By Tatiana Bernachi
Members of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) rallied a group of demonstrators to surprise the university’s president with a Halloween treat, and to send a message to the administration that students are fed up with escalating tuition fees.
The rally kicked off with a gathering in front of the Student Campus Centre at noon. From there, about 15 people marched down Gould Street and then up Yonge Street with painted signs and umbrellas in hand. The rally’s centerpiece was a coffin for “affordable education.”
On the 13th floor of Jorgenson Hall, where the rally ended, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy greeted the crowd of students and posed for pictures.
“We gave the wreath and candy as a way to end off the rally,” said Roshelle Lawrence, the RSU’s vice-president of education. “He stopped to take a photo with us and accepted the wreath (that read: RIP Affordable Education).”
The rally’s purpose was to demand Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne lower post-secondary tuition, and to convince more students to take up the cause.
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“A lot of students are not able to access education and the ones that do are either working multiple jobs or even full-time while having a full course load,” Lawrence said.
“Why is it that people in previous generations were able to pay so little for their education and why do we have to pay so much?”
Veronica Umana, a first-year social work student who works part time at Target Canada to fund her education, said the government should be eager to invest in its future leaders’ studies.
“If we’re planning to make a better future here in Canada, we should be granted our education for free,” she said. “We’re going to be helping the economy when we’re older, so why not?”
Tuition fees have gone up by 71 per cent since 2006, according to the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), resulting in an average student debt — private and public —of $37,000 upon completing an Ontario university degree program.
Alastair Woods, chairperson of CFS-Ontario, also attended the rally. He said many students across the province’s campuses know “nothing” about tuition fee increases.
“I think part of this rally is a way to say it doesn’t have to be this way and it wasn’t always this way,” Woods said. “But I think, on the other hand, it’s a message to the government and to the administration that we need a sharp turn in direction. We can’t keep increasing tuition fees.”
Ontario students pay the highest tuition fees in the country. The CFS ranks the province’s per-student funding as the lowest in the country, and says it has the worst student-to-faculty ratio in Canada.
“(We’re) working with the administration across Ontario and across the country,” Lawrence said. “The administration has a big part to play in how much we pay.”
But in order for this to happen, the RSU will need substantial student support to achieve its goals.
“We saw a lot of new faces,” Lawrence said. “I think, for what we were aiming for and what we actually achieved, I think we hit our target.”