Students protest high tuition fees as part of last year’s Freeze the Fees campaign.

Photo: Stephen Armstrong

Tuition fee feud reignited

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By Keith Capstick

With their demands set for the university and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), Reignite Ryerson has released a new statement regarding tuition fees and their stance on current RSU vice-president education, Cormac McGee.

In a document obtained by The Eyeopener entitled, “Why Freeze the Fees Failed,” the group attempts to distance itself from last year’s campaign and questions the relationship the new RSU executive has with the administration and the anti-Freeze the Fees campaign Rise for Ryerson.

“Among the Rise for Ryerson group were prominent student leaders, including the current VP-Education. We only hope he changed his perspective about tuition fees since then, as his portfolio deals specifically with tuition fees and access to education. What an irony,” the press release reads.

Since the onset of Reignite Ryerson, McGee has reached out to representatives from the group to set up a one-on-one meeting and has called for their attendance at the first meeting of this year’s student action committee on Nov 10.

McGee says that his stance on dealing with the issue of tuition increases is that it’s something to be taken up with the provincial government and not with the school’s administration.

“This is not the institution, this is a systemic issue that needs to be solved on the ministry level and I’m trying to do that in the way I know how and the way I think it would work by drawing out a reasonable and rational proposal and right now I’m in the research part,” McGee said. “You can’t just sleep in a tent and make this happen.”

Vajdaan Tanveer, a student who was part of last year’s Freeze the Fees campaign and was part of the development of Reignite, emphatically disagrees with this stance. 

“I completely disagree with Cormac on this particular thing,” said Tanveer. “I agree with Cormac on saying provincial government is a long-term thing for this and I agree that the federal government should be taking more of a stance on making education more accessible but to say that the school doesn’t have a part to play in that conversation is very untrue.”

But McGee said to make any real change, he needs to be personally contacted and not “called out on an anonymous Facebook post.” He also maintained that he’d like to see members from Reignite out at RSU events in the future.

“I’d love if Reignite showed up and we could have a conversation that isn’t taking up SAGM and AGM times to make these statements when that doesn’t help push forward any motions to help with our bylaws or initiatives,” McGee said.

Tanveer was explicit about Reignite’s frustrations with McGee’s involvement with the school and described much of the RSU’s work this year as “all image without any substance.” He also explained the group’s reasoning behind naming McGee in the their list of demands, saying that it was an issue of “accountability.”

“The whole branding they’ve been doing there’s a lot of image, but no substance and one of their responses to that was we want to create the image so people know who we are so they can come to us,” said Tanveer.

He went on to explain that much of the group’s initial frustration was centered around the RSU addressing their group and its members rather than their demands. The group has maintained that its focus is on the issue of tuition fees, not political jockeying or individualized motives and that they look forward to meeting with the RSU in the future.

McGee admits that his work to this point on the issue of tuition hasn’t been public, which could be why students have started an opposition campaign — because students don’t know the work he’s been doing.

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