Eli Ridder | Analysis
IGNITE’s student union, led by the president and three vice presidents who represent the campuses of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, will have to fight for survival against optional student fees.
The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday a tuition cut, Ontario Student Assistance Program changes and certain optional student fees, among other altercations to student life across the province.
IGNITE President Monica Khosla gave a strongly-worded response against the actions by Ford’s administration on Friday evening, saying that her union was “devastated” by the move to “silence” student voices and encouraged her peers to contact Ford.
On Instagram, IGNITE said “post-secondary education in Ontario is under attack by the provincial government” due to what the province calls a “Student Choice Initiative” — which will allow students to choose what student fees they want to pay.
However, education minister MPP David Piccini said in a campus publication exclusive on Friday that the new policy aims to empower students to “make the decisions that are important to them”.
This means that IGNITE has just over three months to convince the majority of some 30,000 students that their initiatives and programs are critical to their student lives, which also makes the upcoming elections the most important in Humber’s history.
But what services will be up for choice by students? It’s not entirely clear yet. The Avro Post asked Piccini, who is the parliamentary secretary under the provincial minister in charge of training, colleges and universities, and he said that it could be bundled in sets.
This means that there would be funding options grouped together, potentially by genre. For example, clubs could be one such genre of fees and the “frosh” branded events could be another.
Piccini did tell The Post that “essential” services such as the dental and health programs offered by student unions including IGNITE would remain untouched. When pressed o which services would be optional, he said that could be largely left to the institutions.
This means that the backlash against the optional fees could also go against the administrations of Humber and Guelph-Humber for their choices on what the optional student fees could look like.
With all that is up in the air right now, one of the scenarios that could play out in the coming months and potentially years is the break up of the student government between Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber — an alliance already testy.
Though there has been no official polling, because the administration will not let The Avro Post have access to the tools to carry it out, many students that are interested in IGNITE have been vocal about its Guelph-Humber presence since it was created in 2016.
Many of those who end up running for executive positions in the student union from the university bring up IGNITE relations with Guelph-Humber as a key issue, according to Radix, Humber Et Cetera and Post reporting over the last three elections.
With an unknown amount of IGNITE services soon to be optional, the bridge that ties Humber and Guelph-Humber students together on the North Campus could snap under tensions that come to a boiling point. However, this is not an expected scenario.
However, there could be a petitioning of the four senators who represent Guelph-Humber, who The Avro Post have reached out to for comment, who could work with the Senate in Guelph to change how student government works.
Either way, moving forward the IGNITE student union will have to fight to survive and the current and soon-to-be elected executives and directors will be a major part of determining the future of the non-for-profit student government.
Image by The Avro Post.