We Need to Reclaim Our Right to Public Education: Opinion

There is a crisis of accountability at this university’s highest level of governance. During the student elections last year, UBC students voted overwhelmingly against any further tuition increases on the principle that education is a right. One year later, the University administration has made it clear that they will not be heeding these demands; but instead will  be increasing costs to students.

On Tuesday, the University announced its plans to increase international tuition by 10% and residence fees by 20%. Just as troubling as the proposals the University has made are the justifications that the University has thus far provided for them. UBC claims it needs to ‘catch up’ to the tuition rates of other universities and provide housing at comparable costs to Vancouver’s market rates. One could argue that these justifications normalize a neoliberal agenda that reduces students to return-on-investments, and reinforces the social reality that access to education is for the privileged alone.

As a student who attends this so-called “world-class” university, I know this logic as one that the very professors of this institution implore me to question and resist.

A true “world-class” institution is one that is accessible to students of all ethnicities and income brackets. A “world-class” university looks at its students as respected members of the academic community, not as dollar signs on an annual budget. A “world-class” institution tears down barriers to learning – it does not create them. As an institution that claims to be part of the global community, UBC is first and foremost responsible for fostering accessible spaces for higher learning.

Our resistance begins on campus. We have an incredible opportunity now to organize and mobilize around this unjustifiable attempt at changing the very philosophical ideals of public education.  We need to take action. I call on students at UBC and especially our elected representatives on the AMS to stand together and fight for the rights and needs of students to an accessible, inclusive, and affordable education.

On Tuesday, October 14th at 12:30 PM, we will gather at the Martha Piper Plaza to decide on the next course of action. I encourage all students to attend and bring their creative energy: this will be the beginning of a movement that opposes unjustified fee increases. Everyone is welcome.