Our own Tent City

“It’s the new hippie movement.”

Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh proudly eyed just one corner of his temporary kingdom in front of MacEwan Student Centre as he described the almost one-hundred tents erected since Monday.

Students from almost every faculty united against proposed tuition increases in the soggy pre-spring bog.

“It’s good that most students at least know what they’re out there for,” continued Stambaugh. “In the past, U of C students were apathetic, but at last a sizable chunk of them do care.”

Unlike a similar tent city hastily-established prior to the 1999 Board of Governors Meeting, some participants say the atmosphere of the current incarnation is more organized, more professional, more inclusive.

“The tent village is amazing,” said Graduate Students’ Association President Michelle McCann. “I got e-mails from 30 students intending to go.”

Both the previous and current tent village were established to raise awareness of increasing tuition, and to convince the Board of Governors to vote down maximum tuition increases at their meeting. But this year’s campaign is especially important since the board is considering implementing differential tuition.

“This is an extremely difficult fight,” said Stambaugh. “The students out there and at the rally on Friday give us a fighting chance this year.”

Graduate students share many of Stambaugh’s and undergraduate students’ concerns about differential tuition.

“A 6.3 per cent increase is unfair, it’s ridiculous,” said McCann.

McCann said that more than affecting those masters and doctoral students already here, the increase will deter graduate students from enrolling at the U of C, and deter current masters students from pursuing PhDs.

“Our program fee for first and second year students is second only to the University of Toronto,” said McCann. “With the 6.3 per cent increase, program fees will be more than $4,500 per year.”

Undergraduate students face a similar increase, potentially bringing a full year’s tuition to over $4,500 for ten half courses.

Stambaugh hopes that the almost four hundred students who have tented so far will have an impact on members of the Board of Governors–some of whom were on campus at a GSA function Wednesday evening–and the university at large.

“No student, faculty member, or administration member can walk through the tent city without hearing our message,” said Stambaugh.

While Stambaugh and the rest of the undergraduate population await the board’s decision on Friday, Stambaugh is proud of what they have accomplished.

“Coming in, we were not expecting a lot,” said Stambaugh. “Regardless of what happens on Friday, I like the process. Students know about the issues and care.”

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