After years of operating behind the scenes, University of Calgary support staff are on the front lines supporting students' fight for lower tuition.
From March 1-2, Alberta Union of Public Employees Local 52 members were in MacEwan Student Centre collecting signatures for a petition supporting increased funding for the U of C. Local 52 Chair Dan Tilleman explained AUPE is interested in funding for their departments and tuition as well.
"We're looking at education as a whole and basically saying the [U of C] is underfunded," said Tilleman, pointing out underfunding caused tuition to rise over 200 per cent in the last decade. "In some cases you scare potential students away from even applying."
AUPE believes the government's approach to post-secondary funding is wrong. According to Tilleman, the provincial government erroneously sees education as a three-way partnership between students, government and industry.
"[Industry is] saying...'if we give you money, it's not going to go to [base operating funding], it's going to go to projects that we have a direct interest in,'" said Tilleman.
AUPE member and library staff Charlene Magnes said the support staff also feels the burden of underfunding.
"We've taken a pay cut and we've lost an enormous amount of people, but the amount of work hasn't changed," said Magnes, suggesting this is a direct result of inadequate funding.
Tilleman agreed and said most university funding isn't directed at staff or stabilizing tuition but at faculty recruitment and retention and infrastructure maintenance. AUPE believes this does not sufficiently cater to the needs of the university.
"Without people, what have you got? You've got nice collections of empty buildings. You don't have a university," said Tilleman.