By Shane Perusse
In an effort to pressure the university to stop tuition hikes, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) launched its Freeze the Fees campaign on Monday.
RSU executives are also demanding the university release “budget details,” but one union spokesperson says they don’t know the exact details they need to be requesting.
“At this time we simply don’t know (which documents they need released),” said Jesse Root, the RSU’s vice -president of education. “We’ve asked (Ryerson) what it is we need to be looking for but they haven’t been very helpful.”
According to Root, the documents will help the RSU see where changes to the current budget could be made to implement the RSU’s top priority: lowering tuition fees without making any budgetary cuts.
But before that can happen, the RSU needs to know what to ask for.
Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson, says the university makes its budget and financial statements available online for both “transparency reasons and to meet bylaw obligations.”
The campaign, marked by a rally held Monday in front of the Student Campus Centre, will also serve to reinforce several proposals made by the RSU to Ryerson University.
They include lowering international tuition fees to match those paid by domestic students, increasing student representation on the board of governors and creating an alternative budget developed by student representatives and the RSU.
The RSU hopes to lower tuition fees without making any cuts to the university’s budget but is unsure where that money will come from.
“We’re on board with the university in that there needs to be more funding,” said Root.
“In the 1990s, provincial funding was around 70 per cent. Now that number is around 48 per cent. What we need is a system like they have in Germany, where the government pays for tuition.”
The RSU has been vocal about what it calls inappropriate spending on Ryerson’s part.
It cites the nearly $200,000 painting of Gould Street and Levy’s recent $80,000 bonus as examples of this spending.
Although the RSU is adamant that Ryerson’s spending has led to the need for a new budget, it cannot comment on what changes would be appropriate until Ryerson releases documents related to its budget.
“The university administration needs to join with the students’ union to make a better plan for the budget,” said Root.
“The problem we’re facing is that we don’t have the information we need other than audited financial information.
“We have asked (Ryerson) for a line-by-line budget but they just say ‘We can’t give that to you,’” he added.
The RSU has so far collected 5,000 signatures in an effort to gain the board of governors’ attention but has yet to draw any action.