Davis gets free degree, slams high tuition fees

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By Dalson Chen

Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis decried the rising cost of university education while speaking at Ryerson’s Fall 2003 Convocation last week.

“Education at the post-secondary level must be available to every qualified young person,” said Davis. “No one should be prejudiced in any way for lack of economic resource.”

Turning to Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse, Davis said he didn’t want to “get into a discussion of tuition costs and all the rest of it,” but he challenged the government to find a way to alleviate student debt.
“The burdens sometimes imposed upon young people leaving our post-secondary institutions are inhibiting and discouraging,” said Davis. “A means has to be found to rectify that situation.”

Davis, a 74-year-old former provincial Tory leader, made the comments in his acceptance speech after receiving an Honourary Doctorate of Law from Ryerson.

“If you get a feeling that I’m quite passionate about this issue, you’d be correct,” he said. “I don’t think people in public life speak out often enough in support of our education system.

“It is time that government and the public respect the teaching profession,” he said.

The registrar’s office reports there is no evidence to suggest that students drop out due to a high debt load, according to Lajeunesse.

“I don’t want to minimize the importance of this issue but on the other hand, all the signs point to the fact that we’re doing quite a good job at providing the support that’s needed to those that need it,” Lajeunesse said.

On previous occasions, Davis has criticized the Tories under Ernie Eves on education issues. In his Convocation speech, Davis expressed solidarity with teachers.

Davis also endorsed diversity in curriculum.

“There’s a place for philosophers, for poets, for social sciences,” he said. “We should understand there’s more to the make-up of our society than just the professional faculties.”

Along with sharing his views on education, Davis made sure to crack a few jokes at the expense of President Lajeunesse.

“Without the faculty, Mr. President, you wouldn’t be anything,” chortled Davis.

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