THE UPDATE | Issue 1: Introducing #UTSUwithU’s The Update
Written By: Aidan Cole Currie, AVP Administration
Hello and welcome to #UTSUwithU’s The Update, the weekly blog where you’ll be able to keep up with recent developments, how students and the UTSU are responding, and media coverage of the Ford government’s changes to student finance.
Every week, we will update you on what has happened, including links to helpful news articles and an inside look at the UTSU’s lobbying strategy and efforts. When the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities makes an announcement, we’ll break it down for you. When the media publishes an insightful piece on how students are affected, we’ll let you know. When we make a breakthrough with the province or the university, you’ll hear about it here.
In addition to delivering weekly updates, The Update has been set up as a platform for your stories. We want to hear from students who have been, or will be, affected by changes to tuition, OSAP, and the rollback of the free-tuition program. We want to know how non-academic programs have impacted your university experience. We want to highlight what students are doing to organize against the Ford government’s changes. We want to hear from you.
If you have a story you want people to hear, talk to us.
Last Week, In Review
Everything you need to know about what has happened recently
As many of you have read, several days ago the Ford government announced sweeping changes to how students pay for and access postsecondary education. The first word on the government’s plan came in an announcement on January 17, which described plans for changes to OSAP funding and access, non-tuition fees, and tuition fee reductions (This piece gives a great comprehensive account.).
The changes were met with controversy, with stakeholders on both sides of the fence arguing whether the changes would actually benefit students. The government claimed that its plan would increase the affordability of a college or university education by lowering the raw costs of it. Groups opposing the changes argued differently, emphasizing the huge debt loads that students already face, and urging the government to invest directly in the futures of young people by committing itself to financial aid programs (notably, OSAP).
In the days following the government’s announcement, many students have rushed to mobilize resistance. Major student-led demonstrations took place on the 18th and the 25th of January. The UTSU, along with 75 other students’ unions across Canada, signed onto an open letter to the Ontario government opposing the announced changes.
Students in Response
An overview of how students and the UTSU are responding and organizing
Students were left undeniably anxious and disheartened by the announcements. In response to the government’s complete disregard for their best interests, they began organizing protests, marching on Queen’s Park to tell Ford and the Ontario government what they think about these changes.
On January 18, groups from U of T formed a contingent to attend the “We Are the Students: Emergency Rally at Queen’s Park” led by groups such as the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and Unifor.
The UTSU has also been hard at work to fight and defend against the government’s plan.
On January 29th, the UTSU launched a new campaign, #UTSUwithU, to advocate for students on this issue. In all of our work under the campaign, we will be working to: (1) advocate, (2) consult with you, (3) inform, (4) build dialogue, and (5) bring students together.
Also on January 29th, the UTSU and 75 other students unions across Canada signed an open letter to the Premier and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities outlining concerns with the changes and making clear that we stand firmly against them.
On January 23rd, the UTSU met with members of the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) to discuss the announced plan and get answers from the MTCU that will help shape our lobbying strategy. This is the beginning of what will be a long process, at the end of which our goal is to bring educated recommendations to the Minister, Merrilee Fullerton, and make positive changes to the government’s plans for OSAP and non-tuition fees.
On January 21st, the UTSU met with members of the University of Toronto administration to discuss the changes and gain insight as to the university’s direction moving forward. We will continue to work closely with the administration minimize the impacts of the government’s changes on our campus.
Some helpful media coverage for you to check out
The Ford government hasn’t been open with its plans or intentions, however media outlets have been doing an excellent job disseminating information and explaining what is going on.
The Varsity, U of T’s tri-campus student newspaper, published an article in its Business section explaining how non-essential fees work at U of T, and how Ford’s legislation will affect those fees next year.
University College Director Tyler Riches spoke with the Huffington Post about how OSAP and tuition grants have helped him access postsecondary education. He highlights the potentially devastating effects that OSAP changes will have on his education, and he is not alone.
UTSU President Anne Boucher appeared on CBC’s Metro Morning with Matt Galloway to discuss the broad impact of tuition cuts on students.
Thanks for reading. Check back next week for more of The Update.