By Emma Sandri
Half of campus radio stations are at risk of closing due to the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI), according to a New Democratic Party (NDP) media release.
In the NDP’s press release, Chris Glover, MPP Spadina-Fort York, described the act of closing campus radio stations as a “broader attack” to post-secondary institutions and their services.
“There’s a $600-million OSAP cut, a $300-million operating grant cut to colleges and universities across the province, and a 10 per cent, unfunded tuition cut. This is an attack on the quality of education students are provided,” Glover states.
The SCI was first announced on Jan. 17 by Merrilee Fullerton, former minister of training, colleges and universities. The policy gives students the ability to opt out of certain non-essential, non-tuition fees that were previously a mandatory part of their tuition.
Over two months later, the province released its guidelines for the SCI. Mandatory fees included student buildings, health and counselling, academic support, campus safety programs and athletics and recreation, among others.
Those fees which aren’t mandatory—and subject to student opt-out—include campus student groups and cultural associations, student unions and campus media organizations, such as newspapers and radio stations.
“We represent 18 stations across Ontario that are being impacted by this initiative and shift,” said Randy Reid, the manager of VIBE105 at York University and vice-president of the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA). “We risk losing at least half of these stations if [Doug] Ford’s decisions are not overturned.”
In the media release, Reid said that campus radio stations have been partnering with universities across Ontario for “the better part of 30 years.”
Ryerson University’s campus radio station, CJRU, is a member of NCRA according to their website. The CJRU’s fee costs students $3.73, annually.
“Since the Ford Government eliminated the six-month grace period after graduation before OSAP loan payments are due, it’s now more important than ever for students to be able to gain experience in their field before graduating,” said Naama Weingarten, a Ryerson student employed at the CJRU, in the media release. “So many students like myself start out with campus community radio stations and student newspapers. This is the way that we get our foot in the door.”
Weingarten says that if radio stations like CJRU are shut down, there would be no way for her to build a portfolio before she graduates.
“At a time where we’re losing our grants, we’re losing OSAP, it should be more important than ever to fund student jobs, and jobs that allow us to excel in our career after graduating,” said Weingarten. “Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be a priority for Provincial government.”
In an interview with The Eyeopener on Sept. 5, Ryerson’s vice-provost, students, Jen McMillen, said that full-time and part-time Ryerson students have up until Friday, Sept. 13 to opt-in to paying “non-essential” fees, if they didn’t choose to do so before.