The Okanagan College Students’ Union held a student solidarity walk-out on Nov. 2, 2022 (Brittany Webster - Capital News)

‘Enough is enough’: students’ union hosts walk out at Okanagan College

The physical walk-out took place in Kelowna and was streamed to Penticton, Salmon Arm

  • Nov. 2, 2022 2:00 p.m.

Okanagan College Students’ Union held a walk-out on Nov. 2 at the Kelowna campus.

The union was encouraging students to come sign a letter demanding four things from the college.

The letter reads as follows:

Students of Okanagan College have walked out of their classes today on November 2nd: students. We have had enough.

Okanagan College is no longer an institution that respects students or supports our success. The College treats students like nothing more than numbers in a spreadsheet. They have abandoned their student-centered values and now students are left with a steep decline in the quality of our education and services. We walk out in remembrance of a time, not so long ago, where students mattered to the College. Here is what the College has done:

The Board of Governors have decided to increase international student tuition fees by 8.6% for the sake of ‘staying competitive’ with other institutions. But international students are already taken advantage of by the College. As an example, one year in the Bachelor of Business Degree is $14,730 for an international student compared to $5,830 for domestic students, a 152% difference. With this tuition fee increase, international students will be paying an additional $1,200 dollars in September 2023. This is completely unjustifiable and all while student services are being cut.

Okanagan College had almost a 24 million dollar surplus in 2021-22, and the College has still decided to cut back student services. The cafeteria vanished, replaced with an expensive, high-end “Okanagan Market” that does not serve student needs. On-campus food services are essential for ensuring students have access to affordable, healthy meals and snacks while they are studying. Instead, the College cut the cafeteria to ‘save costs’ and failed to communicate any of the changes to students.

The College fails to communicate well with students and it is clear we are no longer considered anything more than dollars and cents coming in the intuition’s revenue line. For years, the students’ union had the opportunity to present the needs of students in the annual budget consultations. This year, a process that involved hours of research, presentations, and student-led consultation was replaced with ONE surprise virtual meeting with no chance to invite students or provide a proper presentation. This is not meaningful consultation, it is a checkbox to say you talked to students.

We understand the post-secondary sector is under-funded. That is why, Okanagan Students’ Union works with 170,000 students across the province to advocate for more funding. Our Fund it Fix it campaign calls on the government to invest an additional $200 million dollars in core funding annually to fix the underfunding problem. Institutions should be allies in this cause. Okanagan College leadership refused to endorse a campaign that would help them. Students see administrators, instructors, staff, and community as partners in fixing our post-secondary system. It is clear, the Leadership of Okanagan College do not see students the same way.

OCSU We, the Students of Okanagan College have four demands of Okanagan College Leadership:

● Cancel the 8.6% increase on international students’ tuition.

● Get rid of the Okanagan Market and bring back a student-oriented food service in the cafeteria.

● Reinstate Student Association-elected student observers at Board of Governors meetings.

● Support OCSU in lobbying the government to overhaul and equalize funding for all public post-secondary institutions in BC by endorsing the Fund It Fix It Campaign.

The harm that has been done can be stopped. We demand to be treated with respect and fairness. We call on Okanagan College Leadership to do better. We call on our local elected officials to support returning the College to a student and community focused institution.

We have laid out our needs as students and we look forward to the changes you will make for the better. It’s possible, you just have to choose to do the work.

Once signatures are collected, the letter will be forwarded to the Board of Governance, some college staff, several local politicians, and the Ministry of Education.

Learn more about the students’ union or sign the petition by visiting OCSU.ca.

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@thebrittwebster
brittany.webster@blackpress.ca

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