March 18: Rally – Students are not Cash Cows!

Sick of tuition hikes? 

Exhausted from trying to keep up with the university’s money demands? 

Ready to do something about it? 

So are we. On March 21, 2019, SFU’s board of governors will be making a final decision about whether our school will be raising their tuition rates. This raise will range from 2% to a whopping 20% depending on where you’re coming from, and what you’re studying. 

We cannot let them vote “yes”. On Monday, March 18, SFU Tuition Freeze Now will be hosting a rally on Burnaby campus. We will meet at reflection pond, and travel through the Academic Quadrangle (AQ). The rally will feature speakers from activist circles, local politicians, and our own organizers. 

Join us to make noise about a tuition freeze. Demonstrations like this need people like you. As we march through our path, we need to show the SFU administration that we are all fighting together. Most importantly, we need to let them know that, no matter what happens on March 21st, we are not going away. 

We invite individuals from other schools and organizations to this rally. It is crucial that all of us joing forces across the province to fight for a project greater than just SFU. What we really need is a province wide tuition freeze. 

This campaign and our actions are organized on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.
 
We are currently working on accessibility information for our rally. Please follow us on our Facebook and Twitter for updates. 

April 11 – 14: Hey SFU! This is what we want in a president!

Current SFU President, Andrew Petter’s second term as President ends on August 31, 2020. SFU is currently undertaking a process to select its next President and they want to hear from us — the students. 

The feedback on the presidential search ends on April 14, and, as students and people who care about education and life at SFU, WE NEED TO BE HEARD! 

Send your feedback to pres_search@sfu.ca
or
fill out this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.ca/r/sfu-pres-search-survey

Here are some points you can include:

The next SFU president must:

  1. Be committed to affordable education for all. 
  2. Believe in free education as a basic human right
  3. Be from a marginalized group: Woman, person of colour, from indigenous group, LGBT+, etc. 
  4. Care about workers and hate capitalism
  5. Commit to tuition freeze for the next 5 (or 10, or 100) years
  6. Willing to cut corporate ties and divest from corporations that invested in pipelines 
  7. Work to have free housing for all SFU students
  8. Spend at least 10 hours per week chatting with students on campus
  9. Commit to reduction the tuitions by at least 20% per year

These are just some examples. Add anything else you want. Feel free to be funny or annoying but be concise.

Follow us on the Facebook event page [link].

March 21: Report of BoG Meeting and Vote

SFU BOARD OF GOVERNORS VOTES TO INCREASE TUITION DESPITE STUDENT PROTEST

21 March 2019, 11:45am

SFU Tuition Freeze Now (sfutuitionfreeze@gmail.com)

This morning, Simon Fraser University (SFU) Board of Governors voted to accept SFU’s proposed 2019/2020 budget, including tuition hikes ranging from 2% to 20%. During the meeting, administrators repeatedly pitted students against each other by implying that mental health provision, sexual violence prevention services, international bursaries and scholarships, and efforts toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples were potential targets for cuts if tuition did not increase. Administrators did not mention the possibility of shifting priorities within the budget, including capital projects ($35.3m last year) or top-level administrative salaries (which have increased by over $1m per year since 2004), or reconsidering wasteful spending such as the extensive use of external consultants; this made it clear that the budget decision had already been made, and that consultation with students would not affect this year’s budget. For months prior to today’s meeting, Tuition Freeze Now (TFN) advocated for a non-binding alternative budget incorporating a tuition freeze, but the board and Administration refused.

After the board approved the budget, students proposed two motions, under the Board of Governors rule #6.7, which allows for the tabling of motions related to “emergent matters”. One motion proposed that the University join with TFN and SFU’s student societies to lobby government for increased post-secondary education funding to enable a two-year tuition freeze, and one would make the budget process more available to students and staff. Despite the minimal effort required to meet these demands, board members refused to table either motion, and attempted to continue with the meeting agenda.

At this point, students disrupted the meeting, chanting “SFU: ENGAGE US” and “WE ARE SFU.” After discussing the importance of transparency, the chair adjourned the open session. Board members then left the room, leaving plates and half-eaten food around the table: yet another mess for others to clean up.

We want the administration and the community to know that we stand together against tuition increases, and students refuse to be divided between domestic and international, graduate or undergraduate. Tuition Freeze Now would like to thank the more than 2,000 students who signed our petition, the dozens of students who wrote letters to the Board of Governors, and the representatives of the SFU student societies who endorsed us (the SFSS and GSS). Tuition Freeze Now is connecting to community groups and students on other university campuses, building a province-wide movement to ensure affordable education for all.

TUITION FREEZE NOW, FREE TUITION NEXT

Tuition Talk: Luis

Name: Luis 

Reason for supporting a tuition freeze: “Education should not be a ball and chain scenerio”  

The BC Liberals deregulated tuition and rent increases years ago. BC skyrocketed from one of the most affordable provinces for post-secondary education to one of the most expensive.

