PSAC 901 organized a rally outside Richardson Hall calling for tuition abolition last Wednesday.
The rally, organized by the union representing graduate student workers, was advocating for Queen’s to stop lobbying efforts to increase tuition on campus.
“Coming out of our last rally, we got a promise from [Principal] Patrick Deane that he would meet with us. He has not; he offered to me with a select group two or three of us from the executive of the union for half an hour,” Jake Morrow, co-chief steward, said at the rally.
In an open letter to the University—signed by over 20 student groups, including the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) on the date of the protest—PSAC 901 asked for the equalization of domestic and migrant tuition fees.
Along with this, the letter asked for Queen’s to raise the minimum graduate student funding salary to match minimum wage for full time employment in Ontario—indexed to the cost-of-living increases.
Morrow alleged Queen’s Campus Security was ordered to remove original posters advertising the rally. In a follow-up with The Journal, the University said Security was not given this instruction.
Posters with a red square were distributed to demonstrators to be placed across campus. The March 22 rally came on the 11-year anniversary of the Quebec student movement.
“Graduate students perform valuable, irreplaceable teaching, and research work upon which the University built its reputation. Students’ tuition fees produce real wages to a rate far below the annual minimum wage for full time work in Ontario,” Morrow said.
PSAC 901 highlighted the cost-of-living crisis and the barriers to accessing education by tuition.
Justyna Szewczyk El Jassem, incoming PSAC 901 president, said the rally boiled down to student poverty and the cost of living. She said what was particularly annoying was the University lobbying the government for a lift on the tuition freeze.
Instead, El Jassem said Deane should be lobbying for an increase in education funding at Queen’s.
“Education is not a commodity; education is our right. We’re not supposed to be paying for it. Education is not just for the rich. If the University says they want to be known for breakthrough research and all those things. We can’t be thinking [about] how we’re going to eat dinner tonight,” El Jassem said to The Journal.
PSAC 901 is currently looking to talk to a wide range of campus organization about mobilizing and making change on a larger platform.
“We’re trying to build a more province-wide movement. And to this end, we are talking to different organizations here on campus.”
In a statement to The Journal, the University said the topic of tuition freeze is part of a larger discussion about the operating cost of any Canadian university and the inflationary pressures.
“The university’s academic and research mission can only succeed when we are able to offer students the outstanding education and high-quality support and services that help them succeed,” the University said.
“To that end, Queen’s is supportive of a funding model—inclusive of grants, the tuition framework, and financial assistance—that protects the financial sustainability and quality of Ontario’s universities, while also ensuring access for students.”
The University said they continue to advocate at the federal and provincial level for increased graduate student support.
graduate students, Protest, PSAC 901, tuition
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