Opinions

SU must consult students on tuition

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On Dec. 9, the University of Calgary Board of Governors will convene to decide the rate of tuition increase at this institution. The Board will likely accept the percentage agreed upon between the Students' Union and the U of C Administration in tuition consultation.

For 10 years, Administration managed to convince the Board of Governors to support a full increase--students were understandably upset and demanded more representation in the process. After all, argued students, aren't we the U of C's raison d'etre? The principle of tuition consultation was eventually adopted between Administration and the SU.

Two years ago, tuition consultation failed, which prompted an exciting but arguably misguided SU campaign which netted U of C students an 80 per cent tuition increase of the maximum allowable. Neither side appeared particularly pleased with the process nor the result. Last year, tuition consultation more or less succeeded according to the SU and the Administration--the Board approved a 65 per cent increase.

The U of C Administration and Board of Governors do not and should not act in accordance entirely with student desires--if they did, tuition would be free and the best professors in North America would line up to teach our courses. Most students are mature enough to grasp the U of C's predicament--a need to balance the needs of students with those of faculty, alumni, research, government, the community and investors.

However, the SU did not act in accordance to what students wanted in either 1999 or 2000. They couldn't have; in neither year did the SU know exactly what it was the majority of students wanted.

In 1999, some students supported a zero per cent increase. But how many? Two thousand students protested outside the Red and White Club on Mar. 26. Did they ALL support a zero per cent increase? What about the other 20,000-odd students? How many would have been content to allow the university a small increase, simply to cover inflation? How many would have liked a larger increase? And how many students wanted as much money as possible dumped into the U of C coffers--an increase maybe they felt would be justified by the corresponding increase in the quality of their education? The same goes for last year; the smaller protest did not indicate a drastically more satisfied or represented student body.

Needless to say, all this must change.

To the 57th SLC we will say this: It appears you currently lack direction in terms of what you want from tuition consultation. You simply must consult students this year, and there's still time. Do the majority of U of C students want an absolute cessation to tuition increases? Would the majority want a maximum increase so as to allow the university to invest as much as possible into the quality of a U of C degree? What about a figure somewhere in the middle? How can you possibly act without knowing the answers to these questions?

No matter what the result of tuition consultation this year, the SU can only truly succeed in their mandate if it acts in accordance with the majority of students' wishes. But in order for that to happen, the SU must know what student wishes are. Lucky for them--lucky for all of us--there's still time to find out.

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