Students prepare for tuition fight

By Stephen Slessor

Last year’s epic battle over tuition seems like a distant memory as the University of Calgary Board of Governors prepares to vote on next year’s tuition increase.

The BoG meets this Friday from 8 a.m. to noon in the Blue Room of the Dining Centre. A vote on the proposed 5.15 per cent tuition increase highlights the agenda. If passed, U of C students will pay an extra $188 for a full load of 10 half courses next year, the lowest tuition increase since 1990. Most observers expect the BoG to approve the proposal.

"The [Students’ Union] strongly feels that the university has made serious efforts to deal with affordability and has shown that they’re in a financial situation that necessitates the increase," said SU President Rob South. He predicts the proposal will pass easily.

In stark contrast to last year, which saw the SU withdraw from the consultation process and spearhead massive student protests, this year’s process was relatively quiet. The SU returned to the consultation table and negotiated the proposed increase with the university administration. Both the SU and the administration indicated satisfaction with the negotiation process.

"Both sides came to it with a desire to go at it in an earnest way, looking out for the interests of those they represent," said U of C Vice-president Finance and Operations Keith Winter. "We were able to each have a clearer understanding of the issues each of us saw."

"There was a lot of misinformation that was disseminated last year," said U of C President Terry White. "This year there has been an openness in communication."

White did not say how he will vote, only that he wanted to see the presentations at the meeting first. Winter does not get a vote.
Despite his involvement in and satisfaction with the tuition proposal, South, a member of the BoG, indicated that he will vote against it on the principle that any tuition increase is negative for students. However, he won’t urge other board members to vote no.

"The burden of responsibility lies with the province because they’re underfunding the university," said South. "It wouldn’t be appropriate to lash out at the university."

The Revolutionary Anarchist Kollektive, a driving force in last year’s protests, is less forgiving. They are planning a mass protest rally to coincide with the BoG meeting.

"History has shown us that the only thing that works is direct involvement," said RAK member Wesley Morgan.

RAK is asking students to meet Friday at 8 a.m. in the south courtyard of MacEwan Student Centre. From there, they will lead a protest march to the Dining Centre and attend the meeting.

South also urges students to attend the BoG meeting to show their concern.

Strong student interest in the BoG meeting has resulted in a change of venue from the originally advertised Scurfield Hall location to the Blue Room of the Dining Centre. Director of University Communications Susan Francis confirmed a high student turnout motivated the room change. The Blue Room will have seating for approximately 100 students in addition to the BoG members and the media.

Francis expects the tuition presentations to begin around 9 a.m., followed by discussion and a vote.

Beyond the tuition issue, Friday’s meeting will include reports from the planning and finance, budget, and personnel planning committees, as well as from the SU, the Alumni Association, the Senate, the Chancellor, and others.

(Ed. Note: The U of C BoG approved a 5.15 per cent tuition increase the morning of Fri., Feb. 4. This translates to an increase of $188.42 for 10 half-courses in the 2000-2001 academic year.)

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