Eli Ridder | Report

In an apparent effort to shore up support ahead of optional tuition fees that could cripple the student union, IGNITE was promoting postcards on Monday that prompted students to mark down what services the student choice initiate threatened at the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College.

Vice President Maheen Nazim was in the Guelph-Humber Atrium promoting the cards, which read “the student choice initiative risks my” — a promotion that also extended to IGNITE’s social media.

The Avro Post, a publication Nazim said was “not sanctioned”, reached out to request details on how many tuition dollars would be spent on the anti-student choice initiative promotion but has not yet received a response.

On Jan. 17, the Ontario government announced a 10 per cent tuition price cut, less grants in the Ontario Student Assistance Program — including eliminating virtually free tuition for students from low-income families — and optional student fees starting in August.

Student unions, advocacy groups and campus publications around Ontario have reacted strongly against the sweeping changes to student life by Premier Doug Ford and his government.

Many of these groups say that the optional student fees threaten their existence and the services, jobs and role they offer.

IGNITE President Monica Khosla said in a statement posted on Jan. 18 that the non-for-profit student union was “devastated” by the optional student fees initiative announced by the Ontario government.

“What you may not know is that these fees are how IGNITE receives funding, which in turn goes right back to you, our students, through all of the services, leadership opportunities, events and clubs we provide to you,” Khosla wrote in the release.

“The Premier and his government fail to recognize that over 31,000 students use resources like IGNITE not simply to better their experience on campus, but as a lifeline.

Khosla lists a series of services that could be threatened by the optional student fees initiative such as financial needs bursaries, the tax clinic and emergency menstrual kits.

She lists the health and dental insurance plan, but Member of Provincial Parliament David Piccini told The Avro Post on Friday that those would remain untouched as “essential services”.

“This move by the government is silencing students that need IGNITE and what we offer the most. By not having student unions, you no longer have a voice,” Khosla writes.

“What we want you to know is that we are here for you. We will continue to fight for you to ensure that none of our resources are taken away from you.”

Khosla goes on to say that IGNITE will be taking action by sending a letter to Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford and his administration “to educate them on how important these services are to you both on and off campus.”

However, Khosla adds that the executives will need help from students, and encourages her peers to reach out to Ford via his Twitter to inform him how IGNITE services impact their lives.

The president, who was elected last spring along with three vice presidents who represent the campuses of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, added that she would be working with the two schools to “minimize the impact” of the optional fees.

The optional fees initiative has since been slammed by student unions, national organizations and student publications as a threat to services.

MPP Piccini, however, told The Avro Post on Jan. 18 that it was meant to “empower the students”, essentially placing the choice of what they find essential in their hands and “putting students first”.

It is not exactly clear what the set up for students will be when they choose what to support in their student fees. Piccini said the government would leave it mostly up the institutions themselves.

This means that students could have a system where they choose where their money goes club by club or have bundles of services. 

IGNITE executives did not respond to requests for comment and for an in-person interview.

Image from IGNITE.

Written by Eli Ridder

Eli Ridder is a freelance journalist. He founded The Avro Post in October 2017. He writes for Breaking911 and Guelph Politico, among others. Feel free to connect at ELIRIDDER@ICLOUD.COM or at ELIRIDDER.CA

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