Students will be calling on the provincial government to reduce student debt, tuition fees, as well as to increase funding and equality for international and Aboriginal students as part of the Canadian Federation of Students National Day of Action for Manitoba on Feb. 1st.
The theme for this year’s campaign is “Public for the People.”
Marakary Bayo, Manitoba chairperson of the CFS, explained that the slogan is about ensuring public institutions, public democratic processes and public goods are in fact working in the best interests of the people and not the financial elite.
Bayo noted that demonstrators will call for tuition fee reduction in Manitoba, for increased funding to universities and colleges, for the elimination of interest on provincial student loans, for the elimination of differential fees for international students and improved access for Aboriginal students.
“It is about restoring the democratic process and accountability to our public institutions, including our universities and colleges,” he said.
Bayo added that the aim of this campaign is to “ensure students’ right to organize” and to redistribute the wealth in our “increasingly inequitable and unequal society.”
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) will be holding events on the morning of Feb. 1st in University Centre at the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus.
Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, said the morning would be full of educational speakers and interactive ways for students to express their opinion on the issues of the day.
U of M students will also have the option of getting a free bus ticket, provided by UMSU, to get to the Manitoba Legislature building at noon, where they will meet up with students from the University of Winnipeg and Université de Saint-Boniface for some collective action.
Tapp said UMSU’s main goals for this year’s campaign are to educate UMSU membership on issues regarding post-secondary education and empower them to be active on these issues.
She said that UMSU has taken the basic goals decided on by the various members of the provincial CFS, and tailored them to the particular needs at the U of M.
Tapp noted that this year UMSU has structured its goals around a number of different areas: funding and accessibility, transportation, safety and security, and privatization of public services.
Tapp explained that UMSU doesn’t have a definite figure yet for the total costs of promoting the CFS-led campaign, but the resources allocated to the event include staff time and printings costs for leaflets, post cards and letters.
“The bus tickets will likely be the largest expense, but UMSU doesn’t know how much that will be,” she added.
“All in all, our members will get a very cost-effective Day of Action that hopefully has a big impact.”
Tapp mentioned that UMSU thinks the Day of Action is critically important to being a part of the student movement and to accomplishing collective goals.
“Focusing student activity on the issues — whatever form that takes — has an impact, even if it’s not one any government or university administration will acknowledge,” she explained.
She noted that we all deserve a high-quality, affordable, accessible post-secondary education delivered by a public-institution accountable to Manitobans.
“We aren’t there yet, but every student who gets involved pushes us a little bit closer to that goal,” she said.
Peter Nawrot, president of the U of M Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), said that GSA is not participating in the Day of Action as organized by CFS.
Instead, GSA is planning to host a breakfast with the premier, minister of post-secondary education, minister of industry, university administrators and students to have a round table discussion on the future of post-secondary education and of research and funding for graduate students in Manitoba.
“GSA have had more success engaging in dialogue and collaborative partnerships with the government and university administrators rather than protesting tuition fees,” Nawrot said.
He noted that part of GSA’s hesitance to participate in tuition fee decrease comes from the GSA having agreed with the provincial government’s five per cent increase in each of the next three years to base grants for universities, and the adjustments of tuition fees to the rate of inflation.
“It did not mean a double digit increase in tuition for students. GSA was at the meeting and told ministers that we are happy with that,” Nawrot said.
He explained that GSA thought that the tuition fee cap proposed was a reasonable plan from the provincial government.
Nawrot said that since the GSA was at the minister’s office stating that they were happy with their decisions, they found it to be “kind of hypocritical” to go protest at the legislature for tuition fees being too high.
“GSA would always like to see education to be more affordable and have more funding [ . . . ], but that is something that cannot be done immediately. We all have to work together and engage in collaborative dialogue, and not in demonstrations and protests.”
photo by miguel yetman