Photo of new students moving into residence in 2006 by David Topping.
U of T’s flat fee proposal for Arts and Science students—the one that would force new students to pay for 5.0 courses, regardless of how many courses, from 3.0–6.0, they actually took—has barreled over the final administrative hurdle at the University of Toronto, and was passed this evening by the university’s Governing Council at a meeting held at the school’s Mississauga campus.
Faculty of Art and Sciences Dean Meric Gertler warned, before the vote took place, of “romanticizing…the status quo,” explaining that the way the university works now is inefficient for both the university and its students, that change is needed, and that the flat fee would be—bafflingly—”a way of reducing the cost of education for our students,” citing students’ ability to enter the work world (or graduate school) sooner, save on preexisting yearly fixed fees, and reduce their housing costs. Gertler said that the money will be used, in part, to hire more teaching assistants, more faculty (to “reverse the erosion” of the faculty to student ratio), and will be put into “research opportunities.” Both Gertler and Provost Cheryl Misak emphasized that the university’s stated “primary goal” is to “re-invest” in students, with the university devoting $1.5 million extra to “need-based student aid.”
“We know how to do this,” Gertler explained, pointing out that the university already has some programs, like Computer Science, with a flat program fee. “This is not rocket science.”
Many of those in attendance at the meeting, however, were clearly a little less than assured of Gertler’s claims, voicing concerns over student debt, over workloads, over student involvement, over how quickly the proposal passed through administrative channels, over the none-too-impressive state of the other Ontario universities with a similar pay structure implemented, and over what they considered a drastically unfair model. (One speaker compared it to a grocery store, which couldn’t get away with selling 3.0 loaves of bread for the price of 5.0.) The Star‘s editorial about the fees, published yesterday, sided against the proposal as well, as has the Varsity, as have we.
But the motion passed in spite of the widespread opposition to it, amidst a few yelps of “shame” from those in attendance, with the only notable amendment being a reevaluation of its impact to be conducted in time for the 2011–2012 school year, before flat fees switch from affecting those students taking 4.0 or more course to those taking 3.0 or more.
The only thing stopping the fees from applying for new students as of this upcoming school year—students who will, now, be informed via e-mail about the impending change before May 28, the date by which they have to conclusively decide what school they want to attend—is the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which has a date of July 11 set for the legal action brought forward in April by student representatives against the flat fees. That action attests that an earlier amendment to the proposal, the one that offered to phase in the change over a longer period of time, did not take place properly. According to Angela Regnier, the University of Toronto Students’ Union Executive Director, “a ruling [then] could nullify any vote that takes place today.” For the flat fees to not go ahead as planned, it’d have to.
David Topping is a U of T student (who the flat fee proposal, if implemented, wouldn’t affect).