Pay More Get Less: Year in Review

The Pay More Get Less campaign had a busy year last year, and we will be continuing our hard work this fall to advocate against tuition fee increases and budget cuts. We will also continue to build the student movement at Guelph and work with schools across the province to organize for the goal of free, public, and quality education. We believe education should be a right!

Here is a quick recap of our year last year, so you can get caught up with the work of the Pay More Get Less campaign.

We kicked off Orientation Week with a lot of outreach, and started September with a lot of class talks. In September, we created an action plan for the year, with participation from student activists on campus. We also created a lot of “Cuts hurt me because…” photos, which you can see here.

In the fall we held a Pay More Get Less Info. Night to inform fellow students about our campaign. We spoke about our campaign against budget cuts and tuition fees, and held a discussion. As well, Alain Savard, who was involved in the 2012 Quebec student strike that stopped a 75 percent increase in tuition fees, spoke about what Ontario students can learn from students organizing in Quebec. Finally, a representative from the Canadian Federation of Students talked about the context of chronic government underfunding in Ontario and how we can work together to make post-secondary education a priority of the provincial government.

In November we held a very successful mock funeral for post-secondary education in the University Centre Courtyard. As a way to mobilize for the funeral, we did a zombie walk across campus, where we handed out flyers promoting the funeral. We also handed out a flyer showing our solidarity with international students fighting for education to be a right around the world.

Students dresses as zombies with courses that have been cut around their necks got a lot of attention from students. It was a great way to outreach!

Students dressed as zombies with courses that have been cut around their necks got a lot of attention from students. It was a great way to outreach!

For the mock funeral, speakers from across campus, different programs, as well as representatives of workers’ unions spoke about how tuition fee increases and program cuts have negatively affected their lives. We also marched across campus and rallied through the administrative and executive offices on the fourth floor, complete with bagpipes, to make our demands known to the upper-level administration. We got great press coverage in The Guelph Mercury that you can see here.

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Pay More Get Less supporters march through campus after mock funeral.

In the winter semester we hit the ground running once again, and had many class talks and flyering sessions. Our campaign also revealed exorbitant spending by the senior administration. President Vaccarino had a $50 000 budget for spending on contracted-out speechwriting support during the 2014-2015 academic year. You can read more about in The Guelph Mercury here.

In February we also presented our lobby document, with around 2 000 petition signatures calling for a freeze in tuition fees and end to budget cuts, to the Board of Governors Finance Committee. After our presentation, we held a rally outside their meeting to make our demands heard.

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Students rally outside of BoG Finance Committee.

In March we released a banner in support of Quebec students on strike. This was a way to educate fellow students at Guelph about how we can show solidarity with Quebec students. Students in Quebec who were on strike against huge budget cuts to their post-secondary institutions were very appreciative of our efforts as well.

In April we disrupted and stopped a Board of Governors (BoG) meeting where they were voting on the University of Guelph’s budget, which included tuition fee increases and $10 million in budget cuts. We stopped the meeting by having speeches and chanting prepared for inside the meeting. We felt we had to shut down the meeting because the Board of Governors have voted to increase tuition fees each year since 2006, despite the fact students and workers have called on the BoG to stop budget cuts and tuition fee increases, and called for more public funding for education from the provincial government. Before the meeting, we rallied in the University Centre courtyard as well. See the press coverage from the event from CTV here and The Mercury here.

Later in April the Board of Governors voted for tuition fees to increase and budget cuts via a conference call, and The Guelph Mercury came out with an editorial disagreeing with the meeting not being open to the public or the University of Guelph community. Only 2 members on the Board of Governors are undergraduate students, while a majority of members are from high up in the corporate sector. Only one BoG member, a student, voted against tuition fee increases and budget cuts.

Student activists after we shut down BoG meeting.

Student activists after shutting down BoG meeting.

As well, in April, the University of Guelph Faculty Association came out with a financial analysis showing the University of Guelph has had a combined surplus of $76 million over the years 2011 to 2014. Despite this surplus, upper level administration and the BoG are still increasing tuition fees and are in the middle of implementing $28.8 million of budget cuts over the years 2014 to 2017.

The Pay More Get Less campaign will continue to mobilize against budget cuts and tuition fees in the fall! Stay tuned for info. about our meetings, events, and actions!

The Pay More Get Less campaign is supported by the Central Student Association, the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee, OPIRG Guelph, CUPE 1334, and CUPE 3913.

To get involved, please email studentmobilization@gmail.com.