Campus administration should lessen the financial load burdening students
Update (May 6): While the university announced today that tuition will not increase for the first time in ten years, it is clear that this is not enough for students. Administration highlighted the fact that the campus’ budget has been balanced for 26 years and that student dollars make up 40 per cent of the university’s budget. There have been no assurances presented that fees for services students can’t access, like the campus gym spaces, will be waived. It is still the belief of those who signed this letter that tuition should be reduced in light of the current circumstances.
As journalists, it is not our job to tell you that it may or may not be raining, it’s our job to provide clarity and a way forward. For a number of our staff, that means drawing attention to the fact that while our access to the tools and resources we need to fulfil our commitments to our education has been severely limited due to COVID-19, we are still expected to pay full tuition.
We are expected to carry on our education – paying full tuition – without the campus services and in-person supports that we pay for. We are being asked to accept the narrative that an online course taught by under-resourced academics provides the same benefits as a classroom, that a Zoom meeting with a professor or TA is the same as sitting across from them. We are being asked to pay full tuition for a university that cannot lend us books. The digital services that the library provides – the access to e-books and journals – are excellent. But they are meant to be a supplement to the physical library, not an alternative to it. Not every book is available online. We don’t always know what we are looking for until we are browsing the stacks and the right title grabs us. Some of us cannot afford internet. Online services cannot replace the safe and silent space for studying, cannot replace the whiteboards and the breakout rooms, cannot replace the staplers and the hole-punches and the printers and the copiers. A digital archive is not a library. The U of R is not a fully functioning campus.
Although the university administration has taken steps to alleviate some of the pressures on students, including offering alternative grading options for Winter 2020 and loosening some of the restrictions around access to the Student Emergency Fund, we feel that these measures simply do not go far enough in this time of genuine, widespread crisis. The means-testing the university requires for students to access financial aid is excessive, and it fails to acknowledge that the single largest drain on the financial resources of almost every student at this institution is our tuition.
In light of our reduced access to the benefits of a campus, including a library, computer labs, face-to-face instruction, study rooms, and so much more, we call on the university administration to waive, or significantly reduce, tuition for the Spring/Summer semester. For the Carillon, we understand that this means withholding the newspaper’s levy, but also that we are representative of the needs of students and our ability to financially manage our resources will not be significantly impacted when compared to the issues facing those we seek to tell the stories of and for.