Claude on Money, Politics

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By Joe Friesen

Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse refuses to make a public foray into the provincial election campaign but he hopes his backroom lobbying will bear financial fruit once a new government is elected.

The president’s counterpart at the University of Toronto, Robert Birgeneau, published a large advertisement in the Globe and Mail last weekend calling on all parties to raise Ontario’s post-secondary education funding to the national average. Lajeunesse said he supports Birgeneau’s request, but Ryerson won’t be following suit.

“We probably could not afford to publish an ad like this in the Star or the Globe,” said Lajeunesse. “We each have our own issues that we need to deal with.”

Lajeunesse said his main priority is securing provincial money to make up for the $13 milion shortfall caused by the government’s failure to fund 2,000 Ryerson students.

The ministry of education funding formula, devised in the 1980s, penalizes institutions for admitting more students than their presribed corridor allows.

“No government, neither Peterson nor Rae nor the current government has adjusted the corridors,” said Lajeunesse. “We felt it was our duty, since government had recognized us as a university [in 1993], to take in more students because government had promised they would adjust the corridors. We did our duty but in the end the corridor was only minimally adjusted.”

Lajeunesse has been meeting with leading members of the government and opposition parties to get his message across.

“We’ve met with Mr. Hampton, we’ve met with Mr. McGuinty,” said Lajeunesse. “My role is to make sure that we [seek funding] in collaboration with whomever we can.”

Lajeunesse said he has no personal ties with any political party. He sees his role as being “constantly in the face of those who make decisions to make sure they understand what our special needs are.

“As president of Ryerson University I deal with the government that has been elected. It is not for me to take positions on behalf of the university that would not be supported by 40 or 45 per cent of the electorate.”

RyeSAC president Ken Marciniec urged Lajeunesse to take a public stand in defence of financially overburdened students.

“He’s ideologically opposed to the ideas students are advocating, like a tuition freeze,” said Marciniec. “I’ll call on him to speak out on behalf of students, but I doubt he’ll do it.”

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