June 26: Third General Assembly

WHAT IS TUITION FREEZE UP TO OVER THE SUMMER? 

After our struggle to help the Board of Governors understand the difficulties of students in regards to tuition, a tuition hike was still implemented into the upcoming school year. So… what now for us? Do we disband? 

No, of course not! As the summer is progressing, Tuition Freeze is piling more and more onto its plate. This means taking steps to speak to the provincial government, grow a stronger community around affordability at SFU, and growing the movement into other campuses across BC. And, as always, this means we need your support. 

On June 26, 2019, we will be holding our third general assembly. This meeting will be centered around catching up on what we’ve been up to for the last month and planning our July out. 

Are you interested in joining us? Here’s the deets: 

When: Wednesday, June 26, 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Where: RCB 5118, SFU Burnaby on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people 
Why: To look over what we’ve been up to for June, and discuss what we’ll be doing over July 

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

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.

 

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!

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. 

SFSS ENDORSES TUITION FREEZE NOW

We are happy to announce that the SFSS has formally endorsed Tuition Freeze Now on January 11, 2019.  

The SFSS, SFU’s student society which represents its 25,000+ undergraduate students, has recently come out with an official statement in support of the Tuition Freeze Now movement. It is incredible for us to have the support of SFU students, and we look forward to working with the SFSS to continue pushing for a tuition freeze on campus. 

Read more about the SFSS’s endorsement of Tuition Freeze Now on their website

 

“But I thought the hike was tied to inflation?”

Bust the Myth: the Logic of Inflation and Tuition Increases

By Jorji Temple, English PhD Student at Simon Fraser University 

When we talk about freezing tuition, the question we get asked most often is “What about inflation?” This question, I think, explains a lot about our attitude toward education. Often, increasing tuition in line with inflation is presented as neutral, as “only fair,” or as the natural thing to do. Here’s why it’s not:

Student incomes are not tied to inflation. Neither in any SFU contracts with workers, nor across the economy, do raises equal or exceed inflation. This means that an increase in tuition that *is* tied to inflation is an ongoing *economic redistribution* from the students to the institution. Costs are handed down to students instead of being absorbed by the institution. If your income isn’t increasing at the rate of inflation, you’re losing purchasing power. Students, as a group, have *less* money each year, and tuition increases in line with inflation make that worse.

 

SOURCE: Global News and Statistics Canada

Also, student fees are not the primary source of funding for public universities like SFU. Check out any of SFU’s budgets, including the proposed one for next year, and you’ll see that tuition is only a small portion of the university’s funding.

I mention this because “inflation” arguments for tuition increases are premised on the idea that students are the university’s revenue source, and imply (or state) that without our financial contribution to the institution steadily increasing, the institution couldn’t function. This is simply untrue, as an examination of the last five years of budgets shows. This leaves aside how we got into the situation where universities weren’t funded properly (shoutout to Christy Clark and years of increasing Senior Admin salaries).

For only two quick examples, this year’s projected “budget deficit” could be recuperated by contributing a smaller amount to the endowment or altering building expansion plans. (If we had access to more of the proposed budget, we could offer other options for making up this deficit, but the Administration doesn’t share that information until later in the year). It also matters because each tuition increase shifts the university’s economic interests: do you want an educational institution whose decisions are based on advertising and student recruitment? One where the buildings are investments with student fees as the payoff?

The University has a choice here, whether to be an agent of dispossession or equality; whether to stand up for the students for whom it exists or to exploit them as customers because it can – restricting access to education in the process.

References:

https://globalnews.ca/news/3531614/average-hourly-wage-canada-stagnant/

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/02/23/wages-canada-low-end-jobs_n_14962214.html

https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/canadian-median-income-growth-sluggish-over-past-10-years-statscan-figures-show