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More than 75 students rally against fee increases with KD in hand

Sabrina Nemis & Daniel LeRoy | Fulcrum Contributors

Video and photos by Sabrina Nemis

UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA students protesting a proposed tuition hike forced the school’s Board of Governors to shut down its meeting to approve the fee increase on May 27.

The original proposal on May 24 called for a three per cent increase per year for the next four years. But that figure was changed to only a one-year increase of three per cent before the meeting on Monday.

Patrick Charette, director of communications for the university, said the board made the change following backlash from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).

“It shows that we listen,” said Charette.

On the day of the meeting, about 75 students forced the board to shut down its meeting after just two minutes.

SFUO vp finance Dave Eaton said U of O president Allan Rock invited the student federation executive to a meeting on May 24 to inform them of the original four-year tuition hike. Eaton said Rock and the Board of Governors “don’t care about the consultation of students.”

“It is time we have our voices heard,” he said.

Rock said the cost of running the university increases at a rate of 4.5 per cent per year, well above the proposed tuition increase of three per cent.

“Student indebtedness and fault rates are both declining in recent years,” he said.

Rock added that the best way to ensure quality education for U of O students is to split the cost proportionally between the government and the individual, as both experience the benefits of education.

At the Board of Governors meeting, three students put a plate of Kraft Dinner in front of Rock. It sat untouched as the board brought plates of salad and cheese from the buffet table to their seats and got ready to start.

One protestor stood with a megaphone and most of the audience followed. Carrying a black sign—“Who votes on your tuition fees?”—behind Rock’s seat, the protestors surrounded the board, chanting, stomping their feet, and shaking boxes of Kraft Dinner.

Shortly before the meeting, protestors were told that tuition would only increase in the next year instead of the proposed four. However, student protestors went forward with their planned disruption, making sure their dissatisfaction with any tuition increase was known.

“Students should know that the university in the year 2012–2013 made profits of $5.5 million,” said Erica Leblanc, a second-year social sciences student and member of the Ontario Coalition Against Tuition Hikes (OCATH).

“Education is a right,” she said. “We don’t have to pay that much.”

Unable to continue, the board members stood and left the room as the chanting continued.

Protestors separated into smaller groups, following the governors around campus to prevent them from reconvening elsewhere. With megaphones, bells, and horns, they chanted in the parking lot, waving to the governors as they drove away.

Wearing red squares, waving flags, and still shaking boxes of Kraft Dinner, the protestors marched across campus and through the streets of Sandy Hill.

U of O social work graduate Sabrina Pelletier said she came out to support future students, even though the changes won’t affect her.

“If I can make a difference for future students, I will,” she said.