At the University Council meeting in May, council member Marcel D’Eon put forward a motion in support of accessible tuition rates at the University of Saskatchewan. The motion adds to the ongoing discussions around the rising cost of tuition and its effect on low-income students.
The proposed motion recommends the Board of Governors and the U of S administration “explore and implement ways to remove and mitigate these financial barriers and enhance access to and affordability of a university education.”
The motion has been on the University Council floor twice so far. In May, it did not get the two-thirds majority vote needed to add it to the agenda last minute. At the June meeting, council voted to table it, pending a review of the motion by the Planning and Priority Committee.
D’Eon, a College of Medicine faculty member, says that he proposed the motion as a way to bring action into the recent conversations surrounding tuition at the University Council. At the April council meeting, various council members shared their own experiences and worries with students’ financial insecurity.
“We’ve had many discussions over many months about a number of issues at [the] University Council and they never seem to resolve; they keep percolating,” D’Eon said. “Because there was a lot of support and concern for students, it seemed worthwhile to try and bring some conclusion to the discussion with a motion.”
The U of S Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Association executives worked with D’Eon to draft the motion. The student organizations spoke in its support before the vote in June, as did council member Claire Card.
A reason council members might be hesitant to support the motion is that tuition does not fall under the jurisdiction of the University Council. However, the council has the capacity to comment on all subjects that impact student affairs.
D’Eon says council members’ reticence in supporting the motion will be made clear once the motion is actually talked about at a council meeting.
“Until we talk about it at [the] University Council, we won’t know why people aren’t supporting it. We haven’t actually discussed the substance of it,” D’Eon says. “So far, the only things the people have voted on is whether to talk about it or not. So far, they’ve voted not to talk about it.”
D’Eon highlights the impact of rising tuition costs on university affairs as it makes education inaccessible or burdensome for students, particularly for those from low-income households.
“The cost of university education negatively affects the university’s commitment to diversity,” D’Eon says. “The financial burden affects a certain group of students more. If we have a commitment to diversity, it means having a commitment to making university education more accessible for some of these under-represented groups.”
The Planning and Priority Committee is meeting in early September to discuss whether or not to include the motion in the Sept. 19 council meeting agenda. D’Eon says that the motion has already served to keep the momentum going in conversations about tuition. Regardless of the committee’s decision, D’Eon plans to raise the motion again.
“This actually provides us with a little bit more exposure; people are thinking about it and getting reminded about it. In some ways, it’s been a positive thing to have these little delays,” D’Eon said.
“I have asked the chair of that committee if I can attend the part of the committee meeting where they will be discussing the agenda, but with the summer and all, I haven’t heard back yet. If it isn’t on the [September] meeting, we will propose again that it be added to the agenda.”
Ana Cristina Camacho
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor