One Woman Academy

December 1, 2009

Higher Education as a Universal Right

      Canada is pretty excellent. The Land of the Maple Leaf has Arcade Fire, Kate Beaton, universal healthcare, the world’s largest mall, and many other treasures. But while reading through Inside Higher Ed yesterday, I ran across this gem:


“The student union of the University of British Columbia has filed a complaint with the United Nations, seeking to have it declare that tuition increases in Canada violate the country’s commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The complaint states that Canada and British Columbia are not attempting to comply with the covenant, a United Nations treaty. Among its provisions is the following statement about higher education: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.” While the complaint has attracted considerable press attention in Canada, Maclean’s reported that some students are upset about the effort and are pushing for its reconsideration. It is unlikely that American students could try to file a similar complaint: While President Carter signed the covenant, the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty.”


      Really University of British Columbia Student Union? Really? Your reaction to tuition increase is to MAKE A COMPLAINT TO THE UNITED NATIONS? Not to see if you can cut down on costs or try to fundraise or open up a lemonade stand? Aren’t they kind of busy with, I don’t know, DARFUR? HUMAN TRAFFICKING? I will be the first person to say that higher education should be made “equally accessible to all,” but seriously, this is some student union-caused drama unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve seen some petty stuff in my time as a college student, but this is taking the cake. We’re all coming out of a recession! What do you expect, you crazy Canucks?! Isn’t this a rash course of action? At least some student opinion is pushing for reconsideration of the measure, otherwise I’d probably call this whole business a crazy Internet rumor.


November 19, 2009


      My university cut down the overall print quota of the student and faculty bodies in the name of sustainability, and more believably, budget cuts. They did this over summer without alerting the faculty as well as removing our residential computer lab spaces. The average undergraduate was left with 100 pages of free printing and every page after that for 12 cents. Our previous quota? 500 pages with another extension of 500 pages if necessary. Clearly a drastic adjustment.
Students were outraged. Over 200 comments were posted on the university newspaper’s article announcing the changes. A student government task force I was a member of worked with the administration to create a realistic proposal that has yet to be signed off on. A YouTube video was created utilizing an Internet joke, commonly known as a “meme”, of Hitler yelling about the print quota reduction.
      While I myself was party to the rollercoaster of disappointment with my school’s administration, I detected among my peers a sense of entitlement akin to a spoiled high school girl who expects car for her Sweet Sixteen. Students were outraged because of their resources being taken from them in such massive quantities, which I certainly understand. However, I feel many students were so blinded by that sense of entitlement that it clouded their perception a little.
While we were completely uninformed of the changes to our print quota and only found out about the removal of residential lab due to rumors, we were facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit. Our tuition couldn’t be raised at proportionally without an even larger (and legitimate) uproar. So we had some of our critical academic resources cut and students screamed when they returned to campus with limited computers and printing. Even if they had been told the previous semester, I seriously doubt the uproar would have been avoided.
      Entitlement is what happens when people become too comfortable with what they have. While I will not say specifically that my fellow students are spoiled rotten, we certainly have become too comfortable with what we have. When I was in my sophomore year of high school, my school was tasked to raise $600,000 when $6 million had been distributed to other arts programs in my state. My high school was an arts magnet high school with a high academic standing in the nation, so you can imagine our outrage. But we protested, raised money, and kept our arts teachers. I’ll admit we were extremely bitter towards our school board for the rest of our high school experience, but I’d say we were justified.
      People should never take what they have for granted. Students should never expect to keep all of their privileges intact during crisis, economic or otherwise. I’m not saying we should always be suspicious of everything around us, but we should be cognizant of what are rights and what are privileges. Protect your rights first. Privileges can be regained.

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