Governing Council was forced to move behind closed doors to approved fee increases after its meeting was disrupted by frustrated student representatives this Thursday, April 10. The newly approved tuition fee schedule will raise tuition fees between 2 and 20 per cent, averaging 5 per cent for international students and 4.27 per cent for domestic students. The maximum allowed by the government’s tuition framework is 5 per cent.
A closed door governing council has not been held for several years, and can only be allowed under special circumstances. John Petch, the chair of GC, accused student protestors of forcing the council to evict them. “A student governor was unable to speak, so we could not go on with the meeting” said Petch.
Alexandru Rascanu, an undergraduate student representative on GC, presented a petition signed by students against fee hikes, and read out comments made by debt-burdened students until he was stopped by the chair at the seven-minute mark. At that point, ASSU executive Alanna Prasad, who was among the observers, stood up and continued reading where Rascanu had been stopped. After several minutes, Prasad was replaced by Michal Hay, VP university affairs at UTSU. The reading of signatures continued even after the meeting was adjourned and relocated to a room in the Galbraith Building.
Only governors and administrators were allowed in the relocated meeting. Rascanu said called that decision unfair to students who were not being disruptive, including some who were contributing to the debate. About 30 students gathered in a hallway outside the meeting room chanting “Whose campus? Our campus!” and “Governing Council, shame on you, who the hell elected you?”
“I am particularly incensed that there is a clear lack of respect for the student representatives who are clearly under-represented at the GC,” said Sandy Hudson, VP equity at UTSU. Hudson will be president of UTSU next year.
Before giving the floor to students who had signed up on the speaking list, Petch remarked that he hoped students were “well-trained” and would speak logically and persuasively. He had to interrupt one student representative APUS VP external Jeff Peters, when Peters’ speech was nearing the time limit. Peters has speaking difficulties, and his translator-mediated speeches to GC are often cut short for exceeding his time limit. Petch advised Peters to circulate a print-out of his speech so that he might save time on the translator
Alex Kenjeev, who represents grad students on GC defended the fee hikes. Without the hikes, he said, the budget would surely face a deficit, and so governors and students should be looking at alternative ways to make education accessible rather than decreasing or eliminating tuition fees.
“It is alarming that they still use the deficit to justify the decision,” said P.C. Choo, one of two governors who voted against the fee increase. “U of T got 40 per cent of a $6 billion provincial government grant. Where did it go? Fees have increased steadily at 4.5 per cent on average since McGuinty’s fee freeze ended.”
Choo said he was surprised that the other governors voted for the motion. “They didn’t answer my question,” he noted. “Student protests didn’t work, the administration lobbied, that didn’t work. So now what?”
Kenjeev also expressed outrage at students terming police action during the March 20 sit-in at Simcoe Hall “police brutality.”
“I don’t want to concentrate on [Kenjeev’s] comments too much,” said Hudson. “There were many more students outside who were representing the opinions of the majority of students on this campus. But I think the GC has done what they intended, in attempting to get student representatives as their loudspeakers.”
Asked about the fee increases, Petch said that some of it should go to equity.
With files from Jade Colbert