Keep services that were democratically voted on
On Jan. 17 the provincial government announced changes to OSAP, a reduction of 10 per cent in tuition fees, and the Student Choice Initiative. The Student Choice Initiative has been one of the more controversial moves of the Ford government. Under the program, students will be able to opt-out of paying student levies for certain services, while other payments to defined “essential services” will still be mandatory.
Student-run services at risk on U of O’s campus include resource centres, UOSERT, the food bank, and student media such as La Rotonde, the Fulcrum, and CHUO. The Student Choice Initiative is framed as being “for the students” while still ignoring how these services came to be on campus in the first place.
The choice was already made democratically by students to have these services. If students no longer want to support these services, they can be voted out through democratic means and within their student unions, not just through arbitrary choices driven by saving a few bucks.
I will probably never have to access any of the resource centres or the food bank on campus during my undergraduate studies here at U of O. I also, like many students, have racked up serious debt and will continue to do so. With the additional changes to OSAP made by the Ford government, many students in my situation will be pushed to opt-out of these fees in an effort to save some money.
On the other hand, the services that are deemed to be essential by the Ford government may seem nonessential to some, such as sports and recreation, academic support and health and counselling. These lines are arbitrarily exclusive, with the illusion of choice attached to them. This initiative should be all or nothing if Ford truly cares about what students want to fund.
But he doesn’t. Ford already made the decision to de-fund these services when he dictated which ones were optional and changed OSAP to drive students to opt-out and save money. These “non-essential” services on the chopping block, resource centres, and the food bank, serve to help the most vulnerable students in our population.
There’s a reason why provincial and federal taxes don’t work like this. If citizens were able to control where every single one of their dollars go, infrastructure, education, everything would be a nightmare. People without kids might not choose to fund schools, people who don’t drive wouldn’t fund roads, people who don’t get sick may opt out of funding healthcare.
Although I don’t personally access the services offered on campus, there are students that rely on their support—which is why they were democratically voted in.
With the UOSU’s victory in the latest referendum, the university’s welcome message was quick to point out that the UOSU is responsible for determining which services will continue to be offered, and for securing the confidence of the undergraduate students in their decisions.
These services were voted in by students, for students, and for the most part are run by students. In threatening the stability of these services, the Ford government is ignoring the democratic means through which these services came to be.