SRA working for students in solidarity

January 12, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Riaz Sayani-Mulji

The Silhouette


As a SRA member who supported the motion to stand in solidarity with the Quebec students facing a 75 per cent increase in tuition, I was fairly puzzled after reading Mr. Colbert’s piece “Assembly needs to stay relevant,” in which he made light of the motion and deemed it to be insignificant.

Let me begin this piece by explaining where I stand on the issue of tuition. Education is a human right – we all deserve to be able to access post-secondary education, and let’s face it, tuition is the major barrier to accessibility. Statistics out there say that if you’re part of the queer community, are Aboriginal or are a woman, your chances of being able to go to university are hindered disproportionately because of the high costs.

As a part-time job, I work with homeless youth. A lot of these young people are bright enough to attend university, but don’t have a chance because of the financial burden. How is it fair that I’m able to attend university but they aren’t?

To achieve free and universal post-secondary education, we need increased government funding for it. And that’s a stance the majority of students support. Other SRA members and I spent three days earlier this week collecting signatures for a petition demanding the McGuinty government reduce tuition as they promised us during the past provincial election, instead of the grants they are now introducing – which, by the way, half of OSAP students don’t even qualify for. We’ve already collected over 1000 signatures, and given a few more days I have no doubt we’ll have collected over 5000 signatures.

So how does this relate to the recent motion passed about standing in solidarity with students in Quebec fighting a 75 per cent tuition increase? Well, if we’re ever going to change government policy and reduce tuition, the McMaster student community needs to join the broader student movement in Canada and combine our voices into one. That is when the government will listen to us – when we as students are united, and have a clear message and direction.

The current situation in the SRA does not allow for this, and membership in lobbying organizations OUSA (Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance) and CASA (Canadian Alliance of Student Associations) is the reason why. I’ve sat, frustrated, through delegations from both organizations, in which they’ve tried to argue for education being an investment, not a human right. These organizations believe that students should be footing part of the bill – what they would say about our subsidized healthcare system, I wonder? – without even looking at how free post-secondary education in Norway and Sweden has positively benefited those countries, amongst others who have gone down the “no tuition” route.

This is what has been missing from MSU for the past decade or so – a students union that behaves as a union – defending the collective interests of its members without losing sight of the bigger picture. We need the MSU to transform into an organization that stands up for student rights – the most important fight being against student poverty and debt created by the high fees we pay. This motion about solidarity with Quebec students is the start of what I see as a paradigm shift and one small step towards taking back the Union.

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