Ryerson students camp for fee freeze

Students at Ryerson University have established a tent city on campus to protest rising tuition fees and a lack of co-operation with the university on addressing the issue.

The protest began Nov. 17, the International Day of the Student, after Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) was denied an opportunity to speak at the Nov. 24 Ryerson Board of Governors meeting.

The RSU normally meets with the board in March but wanted to meet earlier this year to have more influence on how the school puts together its budget.

The board, which is responsible for the school’s finances, planning, and property, consists of 24 members, including three student representatives.

However, the RSU was denied admission to the meeting.

Students erected a tent city in front of Ryerson’s administrative building, Jorgenson Hall.

On Nov. 20, there were 10 students sleeping in the tents, according to Jesse Root, RSU’s vice-president (education).

The students said they plan to camp out until the university co-operates to present an alternative budget to be considered at the Board of Governors meeting in April 2014.

The students are hoping the budget will not include tuition fee increases for the 10th year in a row.

“We know a university budget that freezes tuition fees and maintains program funding can be a reality,” Root said in a press release. “We have tried having meetings and working within the process, but it is time for some drastic action.”

The RSU represents more than 30,000 full-time undergraduate and all graduate students.

RSU stated their demands in an open letter to Ryerson signed by more than 5,000 students.

Their demands were to “progressively reduce” tuition fees for international students down to the same amounts as domestic students, to freeze tuition fees and call on the provincial government to help with post-secondary funding, to “commit to a more accountable budgeting process,” and to increase student representation on Ryerson’s board of governors.

The RSU has taken to social media to raise awareness, primarily using the hashtags #FreezeTheFees and #TakeBackRyerson.

Another student group, Rise For Ryerson, is speaking against the tenters, saying only one side of the story is being told, according to an article in the Ryersonian.

Joseph Vukovic, a student-elected member of the board of governors, said in the article the campaign is “challenging” to the board.

In 2013, Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure statement revealed the number of Ryerson faculty, administration and staff who made more than $100,000 increased from 791 in 2011 to 892 in 2012.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs paid 3.3 per cent more in 2014 on tuition than they did the previous year. The Consumer Price Index raised 2.1 per cent in the same time period.

The Statistics Canada report also stated undergraduate students in Ontario paid the highest average tuition fees in Canada, an average increase of $1,223 over the past five years.

Newfoundland and Labrador froze undergraduate tuition fees at $2,550 in 2003.

It remains the only Canadian province that has frozen tuition fees.