SFU BOARD OF GOVERNORS VOTES TO INCREASE TUITION DESPITE STUDENT PROTEST
21 March 2019, 11:45am
SFU Tuition Freeze Now (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why they support a tuition freeze: Living costs are too high. Paired with increasing tution and interest, students are forced to live close to the poverty line.
Jesse: As a PhD student, I have been at SFU through huge changes in the Vancouver rental market. The cost of living is so high that I decided to work as a distance student while writing my thesis.
The university makes money and is reliant on highly qualified personnel such as TAs/TMs/Sessisonal Instructors, yet we are living under the poverty line. In addition to the tuition freeze, there should be a removal of interest on tuition. Every semester that I am not a TA, I end up paying interest on my tuition because I can’t afford it outright. I’m also faced with a decision about which debt to pay off: my credit card, or tuition?
“Give [professors] the money [TAs/TMs/ Sessionals] get, and see how far it goes.”
Professors live a life of privilege and are generally out of the loop when it comes to our cost of living. Give them the money we get and see how far it goes. Prospective graduate students should know about these negative yet true drawbacks. If I could go back in time I would not choose SFU again.
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.
Where: Pollyanna 圖書館 Library, 221 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z6, Canada
Why: To discuss tuition increases across BC. We will be joined by speakers from different universities.
This event is held on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.
Please join the Tuition Freeze Now student organizers in a night of dialogue and music to learn more about the struggle for affordable education across the Lower Mainland.
There have been trends in BC post-secondary institutions towards raising tuition disproportionally for domestic and international students, and there are great impacts these decisions on the lives of students and young people studying in the Lower Mainland, especially in the midst of a housing crisis.
In order to address this issue, students have started to organize and push back on the unjust tuition hike. In SFU, through the Tuition Freeze Now Campaign, students are actively demanding the university to freeze tuition for the next two academic years and calling on SFU to work with students to lobby the provincial government to address the issue of underfunding higher education.
The speakers tonight come from different local higher education institutions (SFU, UBC and Langara) as well as various grassroots student movements and each will speak about the struggle for affordable education in their schools and the importance of student movements.
These talks will be followed by an open dialogue session where attendees can ask questions and contribute to possible strategies, speak about their own experiences, and talk about how we can create a cross-campus initiative towards affordable education.
There will be an intermission between speaker-sets with a local singer-songwriter, Madelyn Read, who will perform both political and non-political songs so we can also have time for fun, mingling, and meeting people.
Location: Pollyanna 圖書館 Library, 221 E Georgia St., Vancouver
The library has a 1.8m (6’) wide double set street front entrance with manually operated outward-swinging doors. An interior 6cm (2.5”) high by 60cm (24”) long ramp spans the width of the doorway. The bathroom is not wheelchair accessible. Please contact email@example.com to make arrangements to best accommodate your needs.
We aim to have a scent-free environment. Please refrain from wearing perfumes or any scents to the event due to sensitivities.
Please do not hesitate to let the event organizers know if you have any other specific needs.
Department: FASS/ Education. An English major with an Education minor.
Why I support a tuition freeze: Lack of financial assistance from the school while current tuition rates are already unafforable makes education unattainable for a large number of us
Hi everyone, my name is Olan and I am a fourth year English major and Education minor. I have two volunteer positions, two jobs, and I am taking four courses. My family immigrated to Canada when I was three and my mom still works two jobs that pay minimum wage in order to support our family.
With the tuition increase, I feel discouraged to want to continue my education when scholarships and funds are limited. The cost of education creates a burden and ongoing stress where I must constantly worry about how much money I need to make in order to fund my education. This has taken a toll on my mental health where I am unable to spend time with family and friends due to my schedule and I do not have the luxury to do so.
If education was more affordable, I would be able to have a better school and work life balance and I am able to spend quality time with loved ones. This in turn would improve my grades drastically and make me a well-rounded student where I would not suffer from burn-out. Any additional income that goes towards my tuition could go to helping my mom to lessen her workload as she is also overworked constantly. I wish I can support my mom more financially, but the increase cost in tuition prevents me from doing so.
I hope by sharing my story, other students may do the same as I am sure many students are in the same boat. Together, let’s advocate for a tuition freeze and make the cost of education more affordable.
Tuition Freeze Now is a student initiative to challenge SFU’s proposed tuition increases for the upcoming years, which are set to range anywhere from 2% to an outrageous 20%, depending on where students come from and what they study. As students at SFU, tuition hikes at our university have long-lasting impacts on our university careers, mental health, lives outside of school, and futures.
Our group represents a wide range of student voices and backgrounds. We have been formally endorsed by the Simon Fraser Student Society board of directors and council, the Graduate Student Society, the Teaching Support Staff Union, SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, and SFU Left Alternative.
