SU organizes rally to protest credit card decision

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Shaking off their notorious Thursden hangovers, students got up at 8 a.m. to protest against the University of Calgary's controversial credit card decision at the university's Board of Governors meeting. The Students' Union served free pancakes and protest signs to the students who came out to the rally which was held outside the BoG meeting in the Haskayne Building. The credit card rally drew attention from local and national media such as Global National and the CBC.

Over 600 students signed a petition, 550 letters were sent to university administration in an SU letter-writing protest campaign, as well as the 3,334 students who joined the "Allow U of C Students To Pay Tuition With Credit Cards" Facebook protest group.

Despite student uproar, the university is standing firm on its credit card policy.

"The university's position remains, as stated in my memo to the SU president and the GSA president," said U of C vice-president academic Dr. Alan Harrison.

Harrison explained the university would not change its mind on the new policy because no credit card payments would help the university save money by avoiding transaction fees.

"I believe in the correctness of the decision to redirect money from banks in the form of credit card fees, to students via student scholarships," he said.

Harrison explained the university is happy to work with students to ensure full preparation for the phrasing out of credit cards by Jul. 1.

"We shall endeavour to ensure that the effects on students are minimized," he noted.

SU president Julie Bogle is disappointed with the university's stand, but was pleased with the rally.

"About 80 students who participated in the march were very loud, very passionate and were effective at making the students' presence strong at the board meeting," she said.

Bogle explained the Board of Governors acknowledged the students' feelings and discussed amending the agenda to add the SU motion to discuss credit cards during the session.

"However, as this motion involved the board's mandate, board members felt that it was more appropriate to discuss behind closed doors, not in a public session, which was a disappointing move," said Bogle.

She explained the felt this policy should undergo a one-year review to address students' concerns and needed more consultation with students to see if this policy really was the best decision.

"We would appreciate if the university took the time to respond to the student outcry and we would like to see a compromise at least," said Bogle.

She pointed out that the university still did not provide answers for students' concerns.

"We still do not have details surrounding the entrance scholarships, no details surrounding equally convenient payment options or how financially challenged students would be able to pay," said Bogle.

Harrison noted the students' protest reminded the administration that it needs to communicate with the student body to avoid further misunderstandings.

"We need to communicate more widely our existing policies with respect to deferred payment plans to students concerned about missing their payments," he said.

Harrison stressed the university is taking steps in reducing the impact, such as proposing a joint student/administration task force to ensure that the Jul. 1 transition goes smoothly.

"I have complete confidence in the task force members--those appointed by the SU, the GSA and the university--to address adequately the issues students have raised," he said.

Harrison explained the administration is confident about the policy and does not expect any problems.

First-year biochemistry student Dalia Aydin disagreed with Harrison's confidence on the credit card policy. She attended last Friday's rally to show that many students are concerned about this issue and willing to take action.

"With tuition high, even with credit cards, it is sometimes hard to pay off, and now the administration took this option away," said Aydin. "The officials should realize that [students] do not earn as much as they do, and we do not have that much cash in our accounts."

Aydin pointed out some students would not be angry about the policy change, if the university gave them an warning further in advance.

"Because they made a decision and stated the [change would occur] in three months--without giving any other options for payments--they forced us to protest," she said.

Aydin felt the rally was successful at demonstrating the passion this issue inflamed in students.

"Many people thought it was too early, but I think it is worth it to wake up early to show students' powers," said Aydin.

Fourth-year sociology student Shawn Trainor, another protester, agreed with Aydin's motivation for attending the rally, stressing that the university failed to talk with students before making the changes.

"What really grinds my gears is the fact that students were in no way consulted before this decision was made," said Trainor. "This action shows that the Board of Governors does not value student input. The Board of Governors is an oligarchy, a small group that makes decisions for a greater population without representation of public opinion."