On November 2nd, thousands of university and college students marched to their collective provincial legislatures and to Parliament Hill to demand the Government to abolish student tuition. While the objective of the National Day of Action for Tuition was a valid one, the means that were used were weak and naive. In order for the Government to listen there would have needed to be a sustained campaign from student activists across the country. The student movement outside of Quebec has adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward tuition fees. There has been a half hearted protest and a call to arms during an election campaign, but nothing beyond that. Unfortunately, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) outside of Quebec works to their own interests, lining the organisation’s pockets and suing student unions who want out; as was the case in Newfoundland in 2014.
If students want to see tuition fees abolished, they need to look at their student unions to campaign for it. Unfortunately for the members of York and Glendon, our student unions, the York Federation of Students (YFS) and the Glendon College Student Union (GCSU), seem more interested in keeping themselves in power, running social events and distributing agendas with poor translations. Where both student unions share messages of the CFS, their “campaigns” aspect fail to capitalise on their ability to organise their members and achieve the goal of reduced or eliminated tuition fees. Considering that both unions rarely receive greater than 70% of votes amongst their members, and that the YFS has delt with allegations of voter irregularities in their campaigns, our student unions lack legitimacy.
Where does that leave the tuition movement? It's time for the government to start leading youth into jobs where there is a demand. High schools must stop pushing so many students to go to university when trades jobs are in such a high demand. We must also stop telling ourselves that the neo-liberal ideas about being all you can be are the best thing, and we must stop seeing a university degree as the fulfillment of those ideas. In the short run, the Province should be addressing how universities are funded, and how they treat students like profit centres. Students need to stop thinking like consumers, requesting universities to accommodate their every need. Part of the reason we are in this situation is due to the consumer culture we inhabit.
Lastly, we must be realistic. Does it truly serve society in the long run to have so many people attend university? If everyone could afford to go to university, it would dilute the value of a degree. Instead of rooting for lower tuition fees, we should be directing people toward fields where they will be needed down the road.