The Ontario government offers news releases by email for the general public. It’s a decent way to bypass the time delay between my receiving a news release and the posting of a story about the content of the release.
The University of Toronto revealed its tuition plan for next year at a recent meeting of their Business Board – the body which advises the university’s Governing Council on financial matters.
The University of Toronto student newspaper The Varsityreports:
Tuition fees will increase by an average of 4.31 per cent for domestic students and six per cent for international students, according to the tuition fee schedule presented to the Business Board on Monday. The hikes will go to Governing Council for final approval.
A 4.5 per cent hike will be applied to most undergrad programs, and four per cent to most grad programs. Exceptions are the eight per cent tuition increases for students entering pharmacy, engineering, dentistry, and law.
The University of Toronto is either guessing or has been told that the “Reaching Higher Two” tuition framework will be the same as “Reaching One.” There is a great administrative cost to initiating and completing the process of approving increases to tuition making it unlikely that any university – let alone Ontario’s de-facto flagship – would proceed without clear direction from the Council of Ontario Universities which receives confidential information from the provincial government.
It appears that Ontario’s new tuition framework will be a continuation of the present one.
The overall tuition increase university wide will continue to be capped at five per cent. Due to the allowance for eight percent increases in first year tuition which are carried forward into subsequent years, tuition in Ontario will continue to spiral upwards at more than triple the rate of inflation.
Two of my friends, one student journalist, and two readers of my online columns have all asked me today if I know what changes the Ontario government will be making to the Ontario Students Assistance Program (OSAP) that will be announced on Monday.
The honest answer is that I do not know.
One of my friends asked if – in light of the recession and Ontario’s deficit – I expect the government to make cutbacks to OSAP?
I do not. There is nothing to indicate that cutbacks are coming, there may be a change made to the debt cap of $7000 for a 2-term year but even this is unlikely to be a cutback.
This media conference to be held Monday is the first one that I’ve been invited to by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities since I mysteriously stopped receiving releases in Spring of 2008. The fact that the Ministry has sent me this advisory indicates that either they expect I’ll opine positively about the changes or recent changes to the civil servants in the communications branch have depoliticized the distribution list.
Last week, in The McMaster Silhouette, I called on McMaster Student Union vice-president education Chris Martin to clear the air about the resignation of Arati Sharma as national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
This week Chris Martin very professionally responded to the request with an elegant opinion piece submitted to The Silhouette. What follows is his response as submitted.
Let me set the stage a bit:
For those of you that don’t know, the MSU represents you federally through the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). This is a national lobbying organization headed by an elected staff member called the National Director. The current National Director is Arati Sharma, former MSU Vice-President (Education). Recently, Ms. Sharma resigned from her post. At the last SRA meeting, I made a number of critical remarks about the organization.
In last week’s Silhouette, post-secondary education reporter Joey Coleman wrote an opinions piece saying that the MSU has been supportive of CASA until this point, and that now we have changed positions. He raised concerns that this change might be linked to Ms. Sharma’s resignation, and that the MSU is simply supporting her career aspirations. He called on me to shed some light on the situation.
So here’s the truth: The MSU is reviewing its membership currently, but this process has nothing to do with the resignation of our national director. They are separate issues.
I have always been critical of CASA. I have communicated these concerns to the SRA on multiple occasions, as well as written articles on the President’s Page in the Silhouette. I believe in the importance of federal lobbying and a national student voice, and if possible I would like the MSU to contribute to that voice. However, I have always been open with my criticisms of CASA. I have never been, as Mr. Coleman put it, a cheerleader.
After a year of being McMaster’s voice at CASA, I remain unconvinced that pursuing full membership is a good idea. I also firmly believe that retaining our current level of membership (associate membership) for much longer is a bad idea. We get no vote, but still pay fees (albeit these fees are half of what they would be if we became full members).
In case you were wondering, our issues with CASA are: an unfair fee structure, an unstable governance model, as well as general attitudes of the membership. I will elaborate on these further for any MSU member that is curious to know more.
We will be discussing these issues over the course of the next year with students, the SRA and the CASA Home Office staff. I will be leaving the next VP Education and SRA with a report of my impressions as well as recommendations, but I will not be making the membership decision myself.
This is all to say that the concern that the MSU would leave CASA due to the resignation of Arati Sharma is understandable, but unfounded. If the MSU drops its associate membership, it will be because the SRA determines that CASA does not suit our needs. We’ll make this determination after an open and transparent review.
It has been the honour of my life this year to be your Vice-President (Education). I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would never make such a large decision on a whim, or to further anyone’s political career. For what it’s worth, you have my word on that.
It’s late and I’m not in headline writing mode right now. I feel that I need to force myself into a routine of writing on this blog. Sadly, I can’t think of much to say tonight because I’m fairly exhausted from writing my very brief Ontario budget piece early.
Actually, it’s that I’m tired in general this week. Not sure why, probably cause it is the end of the term.
Anyway, the great thing about this being my personal blog is that sometimes you (my readers) allow me to indulge in a pointless rant like this one here.
Last night, I attended a Penance Mass at Ancaster’s St. Ann’s Church. It was a beautiful ceremony and gave me plenty of time to pray and reflect while in the pew. When I lived on-campus at the University of Manitoba, I would often go to the St. John’s College Chapel late at night to sit in a pew and make sense of the world. It was refreshing and last night was refreshing as well.
Today, March 25th, was budget day in Ontario. This is the fourth Ontario budget that I’ve written about the post-secondary aspects for. Covering the Ontario budget was my first story at Macleans in 2007. It is for this reason that provincial budgets often trigger reflection.
I also received an email from a good friend whom I have not seen since 2007. We’ve been trying since May 10 of that year to get together for dinner; it just hasn’t happened. I often wonder if the fact that we’re forced to communicate by email is one of the reasons that we have such deep conversation.
Anyway, that’s my rant for today. Good night all and hopefully I’ll be 100% tomorrow.
The culture wars come to Canada Ann Coulter’s visit to Canada is only the first of many American right-wing pundits to Canada. My take on last night’s controversy has been submit to the Globe editors and should be up Wednesday afternoon
University fiduciary responsibility and student union autonomy – where’s the line? I look into this question looking at a recent example of an direct intervention into student union affairs by an institution and offer my predictions of what the York University Ombudsperson’s review of the York Federation of Students election could mean for student unions in Ontario. I expect this column will go live Friday, it could be Monday depending how long it takes to research.
The UK Independentreports that a record number of British students are studying at American universities. The Fulbright Commission says 8,701 British students studied in the United States during the 2008-9 year; an increase of 4 per cent from the previous year.
Ann Coulter not welcome by SFUO
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa doesn’t want Ann Coulter to speak on their campus Tuesday. Seamus Wolfe, president of the undergraduate student union, tells the Ottawa Citizen:
“There is an interesting line between what is free speech and what is hate speech.”
“As difficult as it is to navigate that boundary, Ann Coulter has a history of hate speech and we wouldn’t invite somebody who spreads hate to come to our campus.”
Mr. Wolfe is correct, there is an “interesting” line what constitutes free speech and what constitutes hate speech. There is an even finer distinction between bigoted, wrong, distasteful, or unpopular speech and true hate speech. The use of the term hate speech must be reserved for the most disgusted, reprehensible, and dangerous speech. By using the word liberally, Mr. Wolfe gives cover to those who truly engage in hate speech by watering down the definition of hate speech.
Personally, I find Ms. Coulter to be distasteful and her rhetoric to be inflammatory. She is a creation of smart marketing and Mr. Wolfe played right into her marketing campaign by trying to stop her from speaking. Ms. Coulter will draw a larger crowd at uOttawa due to the controversy that Mr. Wolfe’s actions have created. Her speech will attract a large media presence and spread beyond the wall of the Marion Hall lecture theatre in which she will speak. Ms. Coulter has already won the victory she sought by speaking the shadow of Parliament Hill; she will return to America and play to her base by stating she went to “Canuckistan” and defended their draconian censors.
As for Mr. Wolfe, he’ll receive the victory he seeks. Much like Ms. Coulter, Mr. Wolfe likes to play to his base on the far-left. Ms. Coulter is sure to attack Mr. Wolfe in her speech Tuesday and to accuse him of being a socialist censor (or something along those lines). Mr. Wolfe will be able to take this attack and use it to increase his stature among those that form his base.
Concordia’s left-leaning paper runs full-page editorial to counter CFS claims
The Link, the more left-leaning of the two campus-wide student newspapers at Concordia University, took the unusual step of running a full-page editorial last week to counter accusations leveled against the paper by the Canadian Federation of Students in $700 full-page advertisement ran on the opposing page. (For legal reasons to protect myself, I must state that the Canadian Federation of Students – Services could be the responsible party for the ad.) Students are currently voting on continued membership in Canada’s largest student lobbying organization.
