By Keith Capstick
After Reignite Ryerson’s latest accusation against Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president education Cormac McGee, only one thing is clear — nobody’s listening to Reignite.
The oppositional group voicing its concerns about tuition fees made three demands of the RSU and a few more of the university this month -— but none of them have been responded to.
“If the RSU does not take an active stance against rising tuition fees then the implicit message is, ‘We’re alright with tuition fees increasing,’” said Ledya Mahadere, a fifth-year politics and governance student who’s recently joined Reginite’s campaign. “If you say, ‘As long as it doesn’t interfere with education,’ then it creates that correlation [between fees and quality of education] where it doesn’t really exist.”
Reignite has requested that the RSU make a public declaration about its stance on rising tuition fees in addition to also declaring a stance on the way that these hikes affect marginalized communities disproportionately.
McGee said he’s made his stance on tuition clear and that there’s no need for a public statement.
“Taking a public stance on tuition fees, I don’t know why I need to do that because I feel like I’ve done that over and over,” McGee said. “[The] students I’m going to listen to care to sit down with me and come up with a plan of action.”
Both sides have oppositional opinions regarding the best place to look for the answer to their tuition-related concerns, with Reignite insisting that the school must be involved for students to be taken seriously while McGee and the RSU would prefer to go straight to the province.
Vajdaan Tanveer, who was involved in starting Reignite, said that given McGee’s involvement with Rise for Ryerson and subsequent election as vice-president education, it is imperative that McGee takes a public stance on rising fees. Without that, Tanveer said, the school is able to continue increasing fees.
“You fundamentally go out and say don’t freeze tuition fees,” Tanveer said.
At last November’s Board of Governors meeting, a representative from Rise for Ryerson said increases in tuition fees were “necessary to ensure quality of education.” McGee said he’s never aligned himself with this statement, despite being involved with the campaign. He also said he was not an organizer.
“I was just a part of it, I wasn’t a main driver of it. But I definitely told my friends about it and told them to come out,” McGee said. “Tuition fees are a necessity [for the school] and … half of the university’s revenue is tuition fees and just because it’s the right thing right now doesn’t mean it’s the best thing.
“The only way I would want tuition fees frozen is if I knew it was a positive solution for the entire Ryerson community.”
Tanveer questioned what constitutes an organizer.
“I would argue that if you’re posting pictures and trying to get people out to an event, advocating for a group, that’s an organizer,” he said.
Reignite’s first organizational meeting will be held next week and the group said they’re focused on getting people involved. They said they’re waiting for a public response from the RSU and the university, who also haven’t responded to their original demands.
“[There] is a common misconception that quality of education is correlated with cost of education and these two things are not actually correlated,” Mahadere said. “So we need the RSU to take an active stance.”