Exams, completing the university budget and the government were just some of the reasons why yesterday’s demonstration never really took off, despite the cause of the event which is worrisome to most students–rising tuition. Thursday’s Rally for Lower Tuition Fees, organized by Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), which prompted two bicycle cops to do a ride-by, seemed more of a celebration rather than a demonstration.
A gathering of 30 people stood around the intersection of Victoria and Gould Streets, listened to music, made buttons and wrote anti-tuition hike slogans on posters. Only a few actually held banners and addressed the issues at hand, while others snacked on free pizza.
Nevertheless, the RSU remained stalwart, in the sun and cold wind, and promoted its cause.
The student union said post-secondary students can expect four years of a three to five per cent tuition fee increase.
The RSU also stated that Ryerson University’s president earned a recent raise of $80,000, making his current earnings $445,000.
Of Sheldon Levy’s pay, a demonstrator asked another student, “Does that seem fair to you?”
On March 28, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, Brad Duguid announced that the tuition fee increase would be capped at three per cent annually for the next four years.
A press release from Duguid stated, “This new tuition policy strikes a balance. We are increasing fairness and affordability for students and their families.”
He also said that students would continue to have access to higher education based on their ability to learn.
However, the few demonstrators that did discuss the key issues voiced some concerns.
Barry Weisleder, an activist for Socialist Action has attended education rallies for 40 years, he said, “Education is becoming less and less affordable for working-class people.”
Third-year politics and governance student Tyler Mackinnon said, “Students have a difficult enough time keeping up with their succeeding in their studies without having the added burden of stretching their funds to eat.”
He also added, “The government increasing tuition fees makes it impossible for us to succeed. Education is a right, not a privilege.”
Despite the somewhat disappointing attendance, RSU’s vice-president, Melissa Palermo, said she was impressed with the turnout.
“We can really show the university and the province the impact tuition fees have on students,” she said.
“I think we had some really great conversations with students.”
Among the thinned crowd of students outside the student centre, something caught the attention of two students who passed by.
One of them shouted, “Yo dude, free pizza!”
The two wandered over to the table with the free pizza, grabbed a slice each, and carried on their way without a second glimpse at the demonstration’s signs and flyers.