The tuition cap fee policy is full of leaks and loopholes, it’s not enforceable, and provincial funding for post secondary institutions in 2013 was 15% lower than it was in 2001. And this crunch of public money being diverted away from education has been felt by students. As an international student, I faced outrageous tuition increases. From 2012 to 2015 my tuition had increased significantly, to the point that it almost ended my ability to finish my studies. My parents and I had very tough conversations about the cost of my education, and if it was possible for them to help me. I went through a lot of stress and guilt through the whole process. But we persevered, not thanks to SFU or to government, but to my friends and family that supported me in many ways.

Education should not be a ball and chain scenario. It should give us tools and skills to take into the real world. But access is important. Student debt is crippling. If you keep relying on students to make up for systematic cuts to education from provincial and federal governments, you won’t have an educated workforce for the future: you will have an uneducated generation, unable to keep up with the changing world.

Enough is enough!

March 21: Final Budget Vote

This is it. This is what we’ve been building up to. 

When the Tuition Freeze Now team started planning for our campaign, we had our eyes set on the Board of Governors meeting that would take place on March 21, 2019. In this meeting, the Board of Governors will decide whether or not they will say “yes” to an outrageous tuition increase — 20% for certain students. And it is finally here. 

On March 21 at 8 a.m., join Tuition Freeze Now at Halpren Center. We will rally and gather at the Halpren Center together. In addition, some of our organizers will present in front of the Board. This will feature new information that we have uncovered in our fight, and finish it off by re-instating our demands

The SFSS will hold their pancake breakfast earlier in the morning at 7 a.m. 

Join us at Halpren Center this Thursday. Together, we can make tuition freeze a reality. 

 

Rally for Tuition Freeze: Speaker’s List

STUDENTS ARE NOT CASH COWS

TUITION FREEZE NOW! 

On March 18, 2019, Tuition Freeze Now will hold a rally. The goal of this demonstration is to raise awareness about tuition hikes and to encourage students to come out to the Board of Governors meeting that will seal the fate of tuition. 

Tuition does not exist in a vaccum. Students have to live in houses, work in minimum wage positions, and buy food to survive. In order to tie all these issues together, Tuition Freeze Now will feature a list of speakers. Our speakers have experience in a wide breadth of activism in the lower mainland, and we are honoured to have them join us in this battle for affordability. On Monday, we will feature: 

Giovanni Hosang, computing science student; co-organizer of Tuition Freeze Campaign, President of Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, SFSS Presidential Candidate.

 
 
Giovanni has been fighting tirelessly for racial justice and more Black representation. He is working hard to bring student activism back to SFU.
 

Sara Sagaii, Communication Masters Student at SFU; organizer and activist with the Vancouver Tenants Union.

 

Svend Robinson, Bunaby MP (1979 – 2004)

Svend Robinson served as MP for Burnaby for over 25 years, from 1979 to 2004, including representing SFU during those years. He is the first openly gay MP in Canada, and now the federal NDP Candidate for Burnaby North -Seymour, which includes the Burnaby SFU campus.

Sevil Beghban Karimi, Computer Science major; VTU Activist 

We will also hear from Sevil Baghban Karimi, an international student doing Computer Science and minors in Film Studies. The tuition hike is hitting international student the most! Sevil has shared the perspective of international in a recent Tyee article: click here for the article

Sevil is also an organizer and activist involved with Vancouver Tenants Union as well as anti-imperialist causes here in Vancouver.

Jean Swanson, Vancouver Councilwoman (2018); Anti-poverty activist 

Jean Swanson has been an anti-poverty and social justice activist for over 40 years in Vancouver and across the country. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2016, the country’s highest civilian honour, for “her long-standing devotion to social justice, notably for her work with the residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.” She continues to fight for housing, Indigenous, and environmental justice. Her work has inspired many of the co-organizers in the Tuition Freeze Now Campaign. We are honored to have her standing with students!

This campaign and our actions are organized on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.

 

Tuition Talk: Marina

 
Name: Marina 
Year of study: First year, Masters 
Why I support a tuition freeze: Relief from the stress of high international tuition and expensive costs of living in Vancouver.
 
I remember feeling absolutely elated when I received my letter of acceptance from SFU, just over a year ago. My partner and I had both been working hard to realize our dreams of continuing our education, and after several years, it was beginning to feel like our efforts were finally bearing fruit. Six months after moving to British Columbia, we are still both very happy to be here and to be at school. However, the financial stressors of being international students are beginning to take its toll.
 

Coming from a country with a very volatile economy, we both had to work very hard and save for several years in order to come to Canada. 

