Graduate students at Queen’s University rally to abolish tuition fees

Graduate students rally outside Richardson Hall at Queen’s University on Wednesday, Mar. 22, 2023. Photo by Kingstonist.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) DCL 901 held a rally at Richardson Hall at Queen’s University on Wednesday, Mar. 22, 2023, to oppose Patrick Deane’s lobbying efforts to end the provincial tuition freeze.

According to a statement from the union, tuition fees pose a serious financial barrier that prevents students from accessing education and forces others to take on often insurmountable levels of debt.

“This burden is most heavily shouldered by migrant students and other historically excluded and underrepresented groups who are an integral part of the Queen’s community,” the statement reads. “Additionally, for graduate students — Queen’s employees who perform valuable, irreplaceable teaching and research work upon which the university builds its reputation — tuition fees reduce real wages to a rate far below the annual minimum wage for full-time work in Ontario.”

PSAC 901 represents 2,000 Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants, and Postdoctoral Scholars at the university, and has been in talks with the university for over three years over such items as mental health resources and reimbursement commensurate with work. Now, the local union is opposing a potential increase to graduate student fees for the 2023-2024 academic year.

In the statement, PSCA 901 noted the current cost-of-living and housing crises impacting students and workers at Queen’s University and called on Principal Deane and the university to:

  • Formally acknowledge that fulfilling Queen’s mission to “push the boundaries of knowledge through research” and “offer an exceptional student experience,” as well as its commitment to “[build] a campus that welcomes and reflects diverse identities, cultures, and perspectives” requires the end to graduate worker and student poverty, including an end to tuition fees, which pose a significant and inequitable financial barrier to accessing education and performing research.
  • Immediately cease and desist all lobbying efforts to end the provincial tuition freeze.
  • Commit that all future lobbying efforts regarding university funding will be to increase public government funding of Universities and to advocate for the total abolition of tuition fees.
  • Commit to abolishing tuition fees beginning with an immediate reduction in 2023.
  • Equalize domestic and migrant tuition fees.
  • Raise the minimum graduate student funding salary to match minimum wage for full time employment in Ontario ($32,240 annually) and index it to match cost-of-living increases.

“We hope that… our voices will be heard and we can work together to make Queen’s the accessible, world-class research and education institution it strives to be,” the union said.

For more information from PSAC Local 901 on their organization and demands in the ongoing collective bargaining with Queen’s University, visit the PSAC Local 901 website here.

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