Students take a stand against potential tuition hikes

(Megan Cooke/AQ)
(Megan Cooke/AQ)

Over 60 students took to the courtyard outside McCain Hall on Thursday to protest tuition increases at STU, four stories below the office of St. Thomas University President Dawn Russell. The “Students Against STUition” hoped their chants and speeches were heard by administrators such as Russell, as they aim to pressure the administration to take action on behalf of students.

“The administration, in their consultations, have told people that, no, we don’t want to raise tuition. So lets just remind them of that,” said Denis Boulet, an organizer and active participant in the protest.

Students wore red clothing, face paint, and t-pins at the event, and held signs with slogans including “In debt? you bet,” and “no more fees.”

“I see the red as saying ‘stop.’ If the green T-Pin represents go, as in ‘go learn, go explore, go evolve as a person,’ then the red says ‘stop. Lets stop and think about what we’re doing here, what we’re doing to future generations,” Boulet said.

The goal of the protest is to find solidarity across campus to fight the rise of tuition costs. Specifically, that means stopping any increase from coming this year.

The absence of STUSU support was noted by protesters. Only one current senator came to express support.

While some were bitter towards the union, Boulet was understanding, but urged them to take a firm stand.

“I’ve had the chance to speak with many of them, and I understand why they’re reticent. They feel that to talk tough to the administration is not a good idea. They want to work together. They have the same principle as we do – solidarity. But the thing is, they seem to be reticent on the idea that we have to make a clear line, that student interests are not the same as admin interests.”

Fellow organizer Alex Corbett was optimistic.

“If it’s only one or two [representatives] coming out, well, we’re going to work with them. Hopefully we can find that solidarity. We want to get all of the students to support this. That’s not what we’ve gotten so far, but hopefully this can lead to it.”

Mary Lou Babineau, a professor and president of the Faculty Association of the University of St. Thomas, was also in attendance.

While not officially representing FAUST, she believed her presence would be supported by other faculty members, having passed a movement in support of student protesters in Quebec last year.

She says that the faculty are supportive of the fight against rising tuition. “You can imagine what debt people come out with after four years, well imagine after 12 years what that looks like. We have suffered the long-term impacts of that kind of a debt load. We can sympathize, we understand, and we don’t want the same for the next generation of students.”

Organizers plan for more protests to follow, and hope to form coalitions locally, provincially, and nationally. Boulet is on board, and hopes that a first step can be made via a coalition with other universities and colleges in Fredericton.

But for a first attempt, he is proud of what STU students accomplished.
“For now, we feel that we’ve said what we needed to say. We just need to keep saying it.”

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