PSAC 901 holds town hall over tuition freeze

‘The poverty students are facing are a mandatory part of [our] graduate curriculum’

Students directed their questions at a chick plush toy in the absence of Patrick Deane.
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PSAC 901, the union representing Queen’s graduate student workers, held a town hall on Jan. 23 addressing Principal Patrick Deane’s call for an end to the Ontario tuition freeze.

The union published a letter addressed to Principal Deane expressing their outrage about the University lobbying for the end of a tuition freeze on Jan. 17. The letter addressed the University’s lack of understanding around the situation facing many graduate students.

“We’re living in abject poverty and we’re students at Queen’s who are working more than full time and are not able to survive and to have not as healthy diets,” one student said at the town hall.

The Ontario government reduced university tuition fees by 10 per cent and froze fees for funding-eligible domestic students in 2019. In March 2022, they extended the freeze through the 2022-23 academic year.

The University is lobbying the provincial government to end the freeze to ensure Queen’s gets adequate funding. Deane declined the invitation to attend the town hall, where students directed their questions towards “Pat-chick” Deane—a chick plush toy.

“It is unfortunate inflationary pressures are negatively affecting individuals, organizations, and institutions here in Kingston and across the country,” Deane replied to the invitation.

“The University continues to advocate to both the federal and provincial governments for increased support for graduate students.”

The students at the town hall said Deane’s response sounded like it had been written by an “AI ChatBot.”

The Ontario tuition freeze followed what Jake Morrow, PSAC 901 co-chief steward, called the Ford Government’s prior “attack” on student levies—known as the Student Choice Initiative—and their elimination of OSAP programs providing non-repayable tuition grants for postgraduate students from families with incomes of $50,000 or less.

“I'm technically in year seven. I was unable to do research for two years. I still pay the University their money. I work four jobs because I don't have any more funding. My question to Patrick is how f—king dare you,” a student attending said.

Students spoke about the high costs of living that come with being a Queen’s student, and the lack of help they receive from the University.

“Most of us are paying over $1,000 for housing a month and paying $8,000 in tuition,” a student in attendance said. “We can barely sustain ourselves with roommates, let alone think about dependents. I think Queen’s must be ashamed.”

Other students added their thoughts about the university rebuilding infrastructure before focusing on affordable housing options.

“They're rebuilding that building that they built 10 years ago, but they're not building graduate student housing. It's bullsh—t,” one student said.

One attendee said “the top and most consistent” stressors graduate students experience are financial, rental, and food insecurity.

The Queen’s food insecurity report from last March indicated that 52 per cent of users of the AMS Food Bank are graduate and professional students.

“Imagine making Patrick Deane sit in this f—king pile of ramen,” a student said.

PSAC 901 co-stewards said they will hold a rally on Feb. 7 in front of Richardson Hall and coordinate their efforts with other universities across Ontario to bring light to these issues.

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