Opinion: Don’t self-sabotage your student rights

Opting out of student union, club, and group fees will stab you in the back

The Ontario government, under Doug Ford’s initiative, has made “non-essential” ancillary fees, previously paid by all students, optional.

Why would students be willing to sacrifice their rights and opportunities that student organizations work so hard to amplify and provide?

What Premier Ford seems to be getting at is that he wants students to choose between paying a little extra for services the Student Association of George Brown College’s (SA) offers or a slightly cheaper fee.

This directly affects many students who use services such as Safewalk, the food bank, and academic advocacy to name a few.

What’s problematic about this provincial decision is that student unions were not consulted before the change was made public.

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, portrayed the opt-out fees as a “Student Choice Initiative” that “empowers students to choose which student fees they want to pay for.”

This is misleading. Fullerton does not care what student unions think.

If she were to have a discussion with any of them, the minister could “get to the bottom of what the ancillary fee is going towards and what kind of services are being provided versus how many students are using them,” according to Jasmyn St. Hilaire, the director of communications and internal at the SA.

This literally pits students against their own union whose sole purpose is to aid them through their services and commitment to providing a platform for their voices to be heard.

The Dialog is also funded by the SA and gives students the ability to gain real-world experience as journalists reporting on issues that matter to students.

You might be thinking that if you don’t use any of these services you shouldn’t have to pay the fee.

Sure, you can save a few bucks, but when push comes to shove Ford and Fullerton are doing this to limit the effect students can have defending their rights.

If you want a reason for continuing to contribute to your student union just remember that services like the Community Action Centre (CAC) are at the forefront of fighting for your rights.

Do you want to start an Islamophobia awareness club? A metal music meet-up or even a hat collectors club?

Good luck.

Without student union funding for them you won’t be able to get involved with what you care about. 

If you like going to fun social events that connect you to your peers and help your overall college experience then you might want to re-consider. Not to mention being able to dispute grades you so unjustly receive.

Student unions are not trying to start a civil war. They are here for our own benefit and are the only independent organizations representing our interests as students. 

So as Fullerton has made abundantly clear, the torch is now in your hands. Will it illuminate our student pride or burn it?

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Opinion: Don’t self-sabotage your student rights