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DSU President unsure Day of Action will bring big change

Chris Saulnier hopes the protest will at least open communication between government and students

Nicole Feriancek, News Contributor

 

With the Student Day of Action approaching, Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) President Chris Saulnier is unsure the march will make the government rethink their policies.

In reaction to a lack of communication with the provincial government, thousands of students are expected to march to Province House on Feb. 2.

“I’m not convinced that this rally will cause the government to rethink all of their policies. I’m hoping that it might make them take a step back and realize that what they’re doing may not be the right decision.”

Saulnier  says the most he can hope to come of this rally, is for the government to realize how important it is for the province to invest in education.

“Even though Nova Scotia is in a tough financial climate, cutting money on education is not the answer.”

Despite his suspicions that the Day of Action may not bring major change, Saulnier does think that a tuition hike would be troubling for Dal students.

“It’s all speculation as to what tuition will look like next year,”  says Saulnier. “That’s a bad situation for a student to be in because they’re not able to plan for how they will be able to pay for tuition. It’s a scary thought.””

The N.S. Student Bursary Program, which gives a grant of about $600 a semester to students who choose to stay in the province for their education, also expires in March. Without the bursary, students from Nova Scotia would feel an instant 21 per cent increase in what they are paying, says Saulnier.

Because this is a government funded program, Dalhousie would feel no increase in revenue despite the extra cost to students. In addition, the government is talking about cutting basic funding to universities,  says Saulnier. If Dalhousie needs to raise tuition, this will be an added expense for students.

“In order to maintain the current level of service, universities will obviously have to raise tuition, to make up that difference from students,” he  says.

Yet money is not the only factor driving this protest. A lack of government cooperation and negotiation is further heating the issue.

“Right now the government is not talking to universities, not talking to students and not talking to the public, so we don’t know what’s happening.  This is a call to the government to release more information,”  says Saulnier.

DSU Vice President Academic and External Rob LeForte  says that the DSU has made numerous attempts of communicating with the provincial government this fall, but have not been included or getting any kind of feedback.

“It’s not just the fact that tuition may increase,”  says LeForte. “It’s the fact that we’ve been talking to the government frequently in the past about how detrimental this is for universities and how hard it would hit students, and in the last four or so months we have had a real difficulty with any sort of communication.”

A mass student protest may be the only option left, as a last resort to influence government policies, before Premier Darrel Dexter releases the budget in the spring.

“We really would like to be around the table and express our concerns to them so they can make better policies,”  says LeForte. “But we’ve pretty well exhausted all opportunities for communication. That’s really why we are pursuing the student Day of Action so much.”

The provincial government has told the DSU that a negotiation process will begin soon, and that students may be involved. But how soon, along with the level of negotiation is unclear. Regardless of the uncertainties, universities have to plan ahead for next year.

“It’s very frustrating,”  says Saulnier, “Especially because university budgets are being prepared right now.”

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