We spoke to the BoG (Board of Governors) to explain the student opposition to tuition increases. In the midst of a housing crisis that students are trying to survive on their stagneting wages, a tuition increase is uncessesary, cruel, and unjust. In its place, we ask for an alternative budget that does not feature a tuition hike.
When SFU announced the tuition increases for the upcoming year, the announcement came with very little information about where that money would be headed, and there it was nearly impossible for students to get additional information. With the support of both the graduate and undergraduate Student Societies, that students have clearly and decisively said ‘no’ to the hikes after agreeing that we have not been consulted effectively about these increases.
The only public consultation open to all SFU students was held on October 30th, 2018. We were notified of this consultation in only one email. The meeting was held in the morning in the middle of midterm exams, on the Burnaby campus. To make things more inaccessible, little record of this meeting was made available to students after the fact – only the slides, which make little sense out of context.
While this event may meet the definition of consultation as laid out in SFU’s policies, as evident from the small turnout, it was supremely inaccessible to the vast majority of students. We want to be clear that this is not due to a lack of interest, but because of how inconvenient the meeting was to students. We also recognize that private consultations were held with student societies, though both have expressed that they left these consultations with many concerns about the necessity of the increases.
Another issue is with the amount of information available to students regarding this budget. This picture shown here – one of eight that were shown at the consultation – represents the entirety of the budgetary data we have been given to this point.
As you can see, it is very hard to get a good idea of what the budget will look like and what items are being prioritized with lines broken down no further than “other expenses.”
We have tried to do a more thorough analysis of the budget over the past three months. Even looking at past budgets and financial reports, many budget lines are too vague and general to fully understand. The student body has a right to know where our tuition money is being spent. This must happen during the consultation process. By the time the budgets and financial plans are made public, they have been set in stone and we are unable to give meaningful and effective feedback.
This picture compares the desired tuition and fee hike revenue for the upcoming university year, with the last three years of SFU’s budget surpluses.
There are a few things to note about this projection:
Both revenue and spending can change from one year to the next, which means that the last three years of surpluses don’t prove that future surpluses will continue to exist.
As well, the rules around the university endowment puts aside at least a small surplus as a contribution to keep up the endowment’s real value.
However, for years these surpluses have been much larger than the new tuition and fee revenue that each fall the administration tells us is desperately needed to keep SFU’s finances in order.
We’ve heard during the consultation that much of these surpluses have come from apparently long-running faculty vacancies, but without more detailed information, we can’t make an informed judgement about these vacancies. When it comes to SFU’s finances, the rules, assumptions and expectations of the status quo far outweigh the well-being of the students.
Since last fall, we have spent a lot of time talking to students through events, canvassing, tabling, and our petition – which is now at almost 2000signatures.
In all of these conversations we started to see a trend: Anxieties about keeping up with the increasing tuition demands paired up with skyrocketing rent in a housing crisis and stagnant wages is a concern for all students.
We are tired of the burden of education falling on our shoulders. We are tired of the unfair system of payment between international and domestic students. And we are tired of being squeezed from all angles – school, work, and rent-wise. A recent survey done by health and counseling shows that 90% of students feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities a student has to deal with in their daily life.
Last November, we hosted “My Tuition Story”, an event which brought together nearly 200 students. Many were shocked about the enormous hike for incoming international students, while a large number had no idea about the increases or consultation process whatsoever.
Moving forward, our demands are simple:
We want a full tuition freeze for the next two academic years – meaning a 0% increase for all students, regardless of status or program. We see this as an urgent matter – students need relief now.
During this two-year tuition freeze, we will partner with SFU administration, students, and the Student Societies to lobby the provincial and federal governments for more post-secondary funding.
Finally, you may have seen or noticed that we attempted to put forth a motion requiring that administration draft an alternative budget for the tuition proposal – one that does not include any tuition increases.
It is worth pointing out two things about this alternate budget:
It is a symbol of just how hard it is for students to be involved in Board of Governors or SFU administrative matters. We have faced a lot of difficulty with crafting an alternative budget. We are disappointed that this governing body, responsible for overseeing our institution, is so out of reach to us.
Even though our motion cannot be moved, we want to emphasize the importance of an alternative budget anyway. We fear that without another possibility, the process of consultation will result in the current budget being the only one available during the final vote in March.
SFU needs a budget, but it does not have to be this one. It could be one that supports our mental health and lets us pursue our studies without undue financial burden. Tuition freezes are not a radical idea – they have been in place many places throughout the world and Canada.
Ultimately, this budget is about priorities. If it wanted to, SFU could make affordability its priority and use its influence to find funding from the provincial government. We strongly urge you to stand with students who have overwhelmingly expressed their support for this initiative.
We need a more transparent consulting process.
We need an immediate tuition freeze.
And we need to work together to ensure that universities in BC never need to rely on tuition hikes again.