You don’t want to pay more tuition. But you are probably convinced it is a necessary evil in order to obtain a high-quality education. Even if you are not, you likely feel powerless to stop tuition from rising again.
You shouldn’t feel powerless. Even as U of T sends out an internal memo telling administrators how to justify another round of increases. Even as the Governing Council—which sets fees—decides not even to entertain a request by one of the few student representatives to simply discuss the idea of a tuition freeze.
You do have power. And it’s coming to your mailbox soon.
When you graduate, not only will you start to receive an unending stream of requests from Graditude to give money to U of T, you will also receive requests to sign up for an MBNA credit card, which gives a portion of your expenditures to U of T.
They depend on this money from you. It accounts for a sizeable chunk of U of T’s budget. If you respond in the right way to their requests, you can make education more accessible.
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric that your giving money to U of T will make education more available. The more you give, the less government will be inclined to support university education.
It doesn’t have to be this way. U of T has the power to reshape what government and the public think of education. And you have the power to force them to do just that.
This may seem like a hokey proposition. But when students (and even professors) have only a tiny number of seats on decision-making bodies, it is the most power we have. And it works, just as targeted boycotts that demand specific reforms have always worked.
The specific reform is fairly straightforward. U of T needs to get up off its ass and start engaging in some real lobbying.
Think of any major policy change, be it establishing a social program or granting tax cuts. Did those occur because of back-room lobbying? Of course not. They occurred because of mass support gained after lobbying the public. This is what the university is too scared to do, even though it is the only form of lobbying proven to work.
We need the university to invest in a barrage of advertising designed to soften up public support for public education. We need them to employ people to canvass door-to-door, talking to voters about why education is important. We need them to ally with students and academics.
It has worked in some American universities, and it can work here.
That way, when you give money to U of T, you’re not just making it easier for government to pull out funds. You’ll be building a hill instead of filling a hole.
U of T has the budget for such things. It is just a question of priorities. A question of whether they will hike the Dean of Law’s salary by nearly 16 per cent—plus $33,000 in benefits—or whether they will lobby for the groundwork that will, over time, provide public support to keep fees reasonable and attract talented professors.
But you have to do it. In administrators’ polite world of hobnobbing with the six-figure salary club, they would never be so rude as to take a public stand and engage in the hard-nosed lobbying that actually makes people change their mind. Why would they? They have cushy expense packages that are more than many people earn in a whole year, and despite a supposed lack of government funds, they still manage to put through millions in salary increases.
They are screwing you, and they won’t stop until you screw them harder.
This isn’t to say we should stop holding protests, or stop using our small number of votes on the governing council to the best of our ability. But it is just plain stupid strategy to use these methods while ignoring the biggest piece of artillery we have—one that will be in our mailboxes any moment.
So when you get your request for money this year—and every year—write them a little letter. Tell them on the day you see an ad in prime time calling for more university funding, or the day someone knocks on your door to explain why universities are so vital, you will be more than happy to write them a hefty check. But not a moment sooner.
You will likely get screwed with tuition this year. But there is no reason—and no excuse—for not using what powerful tools we have to prevent that from happening to a future generation of knowledge-seekers.