While my tuition as a graduate student at SFU is reasonable, and I receive funding from my department, the cost of living in Vancouver remains very high. The biggest strain on our budget, however, is my partner’s tuition. As an international undergraduate, he is already paying a considerable amount, and with the proposed tuition increases, our family is looking at paying even more next year. Coming from a country with a very volatile economy, we both had to work very hard and save for several years in order to come to Canada. As international students, we are unable to access loans and many funding opportunities available to domestic students in Canada, and largely have to rely on ourselves to get through school. When we came here, we anticipated many different stressors. We knew that moving to a different country and a new culture would be an adjustment. We anticipated that we would miss our country and our families, and that we would have to work hard to succeed in school. What we had not anticipated was that financial pressures would override any other stressors that we would experience here.
 
At the moment, it looks like the only way for both of us to remain in school would be for one of us to go back to working full-time. Needless to say, this will make balancing work and school much harder. We are still very happy to have the opportunity to pursue our education in Canada. However, we do wish that we and other students like us had more support as we pursue our dreams.
 
 
With continued tuition increases and the extremely limited number of scholarships and grants for international students, SFU communicates a strong message that, for international students, education at this university is a privilege limited to those individuals who have substantial financial means. Given SFU’s strong voice in promoting social justice, both through research and community work, I hope that university’s officials and others involved in decision-making will hear our voices. By offering more financial support to students of limited financial means, SFU can show that this university is truly inclusive and engaged.
 
 

February 26: Report of Meeting between Tuition Freeze Organizers and SFU Administration Team

Student Organizers from Tuition Freeze Now Meet with SFU Senior Administrators

On Tuesday February 26th, 2019, five student organizers from Tuition Freeze Now met with VP Finance Martin Pochurko, VP Academic Peter Keller, and Erin Biddlecombe from Student Services. The meeting had two goals: first, to receive more information on the proposed budget, as it has been difficult to find detailed information; and second, to urge SFU Administration to set up a concrete plan to freeze tuition at SFU for the next two academic years. We discussed the consultation process, details of the budget, and SFU’s commitment to make student affordability a priority. Administrators lauded SFU’s student consultation process, insisted that students had been heard (though did not commit to any changes to the budget whatsoever), and offered no concrete plans for student affordability.

Consultation Process

When asked about both their definition of consultation, and what students can do to affect the budget (a question that had to be asked in a variety of different ways), we were told repeatedly that they “met with the community” before and during their budget conversations. We were never given details on what this means. They could not answer a direct question about what students must do to impact the budget. One of the times when asked about students affecting the budget, they pointed to the “grandfather clause,” which was instituted a few years ago, as an example of student consultation effecting change.

[The administration] could not answer a direct question about what students must do to impact the budget.

When asked about the SFSS and GSS endorsing TFN, they fell back on saying that the admin is simply working within their environment, and hinting that they must raise tuition due to pressures from government underfunding. When asked about what they have done to lobby the government, they responded that lobbying is more powerful when it comes from students. When pressured again on the original question, they affirmed that the SFSS and GSS were adding to the dialogue.

 

Overall, we learned that the discussions are a little later than we thought, and that they see (a rather vague) community feedback as good enough two-way dialogue.

Budget

We asked various specific questions about the university’s financial situation, and then proceeded to general questions about the budget and affordability. The first few questions regarded endowments and how those relate to the budget. According to the VPs, the endowments are separate from the budget, and are governed by their own terms and conditions; they therefore cannot be used to ameliorate affordability issues or fund the capital projects.

Another specific budget item raised was that of faculty vacancies leading to budget surpluses or “carry-forward” budget amounts, as Keller insisted. On the matter of surplus, Pochurko stated that he is “horrified” with underspending. They explained that much of these amounts result from unforeseen circumstances (such as faculty death or resignation). However, this is still a consistently large figure.

While omitting that [Keller] went to school a significant number of years ago under remarkably different economic conditions, he also erased the difference between white international students and those who are racialized.

Both the VPS expressed empathy for students that has not been reflected in Administration’s policies. Keller made a comment about “knowing what it’s like” to be an international student, as he was one for much of his studies. While omitting that he went to school a significant number of years ago under remarkably different economic conditions, he also erased the difference between white international students and those who are racialized. Further, his remarks de-emphasized the financial difficulties facing students from underprivileged countries, when he cited US students who access more affordable education by studying in Canada.

The VPs stated that the Administration tries to be clear to incoming students about their fees, so if international students do not like the fees, they could go somewhere else. Multiple times, they threatened having to make cuts if there were to be a tuition freeze, implying that the budget is air-tight and their hands are bound in the matter.

Multiple times, they threatened having to make cuts if there were to be a tuition freeze.

Student Affordability

One remarkable part of the meeting is when asked what concrete plans they had in place to prioritize student affordability; both VPS replied they don’t know. No details were offered beyond the reference to bursaries and scholarships that have been repeated since October, not recognizing that there are higher barriers for international students to access these fundings.  

