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Differential tuition plebiscite

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Students may get to voice their views about differential tuition in 2003 if a proposed plebiscite question to that effect is approved by the Students' Legislative Council. Students' Union Vice-President Academic Rosie Nagra brought the discussion item to Students' Academic Assembly and SLC meetings on Mon., Dec. 2 and Tue., Dec. 3, respectively.

"By coordinating with the [SU General] Election, the question provides us the opportunity that when students seeking office campaign, it lets them spread the tuition message as well," said Nagra.

Representatives were generally supportive of the plebiscite idea, though no formal resolution to ask the question has yet been drafted or approved.

SU Academic Commissioner Gavin Preston hoped the move would bolster their campaign against increasing tuition at the U of C.

"Now we have Dr. Harvey Weingarten saying 'Students want differential tuition,'" said Preston. "[With a plebiscite,] we can say 'Students don't want differential tuition and we have these figures, and letters opposing it."

Some assembly members expressed concerns about whether a plebiscite question asking their opinion was appropriate as such measures are usually reserved for contentious issues where public opinion is divided.

"I think our election gave us a mandate to fight tuition," said Humanities Representative Jordan Petty. "But we have to be prepared for students to say 'We want differential tuition.' If so, then what we have done in the last six months is rendered impotent because we haven't been doing what students want."

Engineering Representative Chris Blaschuk had different concerns about the plebiscite proposal.

"If this is such an important question, why have we gone for so many years without asking a plebiscite question about tuition?" he asked.

Preston noted during debate that the move could also save the SU money.

"This is the first year in recent memory where the SU will stage a public protest against differential tuition," said Preston. "We could save $10,000 from the tuition protest in March if students say they don't oppose tuition increases."

Preston is confident that students will support the SU's position on tuition.

"Even though it's moot, we know that we are going to get support," he said.

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