The UW Chevron

online version of uwaterloo's independent press

Category: Volume 1, Issue 1

Crossing the (pipe)line: Waterloo Region joins the fight against Line 9

Author: Kathryn Wettlaufer

Enbridge Energy Inc.’s Line 9 pipeline has been in the news a lot this summer due to fierce opposition which now includes the local campaign “Waterloo Region Against Line 9”. Across the country, there have been public demonstrations and direct actions, as well as a federal lawsuit recently launched against the Harper government over their restrictions to public participation in the National Energy Board hearings, which will decide whether to approve or deny phase II of the Line 9 project.

The resistance is set to continue this fall with the NEB hearings coming up in October. But what the heck is Line 9, anyway? And why should folks living and studying in Waterloo care about it? Here’s the issue in a nutshell.

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Tuition is Too Damn High

Author: Thomas Little

The Ontario government sets a cap on how much universities can increase tuition per year. If it did not, universities would be free to demand whatever they wanted for tuition, with disastrous consequences for students. Before this year, the cap was five percent. For the 2013-2014 academic year, the cap has been lowered to three percent, which gives students a bit more financial breathing room. It seems the UW Board of Governors did not get the memo. On June 4, it raised tuition retroactively by roughly 3%, that is after students in the Spring/Summer term had already paid their fees. Two out of three student representatives voted against the increase, the sole exception being Sean Hunt. This took students by surprise and shocked and outraged most. Our campus media being what it is, no one had reported on the Board of Governors meeting, nor had anyone reported on the tuition increase itself until Imprint writers were tipped off about the anti-tuition protest which happened on June 11.

Senteced to Debt

June 11, 2013 – Students protesting the summer tuition hike sent a message
outside convocation about the impact of rising tuition.

Even then, the Imprint article (“Mid-term tuition increase sparks controversy”) put forward the same line as the CBC (“Retroactive tuition hike upsets U of W students”) and the Record (“UW students angry over retroactive fee increases”) articles, quoting Sean Hunt (Senator-at-Large) and Adam Garcia (Feds VP Education) extensively and creating a “narrative” for the situation that students are only upset about the timing, not the increase itself. This is something these papers can be comfortable with: a minor quibble with the administration’s conduct, easily fixed by them promising not to do it again. It is also a narrative that Feds and the administration are comfortable with.

Yet is it a narrative that most students are comfortable with? The majority of students we talked to complained not just about the bad timing, but about the increase itself – that the extra burden was unwelcome and difficult to deal with, regardless of the timing. Many students complained about the high cost of tuition regardless of the increase. This is not something Feds, the Imprint, or the administration are comfortable with because they all maintain the firm position that there is no option but to accept fee increases, and the only concession to students is that we be notified about them beforehand. Arguments for a tuition freeze or even for lower tuition fees are dismissed as “impractical” and “unrealistic.” Yet what could be more realistic when our fellow students in every other Canadian province get an education for a much lower cost?

Spring tuition protest

June 11, 2013 – Students gathered in the Arts Quad to protest the mid-term tuition hike.

To hopefully answer these questions, an information session held on June 20 in the SLC Great Hall aimed at exploring the issue, with a diverse panel of representatives from the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Feds (Adam Garcia), an international graduate student, and an international undergraduate student (to discuss the heightened impact on international students). Both Adam Garcia and the GSA representatives were quick to defend the administration at all costs and to make it clear that they were not prepared to meaningfully oppose the administration, despite Feds officially criticizing the tuition hike.

After this info session, I and other students angry about the tuition hike worked for days passing around a petition demanding that the administration reverse the fee. We had conversations with hundreds of people and they complained about the high cost, yet had few answers about how to deal with it. If we want to actually do something about these fee increases, we need student organizations that are prepared to do something about the issue and student media that will give us a real picture of the situation and what students think, not what it wants them to think.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Chevron on 5 September 2013.

What is Going On with Feds’ Budget?

Author: Kristine Totzke

Like the majority of students at the University of Waterloo, my relationship with the Federation of Students has been primarily one-sided. Whether we like it or not, we pay our Feds fees each term. This wouldn’t pose a problem if most of us could even articulate how Feds spends the millions of dollars it collects in fees. Further, many could not explain how the Feds’ budget process works.

There is exactly one explanatory article on the Feds website from 2011 on the subject, appropriately titled “Demystifying the FedS budget: Where is your money going?” According to this article, the Feds fees fund the service side of Feds operations. These are things like executive salaries, office equipment, and student-run clubs. This portion of the budget is prepared by a Budget Committee and later approved by Students’ Council. It was on July 28th that the 2013–2014 Feds budget was approved by Students’ Council. That means from the departure of last year’s executives in April 2013 until late July, Feds was operating without a student-approved budget. Furthermore, out of the 17 faculty Student Council members, only 4 of them were in attendance at this meeting with the VP of Operations and Finance to approve the budget.

Another glaring problem with this process is that the budget is approved during the spring term when the enrolment rate of students is cut in half compared to the fall and winter terms. This very may well account for the small number of Students’ Council members at these budget meetings. And for us students that are not part of Students’ Council, our ability to attend these meetings is crucial as it is the only means we have to voice our opinions about the budget. The lack of dialogue from Feds and Students’ Council to make students aware of these meetings, and how they can participate, compound these problems.

Natasha Pozega, the current VP of Operations and Finance, expressed her concerns with the budget procedures calling it “out-dated” and plans to rewrite it this year. These are just some of the issues that the budget process presents. As for the actual budget, the lack of accountability to students rears its head again. The link for the 2012–2013 budget on the Feds website actually downloads a budget from 2 years ago. Hopefully this September we will get to see a current budget. And hopefully we students will play an integral role in the creation of the next one. It is after all for us.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Chevron on 5 September 2013.

Manifesto II

Author: The Editorial Collective

Three years ago, another manifesto was published by another Chevron. It argued that the Imprint “… varies between ignorant of and apathetic to the machinations of the student governments that stake a claim to a part of our tuition [and] also fails to address and provide relevant commentary on major issues facing the student body …. It is for these reasons we feel a new paper is necessary.” Three years on and these issues persist, as bad as they ever did. There is media on this campus, but there is little journalism. There is an Imprint, but there has been no Chevron on a campus once recognized nationally as a leading light of student journalism. As long as this situation persists, there will be a need for a Chevron, and as long as there is a need for a Chevron, one will appear. Today, there is a new Chevron, hopefully bigger, better, and more hard-hitting than the old one. We are not intending to always say things people will like or agree with. We are intending to give a voice to people who right now have none, to discuss student issues that go unmentioned.

This first issue of the new Chevron has a sampling of these discussions and we hope you find them interesting and enlightening. If you care about something and think other students should too, the Chevron is a way you can tell many of them about it at once. Consider writing with us; we would be glad to have you. Email us at theuwchevron@gmail.com.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Chevron on 5 September 2013.