all members of the Ryerson community to join together and take their concerns about impending budget cuts, tuition fee increases and deregulation to the next board of governors meeting on Monday March 25, 2002.
These issues are of particular concern now because of the two-year tuition freeze, won by student protest in 2002, expires this year. As a result, the board is considering moves such as raising tuition in deregulated programs like engineering by up to $2,000 and eliminating other programs altogether.
And while many of these critical decisions will not actually be made during the March 25 meeting, the day will be the last chance students will have to speak out before the summer break. The board will make the final decisions on the budget at their next meeting in May.
As demonstrations go on outside the meeting on March 25, RyeSAC will be putting a motion before the board to freeze tuition fees at existing levels and to stop the further de-regulation of programs at Ryerson.
Alex Lisman, v.p. education at RyeSAC, said that the main goal of the planned demonstration is to encourage the board to pass that motion. “We’d like to see the board of governors realize that this is a really serious and accept that they really cannot continue with this line of revenue coming from students,” said Lisman.
He feels the action on March 25 is necessary because of what he identifies as being “certain conflicts of interest” on the board, which he thinks causes them to “make decisions that are counter to what the Ryerson community is looking for.”
In an official statement from RyeSAC, he said, “The board of governors — the ultimate decision makers at our university — are not Ryerson. Many of the governors are appointed corporate representatives. Many are supporters — financially as well as ideologically — of the Ontario PC Party and its agenda.”
To illustrate these claims, Lisman hopes to release a pamphlet, before March 25, that he says will reveal to students some of the conflicts of interest that exist with certain appointed members of the Ryerson board of governors.
RyeSAC’s lawyers are still reviewing the details of the pamphlet so Lisman could not discuss the specifics of what information it would contain. He did, however, say that he hoped the pamphlet would cause people to view the board in a different light. “We are not going to allow people to think that the board of governors is a neutral body,” Lisman said. “It has a great deal of power on the campus and so we want to inform people about whose interests are represented.”
Jane Langdon, the chair of the board of governors, was not aware of either RyeSAC’s complaints against the board or the planned demonstration on March 25. When told about RyeSAC’s complaints, however, she said “every person on the board who has appointment has expressed a commitment to post secondary education.”
“I think Ryerson is a complex university with a diverse community inside facing some very real challenges,” she added. “I have said before it would be great if there were some easy solutions but there aren’t. Life is full of choices and we make them based on what we believe is in the best interest of the overall institution.”
Langon had also not seen the motion being put forward to freeze tuition, but when asked about it, she said “we are concerned with trying to find as close as we can the right balance… [but] it would be totally premature of me to say where the board would sit on it until we’ve gone through a proper due diligence, which is what we would do with anything.”
Despite this, RyeSAC president Odelia Bay, who sits on the board of governors, said “it’s not easy” to always speak her mind at board meetings. “Sometimes I feel like it is easier to be heard as somebody trying to get a voice across from outside rather than from within the board… there’s no game rules to play by.”
For her, it will be important to let the students know what interests are represented on the board. More importantly, however, she wants people to know that “our board of governors decides what tuition fees will be. They decide what tuition fees will be. They decide whether they will take advantage of deregulation. And they do have a choice.”
She points to other schools such as Lakehead, who have written a letter to the Ontario government asking for a “fully funded freeze of tuition” and the University of Guelph, where they are holding back on deregulation, to point out that raising fees is not the only solution. “There are options available,” she said.