Student affordability is not one of the priorities SFU has currently.

From this meeting, it is clear that the administrative processes and important decisions such as budget are highly undemocratic and excluded of students. Student affordability is not one of the priorities SFU has currently. We need to stand together united to push back on the unjust tuition hike and push SFU to prioritize its students and make its processes democratic!

Together we can do it! Tuition Freeze Now!

Tuition Talk: Viraj

Name: Viraj 

Faculty: Sociology and criminology (tentative) 

Level of study: Fourth-year undergraduate

Reason for supporting a tuition freeze: A tuition hike is unfair to both international and domestic students

Hello everyone, my name is Viraj and I am currently in my fourth year here at SFU. I transferred from KPU in spring of 2016, where I studied sociology, history, and Asian studies. My intended route of study is a joint major in sociology and criminology (I’m leaning more towards the criminology side of things as I find it much more interesting and applicable). I am currently working two part-time restaurant jobs. Having recently acquired a second job as a cook-in-training, I also work as a waiter to pay my way through school (shout out to all my service industry people past and present; there truly is no other grind like ours). 

I genuinely feel that what SFU is doing is wrong to not only existing domestic students, but also to the international student body. They are already forced into paying ludicrously high tuition rates

The reason I support a tuition freeze is simple — I genuinely feel that what SFU is doing is wrong to not only existing domestic students, but also to the international student body. They are already forced into paying ludicrously high tuition rates. Not to mention the myriad of other issues they face simply by being new faces in an unfamiliar country: language barriers, marked social isolation, loneliness, legal barriers that limit what/how often they can work, etc. The criminology student in me will go far as to say that the post-secondary tuition rates for international students constitute a form of legalized extortion, because lectures from a professor, assistance from one/more TA’s, and access to office hours should not cost over two thousand dollars per course. Ever. Not at SFU, nor anywhere else.  

I did not wish to offload the burden onto my parents

On the domestic front, things aren’t much better. This is something I can personally attest to, having paid for the vast majority of my post-secondary education myself through a combination of student loans and various part-time jobs. I did not wish to offload the burden onto my parents, who are on the older side (they will both be 62 this year) with a nice list of health problems between them. As such, I also do what I can to pitch in financially with regards to taking care of the home (paying bills, getting groceries, gas money etc.). My family was certainly never “wealthy” by any means, so I learned self-sufficiency and the value of a dollar at a young age. Hell, I still remember 90% of the reason I got my first job at fourteen was simply because I got fed up asking the old man for money (sorry Pa just being real). Now, having recently turned 26, I stress about finances more than ever, often to an unhealthy degree. My work/life balance is tenuous at best.

[Financial issues], plus my own issues with mental health (generalized anxiety and depression specifically) have made not only meeting the cost, but the general demands of a post-secondary education difficult for me.

People ask me all the time about why and how I continue to put so much on my plate. Well, allow me to explain: How else am I going to find the money to pay for school? Save up for a down payment on a home? Build myself a stable financial foundation for the future? Take care of my parents when they are old and sick? Well, admittedly, they’re already old and sick, so time is very much of the essence. These outside factors, plus my own issues with mental health (generalized anxiety and depression specifically) have made not only meeting the cost, but the general demands of a post-secondary education difficult for me.

I’ve considered dropping out several times. If it wasn’t for the consistent encouragement of my parents, a close friend circle, the wonderful staff and various resources at SFU Health and Counselling, and the CAL (Centre For Accessible Learning) who’ve made my time at SFU significantly better, I most certainly would have thrown in the proverbial towel long ago.

My marks have suffered as a result. I’m currently on medication and have taken two others prior to this one. I’ve accessed counselling both inside and outside of school, and recently started using the “MySSP” service that SFU offers all to help me cope. I’ve considered dropping out several times. If it wasn’t for the consistent encouragement of my parents, a close friend circle, the wonderful staff and various resources at SFU Health and Counselling, and the CAL (Centre For Accessible Learning) who’ve made my time at SFU significantly better, I most certainly would have thrown in the proverbial towel long ago. Honorable mentions to Mr. Matthew Menzies (my adviser at the CAL), Father Julio at the Interfaith Centre, and Mrs. Doriana Marello and her “Better Coping” support group which I attended on and off last year. I truly believe she is an angel sent from the heavens to bless us mere mortals on Earth. I strongly urge any/all SFU students to try “Better Coping” if they haven’t done so already. 

In summary, I think I speak for all students at SFU (domestic and international) when I say we have had enough. Enough of an overtly greedy and apathetic school administration that continues to strangle students financially with increasingly higher fees. Enough of these so-called “educators” who stand idly by and let all this unfold, and care more about their jobs and personal research than they do the actual students they teach. Enough of underfunded health and wellness resources on campus for students. End this tuition hike now.