Some see the move as a direct attempt to silence student watchdogs
Campus news outlets across Ryerson could face massive cuts to funding, or even shut down entirely, as a result of the Student’s Choice Initiative- a 10 per cent tuition cost decreased proposed by the provincial government.
The decision will impact campus media across the province, including student news outlets at Ryerson University.
If the proposal goes through as planned, all student services which the university deems “non-essential” will become optional for students.
The fees, which were put in place from a referendum by students, as stated on the university’s website, would no longer be mandatory.
Ancillary fees make up a large portion of the budgets for news outlets on campus, which provide employment for students, university alumni, and community members.
What are the outlets saying?
“At 74 per cent of our budget, is it realistic to operate a radio station on the remaining 26 per cent that we would have from grants, sponsorships, and donations,” said Jacky Tuinstra Harrison, general manager at CJRU 1280AM, Ryerson’s campus-community radio station. “If we aren’t essential, it’s likely that we become an online entity that doesn’t have a broadcast license. It’s a huge loss for a university that prides itself on a full media program.”
“80 per cent of our funding comes from our student fee, which is $16 per student,” said Liane McLarty, general manager of the Eyeopener, one of Ryerson University’s campus newspapers. “Everything that isn’t class is essentially in those fees.”
Both Tuinstra Harrison and McLarty said they believe the work their outlets produce should be considered an essential service.
McLarty made reference to a story recently broken by the Eyeopener, which exposed the Ryerson Students’ Union for spending student money on alcohol, clubs, and other personal expenses.
Tuinstra Harrison said that because CJRU 1280AM is an emergency broadcaster, it is imperative that the station be deemed an essential service, since emergency broadcasts impact not just the Ryerson University community, but the community at large as well.
“If you take the campus newspaper away, you’re taking away students’ voices… We let students know what’s going on on campus, we are Ryerson’s watchdogs,” Emma Sandri, one of three news editors at the Eyeopener, said.
What is the university saying?
Ryerson University has not yet released any information about whether or not campus press will be deemed an essential service.
In an email statement, Johanna VanderMaas, a spokesperson for the university, stated that Ryerson’s main goal is to ensure all students have an “exciting and engaging” experience at the university.
What is the government saying?
Rebecca Bozzatto, the press secretary and communications advisor to Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Training Colleges and Universities at the provincial government, wrote in an email statement that the provincial government is leaving it up to the university to decide which services are deemed essential.
“Campus organizations that rely on student funding should be able to communicate the value they provide to the students that pay their fees,” Bozzatto wrote, when asked about the effect of the decision to make ancillary fees opt-in or opt-out, which puts organizations such as CJRU 1280AM and the Eyeopener at risk of shutdown, would have on campus press.
The decision to cut tuition, announced on Jan. 17, 2019, would not only affect campus services and student groups.
Many OSAP grants are being revoked, as well as the six-month grace period to pay back loans without interest fees.
As well, households in the low-income bracket will no longer be eligible for free tuition.
This article was written by Sofia Vavaroutsos as an assignment for the Ryerson School of Journalism on Jan. 30, 2019.