Tuition battle

By Mary Chan

Call it the Winter of our discontent; led by the Tuition Action Committee, the Students’ Union is gearing up for an aggressive tuition fight.

“The number-one goal is no tuition increase next year,” said SU President and TAC team co-chair Paul Galbraith. “We are convinced and believe that we can convince others that the university can afford not to raise tuition this year.”

According the University of Calgary 1998/99 calendar, tuition is due to increase by eight per cent, or $30 per half- course, for the 1999/2000 school year.

In addition to motivating and arming students with knowledge of how the university manages the tuition policy, the TAC team aims to send a clear message to the university, faculty, community and students.

“We are serious about this,” asserted Galbraith. “We’re not going to take this lying down.”

The campaign consists of many events, including class presentations, posters, a ribbon campaign and a display of an entire semester’s tuition ($1,720) worth of Ichiban. A petition calling for no tuition raise is currently being circulated. The TAC team hopes to gather 6,000 signatures by the end of the campaign.

“It’s a fairly large campaign,” said Vice-president External and co-chair Nassr Awada. “The biggest thing is making sure that the energy is maintained throughout the campaign. The last three days are going to be a really big push.”

The aggressive nature of the campaign is seen by both Galbraith and Awada as a response to student apathy at the U of C.

“We’re putting all of our effort into this,” said Galbraith. “It’s not a situation where we’re going to try something relatively minor and hope that the students catch on to it.”

“From what I hear, in the last 10 or even 20 years a campaign like this hasn’t been tried,” said Awada. “You have all these people saying, ‘well, we can’t do anything.’ If nothing’s been tried, then honestly we don’t know if we can or we can’t.”

The price tag of this assault is over $20,000, which Galbraith justifies.

“The maximum tuition increase has an impact on students of about $6 million, and this organization [the SU] has an operating budget of about $5 million,” he said. “If we can’t find $20 or $30 or $50,000 to spend on the single most important issue to students, we have our priorities all wrong. This is money well spent.”

The SU could also allocate $30,000 for legal fees relating to the tuition fight. The first of two readings of a motion setting aside money for legal fees passed eight in favour, five opposed at the Students’ Legislative Council last Tues., Jan. 19.

“We require legal advice at various stages whenever we do lobbying, so there’s always a few costs related to that,” said Galbraith. “We have to make sure we are legally sound. We have not planned to do anything and haven’t made the decision to do anything that would require potential legal fees yet, but we want to make sure that option is open to us.”

In the meantime, the tuition fight begins Feb. 22. Those interested in volunteering can call the SU at 220-6551 and ask for either Galbraith or Awada. The campaign ends the day the the U of C Board of Governors decides whether or not to raise tuition: Mar. 26.

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