by Gloria Bacci
Ryerson faculty members have backed students in their fight for a reinstated tuition fee freeze.
At last week’s Academic Council meeting, student and faculty members voted 24 to 22 in favour of extending Ontario’s tuition fee freeze until 2008. The council is responsible for academic policy-making at Ryerson.
Tabled by Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, vice-president academic for the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson and Nora Loreto, vice-president academic for Ryerson Students’ Union, the motion came in response to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to lift the province’s tuition fee freeze after September 2006.
The motion requested that Ryerson President Sheldon Levy write letters to the provincial government urging it to maintain its promised tuition freeze.
It also encouraged the council to seek joint support from the Board of Governors, which is a body responsible for administrative policy-making.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler said last week’s vote will send a strong message to the province.
“When Ryerson as an institution goes to the government and says, ‘our students can’t handle another tuition fee increase,’ it is a powerful statement and is going to be respected,” he said.
With university tuition fees increasing 195 per cent since 1990, Chaleff-Freudenthaler believes cost has a huge effect on access.
“It’s becoming a very privileged right to have an education after secondary school,” he said. “Tuition has increased six times the rate of inflation and it’s not right for students to pay that much.”
Levy agrees that post-secondary education is not as accessible as it could be. Unlike Chaleff-Freudenthaler, Levy would rather see the province beef up financial aid than cut tuition fees.
“There are students who get a freeze who don’t need the money,” he said. Levy is more concerned about the students who don’t have access to social aid. He said the province should accommodate these students first.
Loreto thought it was “fantastic” that the motion passed, but was unhappy with the balloting process.
“I’m extremely disappointed that Academic Council is not a mechanism for a rollcall vote,” she said.
The council denied Loreto’s request for a rollcall vote, as it didn’t comply with procedural by-laws. This type of vote requires each member to publicly state their position.
The secret ballot also raised concerns with Chaleff-Freudenthaler.
“It is grossly inadequate to have a body of that stature who can’t be held accountable in a public forum,” he said. “It violates every single principle of accountability and transparency. I know my 6,400 members would have liked to know how I voted.”
Chaleff-Freudenthaler said he is planning to call for a by-law change so the council can hold rollcall votes in the future.
He also speculated on why the council held a confidential vote.
“I think that happened because the faculty was not confident enough to voice their opinion to (their fellow) faculty and the community,” he said.
“There certainly is a pressure from the administration, and (the faculty) feel it.”
When universities are strapped for government cash, tuition fees become a key funding tool, said Chaleff-Freudenthaler.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler appreciates the faculty members who stood up for lower tuition fees.
“I think they understand that it is really important for students to have an affordable education,” he said. “It is because of their support that we won that motion.”
The RSU and CESAR will hold a CFS-fueled campus-wide vote to gauge student opinion on the tuition fee debate.
The vote runs Nov. 14-18.