The tired, unwashed masses: Students aren’t apathetic, just tired and overworked

By Andrea Bundon

Campus on a late Friday afternoon bears more resemblance to a ghost town than a leading research university. It’s embarrassing how quickly students flee once class is out. A "commuter campus" is one common explanation. Student apathy is another term bandied about. But what is at the root of the problem? Do University of Calgary students really care? Are we oblivious to our surroundings? Do we prefer reruns to Dinos games?

Possibly. Or maybe we’re just tired.

Rising tuition now forces more students into the poor house than ever before. Contrary to popular belief, only one-third of students under the age of 22 receive any financial support from their parents. The average student works 18.8 hours per week just to make ends meet and 78 per cent of students believe this negatively impacts their grades.

Before complaining about poor attendance at the Board of Governors meeting or the empty seats at the Dino Cup, let’s take a look at the other sacrifices students make. Take a quick peak at the Gauntlet’s history supplement this week to see how far we’ve fallen. In my mind, there’s a disturbing correlation between the rapid rise in tuition and the decline in student participation.

Even campus pranks aren’t as ingenious anymore. My first thought when reading The Saga of Leon the Frog was not to ask what creative genius devised it. No, I asked who on earth had the time to walk up all the stairs, let alone compose a saga? The engineers couldn’t even consider another Joe Pillar. Who could afford to pay their own tuition, let alone that of a fictional character?

Simply being a student is more demanding than ever. Minimum wage rises slower than inflation whereas tuition rises significantly faster. The more time spent at work, the less time spent at studies. The result is a horrible catch 22. Do I take fewer classes and spend more years at school and fall further and further in debt? Or should I try to cram work and studies into the standard four years and face lower grades as a result?

To add another dimension, the average student takes 8.4 courses during the fall and winter semesters and this number is dropping. In order to qualify for a scholarship, students must take at least nine courses. Therefore, half the students don’t qualify because they are too busy making money to go to school and half don’t qualify because they are too busy making money to maintain their GPA.

When will the downward trend end? What will it take for the government and the BoG realize the increasingly unrealistic demands placed on students? Protests and mass demonstrations might work. Rallying the community to our cause and a poster campaign could do the trick. Supporting our Students’ Union and other student organizations just might be the ticket.

If only we had the time.

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