On January 17th, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party rolled out a number of changes to the structure of education funding in Ontario. Universities will be required to slash tuition by 10% and eligibility for OSAP has been changed. One major change that slid under the radar is the requirement that all student fees deemed “non-essential” become optional.
The government views fees relating to health, safety, and academic supports as essential and those will remain mandatory. Outside of those categories, individual schools will be tasked with deciding which fees to axe and which to keep. The Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities said this is meant to help universities “adapt and innovate”.
This is bad news for student organizations all over the country, but perhaps none more so than student journalism.
Student newspapers around the country rely on student fees. Some are bundled within students’ union fees and determined by the student government like they are at Acadia, while some are supported by independent levies such as The Ubyssey or The Varsity where students pay less than $6 a year for a free and independent press.
Simply put, student journalism is important. Here at Acadia we’ve covered stories from questionable bylaw revisions by the ASU to the cocaine epidemic on campus to our institution’s history with a eugenicist and white supremacist president. Journalism exists to check the power of those who govern us and keep the governed informed. We cannot do our job without the support of the community.
Ford’s changes are damaging for free press. Deeming student journalism ‘non-essential’ sets a dangerous precedent for governments and student unions across the country. In an era of fake news and eroding trust in public institutions, we need a strong fourth estate more than ever.
We stand with our partners at The Varsity, The UWO Gazette, The Queen’s, Journal, The Charlatan, The Eyeopener, The Fulcrum, and every other paper under threat by Doug Ford’s misguided policies. We won’t stand by and let Doug Ford kill student journalism.