Dear Fellow Student

Why you should opt-in to your student fees

By Sam Mathers, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Fellow Student,

Photo by Sarah McPherson

This is the final issue of 2018-2019. I had planned on writing an article that reflected on the academic year and left you with some parting words for the summer; it is somewhat of a tradition at The Argus.

This is not that article. There is something more important at stake: our education.

I don’t think I am alone in saying that a post-secondary education is about so much more than classroom learning. It is about the clubs you join and the people you meet, about finding spaces that make you feel welcome, about finding something that makes you feel passionate. If it’s not too cliché to say, maybe it’s about finding yourself too.

It is all of this together that makes up a post-secondary education. A collective experience we share, fellow student, despite where we came from and where we go from here.

All of this is at risk thanks to Doug Ford’s “Student Choice Initiative” that will make all LUSU student activity fees non-essential, allowing you to opt out of paying for services you don’t personally access.

But if you knew that Lakehead University was one of the most food insecure campuses in Canada, would you call the Food Bank non-essential?

If you knew that LUSU operates the only LGBTQ2S+ resource and support centre in northwestern Ontario, would you call Pride Central non-essential?

If you knew that $200 in your pocket would jeopardize the Food Bank, Pride Central, the Aboriginal Awareness, Gender Equity, and Multicultural centres, Sustainability Initiative, student clubs, bursaries, scholarships, The Argus, and countless other supports and services, would you still opt out?

Shadiya Aidid, Sustainability Coordinator, told The Argus that “student services make such a small impact on your wallet, but a large impact on campus life.” The Sustainability Initiative advocates for environmental and social sustainability through programming and campaigns related to environmental justice. Not only will budget cuts hinder their ability to offer free programming, but it will also directly hinder the impact they can make on the community. Aidid continues, “Your education won’t take you anywhere if there isn’t a viable planet to live on. By supporting the Sustainability Initiative Centre, you will be supporting avenues for students to make tangible changes in their lives, their campus, and their communities.”

Deanna Kerkvliet, Pride Central Coordinator, said that funding cuts “will make it difficult for us to provide support to students and the Thunder Bay community at the same extent…Being the only support service on campus focused on the LGBTQ2S+ student population, in a city where resources for LGBTQ2S+ individuals [are] already limited, makes me worry that students who may be struggling won’t be able to develop the support system they need. For first-year students moving away from home for the first time, it’s especially important that they can find a safe space on campus.”

For the Food Bank, funding cuts will mean there will be days that the Food Bank is closed completely, and students will have no access to emergency food relief. Access to programming like the People’s Potato free lunch, cooking classes, and the Trick or Eat food drive will be greatly impacted as well. The Food Bank tries to fill in gaps in donations by purchasing healthy options, snacks, and breakfast foods – but with funding cuts, students will be primarily eating canned soup and macaroni and cheese. On being given the option to opt out, Coordinator Amy Kopp says: “definitely consider your neighbour.”

Additionally, the number of student jobs offered by LUSU will be significantly reduced. This coupled with limited access to student loans will mean that many students simply cannot return to school.

But these funding cuts are not set in stone. We, fellow student, have the power to decide what an essential service is.

We have the power to say that support for LGBTQ2S+ students is an essential service.

That providing food for hungry students is an essential service.

That support for international and minority students is an essential service.

That promoting the sustainability of the planet is an essential service.

That support for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students is an essential service.

That holding the university accountable through student journalism is an essential service.

We, the student body of Lakehead University have the power to show Doug Ford that we choose the well-being of our peers over a $200 discount on tuition.

Come fall, I will opt in. Will you?