June 8, 2009

Arrogance of UofT on Flat Fees

U of T’s Varsity Newspaper reciently reported that the University Governing Council has approved the controversial "flat fee" proposal to charge incoming full-time undergraduate Arts and Science students with a flat program fee.Incoming Arts and Science students will now have to pay for five courses even if they take only three, forceing students seeking assistance through OSAP to pay for five full credits. We reprint here the editorial of the Varisty on this issue.

No more Ms. Nice editor
I usually fight fair. I figure, if you want some one to take you seriously, you must speak to them in a rational, calm, and well-spoken manner. Yelling, swearing, put-downs, and name-calling never convinced anyone to do anything. I’ve found it’s been a good negotiating strategy, and it has often yielded results. That was until U of T’s Governing Council passed the flat fees proposal on May 20. Apparently, no one in a position of power listened to the legitimate and thoughtful arguments from students.

So fuck ’em all. That’s it! If fighting fair doesn’t work, then they can suck my … well, you fill that one in. What a bunch of BMW-driving, north Toronto living, United Colours of Beniton wearing d-bags. Voting members have shown no consideration for students by passing this proposal, so there’s no obligation for me to continue printing respectful articles.

The parade of polite protests in the past few months has been long. A widespread Facebook campaign began a few months back, resulting in a barrage of dissenting emails to voting members of FASC, the Business Board, and Governing Council. Over 100 students and staff peacefully protested outside Con Hall on April 27, urging the Business Board to vote down the proposal. UTSU and ASSU are taking U of T to civil court, claiming administrators ignored recommendations from committees and used questionable procedures in an effort to get the proposal through. Despite police presence, students assembled outside the May 20 meeting, which was conveniently located at UTM. And then there was the legendary action taken by Alison Martell, when she calmly placed an eloquently written letter in the hands of U of T president David Naylor himself while receiving the Gordon Cressy Award for student leadership on the stage of Con Hall.

But the powers that be have not listened to these cries. The likes of Naylor, Meric Gertler, dean of Arts and Science, and Cheryl Misak, VP and Provost have remained arrogantly unreceptive to students. Instead of considering their arguments, these ivory tower assholes have gone ahead with a plan that punishes U of T’s foundation, the undergraduate experience.

Faculty members that voted in favour of flat fees are just as shameful. They’re the ones who are charged with the privilege of sharing knowledge with students, yet by voting for the proposal, they’ve demonstrated their willingness to appease the upper ranks, while hanging their own students out to dry.

And the four student governors who were absent from the May 20 meeting should be embarrassed to show their faces on campus, as they refused to even participate. Indecision is the greatest cowardice of all.

Those responsible for the proposal’s implementation are wrapped up in their own little worlds, far removed from the time when they were trying to find the precarious balance between getting an education, keeping food in the fridge, and having a bit of a social life along the way. Apparently, fat cheques make memories short. If I ever find myself in a corner office overlooking the sprawling downtown metropolis, I’ll never forget what it’s like to be in a position of vulnerability, where someone else determines your means of education.

What’s most disconcerting is that this university (a place where ideas are supposed to be explored, cultivated, and discussed) closed all doors to other solutions. Scott Mabury, chairperson of the Program Fee Implementation Committee, expedited the voting process against the recommendations of his own committee. Thus, there was no time to consider and weigh other solutions to the university’s financial woes. Sneaky move, Mr. Mabury! With the refusal to explore other options, U of T has made it very clear: their priority as an institution is no longer to nurture knowledge and experience, but rather to pad their corporate pocket books.

The study to be conducted over the next three years, designed to test the effects of flat fees, will likely yield the results many have predicted. Students who are not able to take five courses a year due to financial or lifestyle restrictions will be forced to drop down to under three courses a year, sacrificing their OSAP grants. And those determined to get what they pay for and take a full load will likely experience depreciation in their academic and extra-curricular life. Yes, there are those who can maintain a high GPA and sustain their social lives while juggling five credits, and to you I say good on ya. But there are thousands of students who simply don’t have that capacity, and will suffer as a result.

Reason was nowhere to be found in this process. Those who voted yes to flat fees are sentencing the undergraduate student body to a rushed four years of devalued education here at U of T, and have further degraded the university’s reputation. You should all be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.

Yours truly,

Alixandra Gould
Comment Editor

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