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SFU students push for fee freeze

Students take protest to SFU Board of Governors
By: 
Quentin Rowe-Codner

April 9, 2019

A few weeks ago marked a critical point in the Tuition Freeze Now (TFN) campaign at Simon Fraser University, with both a rally on Monday March 18th, and a climactic Board of Governors (BOG) meeting on Thursday the 21st.

It was at the BOG meeting where top administrators voted on a proposed budget for the 2019/2020 school year, which within it included a substantial tuition hike, particularly for incoming international students, who are poised to see an increase of up to 20% depending on which department they are in.

The rally proved very successful in garnering support for the campaign, and in inspiring those who attended towards further action. In the morning, Tuition Freeze Now unfurled a giant banner over the campus’ main entrance sign, which every student and staff member has to pass by on their way to the university.

The rally itself started at the SFU pond, with speeches from such community members as Svend Robinson with the BC NDP, Sara Sagaii from the Vancouver Tenants Union, indigenous activist Raven Deer, and a handful of student speakers. Jean Swanson from the COPE campaign and currently on Vancouver City Council also sent a kind message to the cause.

Additionally, the organizers were able to utilize the numbers that we had rather efficiently, marching through the hallways, chanting, and handing out packets of ramen accessorized with information on the tuition increase. The rally concluded in the main administrative building, where we handed an admin representative a petition with over 2000 signatures. TFN was told that all of this would be considered, and we finished off the rally with another round of chants.

A few days later came the consequential day that the TFN campaign had been building up to for months, the Board of Governors meeting. Tuition Freeze Now organizers and allies and prepared to present in front of the BOG. At 8AM, a total of over 80 students filled the room.

We discussed our Tuition Talk series, where students have come forward about the burdens facing them with regard to tuition, and how the increases will negatively affect them. Amongst these tuition talks are stories of students who have been forced to drop out, move, take on extra work, all in the name of higher tuition. We then reiterated our economic positions, highlighting the absurd increases being faced by incoming international students, who in some programs will suffer a 20% increase. The presentation closed by assuring the Board of Governors that their hands were not tied on this matter, and that it was more than feasible to accept a tuition freeze for two years, while working with the student body to lobby for better public funding. This was not a radical demand, nor hardly even a modest one, as months of research and investigation have proved.

Following Tuition Freeze’s presentation, the VP of Finance and the President of the university each took time with their own speeches, callously and insultingly ignoring every word that we had said. They stuck to the same lines as they had for months, despite our having painstakingly addressed their concerns time and again.

Unfortunately the BOG voted almost unanimously in favour of the proposed budget, voting yes to a tuition increase. The passion and energy in the room at that moment erupted.

Despite the vote against students and against a tuition freeze, the campaign is making sure to stay as active as ever, and plans on continuing to fight for affordable education at SFU and across the province.

A day after the Board of Governors meeting, an organizer with Tuition Freeze Now, Giovanni HoSang, was elected as President of the Simon Fraser Student Society, which represents all undergrad students at the university. Numerous others from his team were elected to positions within the student society’s governance as well.

Not only will this be important for the campaign going forward, but also comes as a sign that students care about these issues, and want to see a solution. No student a cash cow, tuition freeze now!

• Follow the campaign on social media as SFU Tuition Freeze Now, and visit our website at www.tuitionfreezenow.com

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