Why Fighting for What You Believe in Actually Works: March for Student Rights and Levies

Photo via Peterborough Coalition Against Cuts to Education on Facebook.

In an announcement on January 17, Training, Colleges and Universities Minister, Merrilee Fullerton, announced that tuition will get a 10% decrease and she introduced what she calls a “Student Choice Initiative,” in which students will get to choose what student fees they want to pay. While this seemed like a good thing on paper to Ontario Minister Fullerton and the team who wrote the policy, it definitely didn’t sound good to those that depend on these student fees.

On Friday February 15, students gathered for a march across Trent University’s Symons Campus in support of student rights as well as levies. Some held posters, with sayings like “FORD FLUNKED US,” “HANDS OFF MY EDUCATION,” and, my personal favourite: “STUDENTS ARE THE FUTURE.” The students fought back, being seen by people all over campus, as they marched from the Gzowski bus loop all the way to Bata Podium, most certainly being heard all over campus.

Students were yelling “This is what democracy looks like!”, “What’s disgusting? Union busting!”, as well as any chants along the lines of “You’re going to have to take my student rights from my cold dead hands!” Needless to say, students are not keen on the announced changes at all. The march across campus concluded by delivering the Peterborough Coalition Against Cuts to Education’s petition against changes to the Levy structure to Trent’s Board of Governors, which had multiple double-sided pages of signatures from supporters.

Students may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” And to that, I say this: levy fees. Have you ever been a part of a club on campus? A group dedicated to something that you’re interested in? There are so many groups to choose from… but these are for fun, right? What about groups that contribute to amazing causes all over Peterborough? Would you support them?

It’s a trick question, actually. When attending, you will most likely have paid a fee lumped in with your tuition payment, and thus are already supporting these groups. There also was a Levy Group Booklet in all welcome packages on move-in day, but I’m going off the assumption that very few people have read this useful piece of information.

There are two different forms of levy groups: refundable levies and non-refundable levies. Levy groups that have a refundable levy usually only collect a small amount from each student, averaging at about two dollars (though some of them are much less). Non-refundable levy groups collect a bit of a larger sum from students, but they go towards things that are important and will be used by students for a variety of reasons. Some important examples are: College Cabinets, Kawartha Sexual Assault Center, Trent International Students Association (TISA), Trent Vegetable Gardens, Walkhome, and this very publication, Arthur Newspaper. If you want more information, the TCSA website lists all groups that collect levies and indicates which are refundable and non-refundable.

Without levies, we don’t know what’s in store. We can only do what is in our power, and most of that is making a lot of noise, petitioning, and gaining traction among people who genuinely support the cause. If you want to help, make some noise. Organize marches. Be seen. Be heard. The pen is mightier than the sword, my friends. Make the most of it.

Follow updates from the Peterborough Coalition Against Cuts to Education on Facebook and by text messaging “FIGHT” to 555888.