By Julieanne Acosta, March 29 2022—
On March 28, students from the University of Calgary organized outside Mac Hall in the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) Quad in the second province-wide Student Day of Action on campus.
The mission behind the Alberta Student Day of Action is to create a union of Alberta post-secondary students who are ready to demand a reverse of advanced education budget cuts and an immediate freeze on tuition increases.
Student leaders from the Students’ Union (SU), other faculty clubs and U of C community members were seen at the demonstration to voice their support.
“I’m here today because the SU stands with students who are deeply concerned about provincial funding cuts and the resulting rise in tuition,” said Renzo Peyera, outgoing vice-president academic. “Students are currently paying at least 25 per cent more than they did in 2019. Students are paying more and getting less. They’ve seen tuition skyrocket at a time that the government cut the tuition tax credit, and increased interest on student loans.”
Incoming vice-president academic, Shaziah Jinnah added to Peyera’s comment by furthering her own concern.
“This is an attack on our quality of education — we all lose,” said Jinnah. “The current government’s ongoing annual cuts with no end in sight in tandem with reductions in basic support is resulting in a generation that can no longer see the value in post-secondary education. [Students] were promised more. We are critical to Alberta’s future.”
In a statement to the Gauntlet, SU Faculty of Arts representative Siraaj Shah expressed his support for the cause.
“It’s great to see a lot of student support when it comes to tuition cuts,” said Shah. “It’s extremely important for us to show our voice together. I put my full support behind the activities that are going on and hopefully we can see some impacts that come as a result of this.”
Shah later went on to speak at the protest to urge students to fight back against the government.
“Now on this historic day, you must send a message to the government. Inflation increases, unemployment increasing and student cuts are detrimental not only to our student spirit but to our survival,” said Shah.
Prachi Mishra, a member of AUPE 52 spoke on her difficulties as a non-academic staff member at the U of C amidst budget cuts.
“The cuts came, and they came to the most vulnerable people. It was the non-academic staff who lost their jobs and livelihoods,” said Mishra. “Remember you’re getting a raw deal here. The U of C caretakers, the lowest-paid staff on campus, who don’t make living wages, are women of colour, immigrants and newcomers have had their shifts changed by the U of C so they don’t have to pay them an additional $2.50 each hour. The only way to win is to fight back.”
In a statement to Global News, the University of Calgary said they respected the right to freedom of expression, but ultimately stood by their financial decisions for students.
“The university has been transparent with students and the community over the past three years regarding its plans to align tuition with the requirements of the Alberta Tuition Framework,” the statement reads.
“Student feedback helps to shape the annual tuition proposal that has resulted in tuition rates at UCalgary remaining lower, in many instances, compared to other U15 post-secondary institutions.”
In the most recent Board of Governors meeting on Dec. 10, tuition was increased for students in the Faculty of Engineering, the Cumming School of Medicine and the Haskayne School of Business for the third time this past year.
Mateusz Salmassi, President of the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association (FASA) was also present at the protest to show his support not only for the protest but for the drama program at the U of C that has held a strike and are picketing their classrooms.
The one-day student strike led by Sofia Huarte Aguilar for the Drama department was voted in during a meeting last Friday to call for the reversal of nearly $700 million in budget cuts to post-secondary education.
“Students’ basic needs are just not being met and a lot of that comes down to the cost of education and the quality of our programs,” said Salmassi. “At the last day of action, we alluded to student strikes. The drama program has led the way and enacted the first Alberta student strike in history. If we do this on a larger scale, we will have real leverage over the government. We’ve tried petitions, we’ve tried lobbying, we’ve tried protests and it’s not working.”