McMaster president Peter George takes responsibility for trying to hide $99,999/yr payout
The Hamilton Spectator devoted most of it’s Weekend Reader section to McMaster University president Peter George’s upcoming retirement after 45 years at the university, including the last 15 years as president. The article was a superb piece of journalism which guided readers through Dr. George’s time at McMaster and gave the reader a window into the man behind the office. Most newsworthy from the article was Dr. George’s first public statement about his $99,999 a year for 14 years golden handshake. Dr. George stated the decision to spread his retirement payout over 14 years at one dollar under mandatory disclosure was the most foolish decision of his presidency:
“I take full responsibility for the stupidity of converting my post-retirement allowances into a figure that was seen quite clearly as an attempt to avoid public disclosure.”
I believe this decision will be the biggest stain on his legacy, a legacy that history will smile upon. Dr. George deserves credit for honestly acknowledging his error.
Pay freeze for administrators at UManitoba
My home university, the University of Manitoba, has imposed a pay freeze for its administrators and senior academics. The University of Manitoba does not top-up administrative pay with “performance bonuses” meaning the freeze is hard and not semantics.
Students complain about lack of power outlets at McMaster libraries
McMaster University librarian Jeff Trzeciak talks about library use statistics at the university. It’s an interesting read which notes trends in how students are using the library system.
Do university politics discourage suicidal students from seeking help?
Mary Beth Marklein, USA Today‘s higher education reporter, has an interesting post on her blog discussing the policies of American universities on student suicides attempts and if some of these policies deter students from seeking help.
Can you live on $7.50/day for food?
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has been bringing attention to one of the absurdities of Ontario’s student loan formula by having four students live under the $7.50/day meal allowance formula used by OSAP. The Queen’s Journal and The Brock Press both covered the students at their school participating in the challenge: Sarah Baker at Queen’s and Rachel Crane at Brock.
$10-mil donation for UVic biz school
The University of Victoria’s faculty of business received a $10-million donation last week from Peter Gustavson.
UToronto – Scarborough students vote in favour of $30-mil ancillary fee
Students at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus have voted in favour of contributing $30-million towards a new aquatics centre on the campus which will be used for the PAN-AM games in 2015.
York University president Mamdouh Shoukri has requested York’s university ombudsperson to review the recent York Federation of Students election following a series of complaints about perceived bias against the opposition “New York” slate. In a letter laying out the terms of reference for the review, Dr. Shoukri states:
“Presidential Regulation 4 (Regulation 4) delegates to student governments and organizations the primary responsibility for the organization and conduct of elections. However Regulation 4 notes that the President retains residual responsibility to ensure the democratic, orderly and responsible conduct of elections. The President and the administration also stand in a fiduciary relationship to York students by virtue of the significant fees that are collected by the University from all York students for the purposes of funding student government.”
The review is a significant moment for student unions in Ontario as it is rare instance of an university administration exercising oversight of student union elections. The Ombuds has been requested to conclude his review and report the findings by July, 30, 2010.
The response of the university and the students union will redefine the level of autonomy that student unions enjoy from conditions of fee collection imposed by university Board of Governors.
The president of the YFS criticized the appointment of Dr. John D. McCamus as ombudsperson last year due to McCamus part-time employment as Faculty member at York. As a past dean of York’s Osgoode Hall law school, it will not be a surprise for the YFS to accuse the ombuds of having a perceived conflict of interest.
The United States House of Representatives passed historic health care legislation tonight by a vote of 219 – 212.
I’ve honestly lacked the time to follow the debate closely and cannot weigh in with an opinion that raises to the standard of knowledge I hold myself to.
As a student of political science, I’ll be watching over the coming days as the communications war hits a crescendo and the midterm campaigns throttle up to full speed.
The Democrats once again own the message. For the last 14 months, the Obama administration has seemed adrift and without strong direction. Now, Obama looks strong and can convince people that he is decisive.
Americans like strong leadership, even when they disagree with it. Obama looks strong having maneuvered health care legislation through the Congress. He looks decisive by moving this legislation through the lower chamber with a series of quick actions at the end. It may have taken 14 months, but it was speedy at the end. Rarely do people remember the marathon, but they always remember the winners breaking the tape at the end.
A few weeks ago, it appeared Obama was going to be a one term wonder. Now, if he sells this victory correctly, he will once again be in control of the Washington agenda and on his way to a second term in 2012.