Today, the Ford government announced sweeping changes to the tuition and student fee frameworks at colleges and universities across the province.
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton stated that students will be able to opt out of fees that are deemed non-essential. The services that the province views as “essential” are those related to health and safety, like walksafe programs, athletics, and counselling. Universities and colleges will decide the rest.
The Varsity is extremely concerned about the impact these changes may have on the future of the student press in Ontario.
All students benefit from the student press. Recently, The Varsity broke the story of Muslim Students’ Association executives receiving surprise visits from law enforcement. We followed the progress of U of T’s controversial university-mandated leave of absence policy, and we examined the implications of the university’s investments in offshore tax havens.
Student journalists are often the only ones to hold colleges and universities accountable for their actions, but this policy may allow the schools themselves to determine whether or not student journalism is “essential.”
Student media is the platform for students to make their voices heard, and a fee opt-out could seriously threaten the future of our operations. A government that postures as an advocate for free speech on campus must recognize that student journalism is the bastion of campus free speech.
We call on the Ontario government to recognize that campus journalism is unquestionably an essential service. We are hopeful that the University of Toronto will recognize that The Varsity, like all campus media, is vital to the integrity of this institution as a stronghold of freedom of speech — and freedom of the press.
— Jack O. Denton, Editor-in-Chief & Reut Cohen, Managing Editor