To our valued readers,
On January 17, the Ontario provincial government formally announced a number of changes to the post-secondary education sector. These include a 10% cut in tuition without provincial funding to replace university revenue lost, and significant changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). OSAP will no longer be as readily available as grants to low-income students, many of whom benefit deeply from it; and the six-month grace period after leaving or graduating post-secondary schooling will be removed, putting debt-repayment at the top of students’ to-do lists in an underwhelming job market. Further ramifications remain for international students, who may see increases in their already-astronomical tuition fees to offset these losses.
In addition to the above, the provincial government has formally announced that students will be able to opt out of ancillary and levy fees that are considered “non-essential.” Fees that are considered “essential” by this government are those relating to health and safety. The rest are up to each affected institution’s discretion.
The devastating nature of these changes is not to be understated. Both of us editors are freshly-graduated Trent alumni with the class of 2018, and we empathize deeply with our student staff and volunteers, as well the Trent University students to which we report.
As recent students, we understand the desire to decrease superfluous costs to maintain a liveable student budget. However, we disagree with the provincial government’s choice to target student unions, on-campus groups and services, and initiatives that students have advocated to fund in order to do this. These are indeed “essential” to a complete and fruitful student life and experience. If they were not, students would put it to vote through the democratic referenda processes available to them through their student unions themselves. We believe this to be an element of the conversation regarding these changes currently being underserved.
While we cannot speak in complete detail to all the valuable work of each group and service that receives student funding at Trent and how they will be affected, since there are many and we do not wish to speak over them or on their behalf, we will speak to Arthur’s own status as such.
We as co-editors of Arthur, a student-funded organization, are extremely concerned about the impact that these changes will have on student journalism in Ontario.
Arthur lead the conversation on March 2018’s controversial campus event about “whiteness” which garnered the attention of former Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy. The paper has opened further discussion on the gentrification of the downtown core with respects to both housing and the arts. Arthur continues to hold the university administration accountable when students feel its institutional identity suffers some cognitive dissonance.
Furthermore, Arthur has previously expressed its growing responsibility in the Peterborough-Nogojiwanong news landscape. As an organization, Arthur acknowledges and aims to defend its privileged position in being free from commercial and administrative controls. The previous and current editorships are aware that our readership and influence goes beyond the student population, and as recently as Issue 6 of this volume (November 28, 2018) have expressed solidarity with student newspapers that are in similar positions.
All of this also goes without mentioning the community-building and professional development opportunities that Arthur provides. It is for these reasons that Arthur is essential, along with the freedom of speech, for which this government postures to advocate. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are inextricably connected, especially in an era where controversial speech must be held to account.
We call on the Ontario government to rescind these plans for the sake of post-secondary students and workers across the province. We also call on the Trent University administration to recognize, respect and support Arthur as an essential service to both the student body and the community more broadly.