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Alberta students organize provincial day of action

By Cristina Paolozzi, October 25 2021—

Students across the province have come together to participate in the Alberta Student Day of Action to protest the cuts to post-secondary education. The Student Day of Action will take place on Oct. 29, and students from the University of Calgary will be demonstrating in the Quad by the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL). 

The Faculty of Arts Students’ Association (FASA) voted in favour of participating in this protest. Chaise Combs, vice-president communications of FASA, spoke with the Gauntlet about the Student Day of Action and what message FASA hopes to send to Arts students and the campus community in general. 

“Students from across the province, from various institutions — including McEwan [University], MRU [Mount Royal University] and U of C — will be holding separate demonstrations on campus to protest against the tuition increases and budget cuts we’ve been seeing over the past couple of years,” he said. “And essentially ask for a tuition freeze and a reversal of the budget cuts.” 

Combs said that the process to organize the Student Day of Action came from consistent, albeit loose, meetings and arrangements of student leaders across the province trying to mobilize direct action against the provincial government’s continued cuts to post-secondary education. 

According to Budget 2021, post-secondary education included a 1.4 per cent funding decrease, and the U of C specifically received a six per cent cut to operational costs. The university’s Board of Governors voted to approve the exceptional tuition increases for the 2022-23 school year at their meeting on Oct. 22, which would see increase in tuition for the Cumming School of Medicine’s Medical Doctor program, Haskayne School of Business’ MBA program and the Bachelor of Science in Engineering. International Engineering students would also receive a separate tuition increase. 

While the Students’ Union (SU) advocated to delay the exceptional tuition increases successfully, student leaders are still in the process of gaining meaningful consultation from both students and university administration. 

“The one thing we’re hearing most [from students] is the declining quality of education because of the pandemic, which obviously the universities have no control over,” said Combs. “But then on top of that, with the increasing cost of education in terms of consultation, our department reps felt as though this was in the purview of FASA as this is something that the people they’re representing are sufficiently concerned about.”

Combs also spoke about how student advocacy in the last decade has evolved into something that can bring meaningful change through direct action instead of through traditional methods like lobbying. 

“I think there are some great examples from within Canada within the last decade of students successfully pushing back, reversing tuition increases, that sort of thing,” he said. “And it wasn’t through advocacy like lobbying, it was through direct action on the ground.” 

Combs hopes that this event will bring more attention to these student-centred issues, and would like to see more momentment continue to build. 

“I do think that students are just unhappy with the state of post-secondary education in Alberta,” he said. “I think a lot of people don’t feel like there’s anything they can do about it. And we’re hoping to demonstrate that there’s something you can do to bring attention to this issue and to ideally gain a little momentum.” 

The Student Day of Action will take place at the U of C on Oct. 29 at 12 p.m. in the Quad by the TFDL. For more information, visit the FASA website

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