The University of Regina Students’ Union called for a cease to tuition increases to address the issue of high fees in the province. Meanwhile, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union launched the campaign InvestInUs to put pressure on the government as the 2019 budget draws near.
InvestInUs was first explained by Rollin Baldhead, USSU president, at the University Council meeting on Feb. 14. The campaign was planned by the USSU external committee before they were made aware of the URSU call for a province-wide tuition freeze, and their plans did not change after hearing of the Tuition Freeze Now initiative. The USSU decided not to support it and to go ahead with their campaign.
Baldhead says the USSU decided against supporting the tuition freeze due to concerns about long-term consequences.
“Before we made a decision, we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t repeat any mistakes that would affect students down the road,” Baldhead said. “A tuition freeze is nothing that we want to do. It creates awareness, but what it actually does is it passes the issue down to future students. It is a short-term Band-Aid solution.”
With InvestInUs, the USSU hopes to increase the government’s financial support of the U of S through raising awareness. Baldhead consulted with “ministers of both parties to ask for guidance on how to run a successful campaign,” which will include campus outreach and video testimonials. The activities will unfold quickly over the next couple of weeks before the 2019 budget release on March 20. Baldhead plans to get media coverage of the initiative.
Jermain McKenzie, URSU vice-president student affairs, says the effort to get a tuition freeze in place at the U of R continues, despite the decision of the USSU not to support it.
“It does create a situation where the realization of the goal is a bit more difficult,” McKenzie said. “But it doesn’t change my plans of continuing to advocate for what I think is in the best interest of the students here at the U of R.”
To concerns about the freeze being short-sighted, McKenzie says that the URSU campaign has never been only about the tuition freeze but about finding a long-term solution, using the freeze as a means to start change.
“Even if the government decides in this budget to give the university an increase, I don’t think the problem will be resolved. In the next budget, the government might make a very different decision,” McKenzie said. “We live in a state of perpetual bandaging, and we need to move away from that model. That’s the conversation that I’m asking the government to have with us.”
Ultimately, McKenzie believes that unifying the student voice is the only way to get the provincial government’s attention.
“We can run all different types of campaigns with all different types of wonderful slogans, but I think we have to be honest to our memberships,” McKenzie said. “The fact of the matter is we don’t often see the government reacting in any meaningful way unless students are organized.”
To this end, Baldhead is set to meet with the URSU on March 6 to find ways other than a tuition freeze in which the unions can collaborate on the issue of tuition rates.
“I want to see how our unions can still work together and find common ground, to see how we can help make post-secondary education a priority for the government,” McKenzie said. “We will be discussing some long-term strategies for working together.”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor