Fight the Hike

By Paul Galbraith

To the students of the University of Calgary.

We are about to be screwed. Again. Unless we put a stop to it.

We are about to be charged $300 more next year in tuition than this year. This increase will raise the price of a U of C degree by over $1200.

This will be the 10th consecutive year of maximum tuition increases, and they never have to stop. If you’ve heard about a tuition “cap” legislated by the province and think that we will eventually reach it and tuition increases will stop, think again. The way the cap is constructed, if the university’s finances remain the same or improve (which they will), we will never reach the cap.

So each year, the Students’ Union president is invited to give about 10 minutes worth of comments at the meetings where tuition is decided. They make a pretty speech about how students are going though tough times, the Board of Governors raises their hands, tuition rises by the maximum, and from their perspective it’s all over.

For students, however, it is not over.

Your tuition goes up, maybe a good friend drops out, you take on another shift or two each week at work, you get more and more tired, your grades suffer, some of you go to the food bank, others go hungry. Your parents’ savings dry up even more quickly, you reduce your class load, you can forget about spending money, you take longer to complete your degree, and nobody seems to give a damn about any of it.

All this time, class sizes go up, the library still sucks, the university erects more stupid statues or monuments, your professors don’t get any better, you still can’t breathe in the library, some of your best professors find better places to work, there still aren’t enough places to study, you don’t see any more scholarship money, and the U of C gets dumped on by Maclean’s for yet another year.

All the while, the university has millions sitting in the bank that could be fixing these problems. Consider the following:

– Last year, the U of C had a $76 million surplus.

– In 1997, the surplus was $41 million.

– In 1996, the surplus was $21 million.

– In the last three years, the U of C has amassed a total surplus of almost $140 million.

– The university has more money now, in dollars adjusted for inflation, than before the provincial cutbacks-$85 million more, in fact.

– The U of C is in its best financial position in 10 years.

– A maximum tuition increase only means about $5.7 million to the university.

Where does the money go, you ask? Not to students. Ask yourself if your education has got 263 per cent better in the past 10 years, because that’s how much tuition has risen in that time. Here are some of the places the university wastes our money:

– It gets dumped into an endowment fund so that some day, 20 years down the road, somebody else can have a better education here. Last year the fund made over $25 million, but it was all simply recapitalized back into the endowment, while tuition was increased by $6 million.

– It gets put in something called “Carryover Reserves,” which means the university puts it in the bank for future use. Unfortunately, it never seems to get used, because the university’s “Carryover Reserves” have risen steadily in the past few years. According to the U of C’s financial statements, the university now has almost $50 million dollars in the bank, waiting to be spent.

– University administration uses it to completely pay off a $40 million pension liability in only three years when, according to the U of C’s financial statements, they actually have until the year 2040 to pay it off.

– Go to the fifth floor of Biological Sciences, to something called the Learning Commons, and you’ll see where millions have gone. Nobody really knows what the Learning Commons is supposed to be or do, but as you go through the ridiculously expensive glass doors, take note of the paint. It’s Ralph Lauren paint, and it’s very expensive. You might also want to have a cappuccino from the new machine there, but the Learning Commons doesn’t really encourage students to go up there, so you might have some difficulty getting a cup.

– Our university just went through something called Strategic Transformation. Before that name, it was called the Coordination Task Force, and in the last four years, the whole thing has cost millions of dollars. You haven’t heard of it? Not surprising, because it didn’t actually do anything for students (or faculty for that matter).

– If you think this money is being spent on your professors, think again. Last year, according to the U of C’s financial statements, the university budgeted $27 million more than it actually spent on professor salaries and benefits.

– Scholarships? No chance. Last year, the university budgeted to give students $2,428,000 in Scholarships Grants, and Awards, and only gave out $1,780,000. That’s $648,000 that should have been spent on students but wasn’t.

– When Terry White took over from Murray Fraser, the president of the university made $157,000. Now, the president pulls in $213,000. That’s more money than the Prime Minister of Canada or the President of the United States make. Plus, he gets a free house to live in (and it isn’t a shack, either).

What the hell is going on?! When is the administration going to stop this?!

For years now, student politicians across the country have claimed that protest was not the way to win battles. They claimed that because we got to sit on the committees that made the decisions, that was good enough.

They ignored your anger, your frustration, and your understandable apathy. They had tea and cookies with university administration while you or someone you know was enduring tremendous financial hardship. They rationalized their failure to stand up for you by claiming that students couldn’t appear “radical” or “difficulty” if they wanted to be taken seriously. They didn’t tell you what was going on at your universities because telling the truth would endanger their future careers or make their lives difficulty.

All of that ends next week. It’s time we went ‘old-school’ on the administration.

Now you know what is going on at the U of C, and together we will change it. You will see all kinds of activities designed to draw attention to our situation. There will be a lot of media coverage. In the days leading up to the Board of Governors meeting, you will see both of us sleep in a hut outside made of old lobbying signs and ichiban boxes to protest student poverty. You will be asked to participate in all of this, and we sincerely hope you do. Remember, you’re only a student once.

On Mar. 26, there will be a free Pancake Breakfast starting at 8 a.m. in front of MacEwan Hall. That morning, the Board of Governors will make the decision on tuition fees for next year, and the administration will seek the maximum increase. The SU has fought for, and received, an hour to present the student position, and we can prove that the university absolutely does not need a tuition increase this year. In fact, we can prove that with no increase, the university will still run a healthy surplus next year! The Board of Governors meeting is in the RGO Room on the fourth floor of Scurfield Hall and is open to the public. At 9 a.m., hundreds (perhaps thousands) of students are going to march to the meeting and crash the party.

We will not be screwed again.

We will take back our campus, our money, and our pride.

We will fight for the first time in years, and we will win.

See you on the 26th.

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