Reaction to town hall mixed

By Patricia Fuentes

In the high noon drama of student body scrutiny, all participants at last Friday’s Town Hall Meeting were left standing. Billed as a means for student-administration interaction on issues such as tuition, many students were skeptical about the genuine intention of the meeting.

"This is a truly unique event," hailed University of Calgary Vice-president Student Affairs Peggy Patterson. "I can’t think of any other university that does anything like this."

In addition to Patterson, President Terry White, VP Finance and Operations Keith Winter and VP Academic Ron Bond were present. They reported on curriculum redesign, financial restructuring, government negotiations for increased funding, and tuition.

The reports focused away from the Board of Governors and administration, stating that the process includes other groups, like the Students’ Union, which are closely consulted.

"Our discussions have centred on the impact of fees on the student body and the financial situation of the university," said Winter. "The challenge facing us is to strike a balance between two very strong and competing interests: to keep tuition affordable and finding sufficient funds to sustain the quality of the university."

There were mixed reactions from the onlookers.

"It’s a step in the right direction, but [administration] needs to take a stand against government, not just talk," said second-year Civil Engineering student Jeremy Barretto. "They like to say they don’t have enough money, but they don’t do anything."

"I don’t think they’re doing enough to lobby or offer solutions," said third-year Archeology student Sara Pawlik. "They seem to be mostly concerned about the SU and the great deals they have with them. They aren’t really keeping students informed."
White centred his report on the lack of government support for universities.

"In comparing the support for higher education between the US and Canada, you see that the US attaches a much higher priority to funding its universities," he said. "As a result, public universities today in the US have 15 per cent more funding per student than Canadian universities do."

According to White, post-secondary education is not a spending priority for the Alberta government, and this shortfall, combined with the increasing costs of running a university, translates into higher tuition.

Many were skeptical of the reports, as students criticized the administration in the question period that followed for not doing enough to lower fees.

The town hall venue was changed from the previously-advertised Ballroom to the MSC North Courtyard, something not widely advertised until Thursday.

"We were concerned with the number of students who wanted to come," said Patterson about the change.

"In terms of communication, I know the SU was doing everything they could," she added. "There were signs on the Ballroom itself, and the doors of MacEwan Hall. I hope it didn’t delay too many people from coming."

Although there was a good turn out, many students were unaware or disinterested in the meeting.

"I didn’t know what it was really, I just saw the signs," said second-year General Studies student Dave Kindopp.

"It doesn’t really matter what our opinions are, they’ll do what they want anyway," said second-year Music student Patrick Nicholls. "Education is a commodity everyone wants, so they’ll charge anything they want."

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