The Tomato

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Pay-as-you-go plan replaces long-time institution at the U of O

Photo: Rémi Yuan.

Continuing budget issues have led to the cancellation of a long-time institution at the University of Ottawa.

The university’s administration called a press conference yesterday to announce the end of its “free speech” service. During this press conference, the U of O’s president said this service will be replaced with a new “pay-as-you-go” speech plan, which would charge students a fee every time they chose to express a view or opinion on campus.

“Well, we’ve been scoring at the bottom of the free speech index for years now, so we don’t think this will make much of a difference,” he told the Tomato. “We’re going to be putting numerous new policies in place that will make the transition as smooth as possible.”

Along with the new fee, officials said students will have the option to purchase a variety of “speech plans,” which offer discounted prepaid options for expressing their opinions on campus.

“Like our meal plans, these speech plans will be tax-free. We hope to see many students taking advantage of the opportunity,” the university said in a statement.

This sudden change in policy seems to have caught some students off guard.

“I don’t keep up with campus news,” said one philosophy student, who asked to remain anonymous. “So I was quite surprised to learn that I was charged $115.25 for having a heated debate in my moral reasoning class yesterday.”

When asked about how he felt about the change, the student replied: “I still don’t know how much each individual opinion costs, and I need to go buy groceries after this, so I don’t have any comment.”

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) was shocked at what they described as a “gross overstepping of boundaries” and a “lack of respect for the student federation.”

“Traditionally, it’s been our job to police what people say on campus,” said the SFUO president. “The university has clearly lost all respect for the SFUO’s mandate.”

The university president said he didn’t understand why students are so upset.

“It seems like a win-win situation to me. The most common complaints from politically active students have generally been rising tuition fees and controversial speaker events,” he said.

“Why, just last year the students limited their own free speech by stopping a professor’s lecture. It would seem to me that these students would welcome such a change.”

In response, representatives from the Revolutionary Students’ Movement, the organization that led the protest, said, “That’s different. They were talking about things we disagreed with.”