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Okanagan College students demand change in ‘solidarity walkout’

Click to play video: 'Kelowna Okanagan College students protest international tuition hikes'
Kelowna Okanagan College students protest international tuition hikes
Kelowna Okanagan College students protest international tuition hikes – Nov 2, 2022

A “solidarity walkout” brought out dozens of Okanagan College students Wednesday who claimed they were being treated as “cash cows.”

In the campus courtyard, elected student representatives told Okanagan College’s leadership team that the college is leaving students out of conversations and decisions; has abandoned its historic student-centred values and has experienced a steep decline in quality and student-centred delivery of services

As such, the student union is asking the leadership for four changes, the top of which is the cancellation of the 8.6 per cent tuition increase for international students.

“This decision was disrespectful, unethical, and inequitable,” students said.

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Maxine Cristobal, chairperson, Okanagan College students’ union in Kelowna said the school is treating student money like their cash cows and they could be more innovative in their attempts to find more money. Also, the college had a surplus, she said.

“Students do have a right to be here. We’re paying tuition we’re paying for our post-secondary education,” Cristobal said. “So, those needs not being met, it is not only silencing us but it’s innately going backward…(in the college’s) leadership’s strategic plan (of) promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on campus for students. You’re not meeting the needs of students and you’re not fulfilling what you’re saying that you’re going to do.”

Students said they would also like to see a return to student-orientated food service in the cafeteria.

“Hosting expensive vendors in the cafeteria contributes to food insecurity, and was not decided on with proper consultation or input from students,” reads the press release.

It asks that OC’s leadership reinstate student association-elected student observers at board of governors meetings.

“OC needs to be transparent,” the student union said.

“OC must publicly join its students in lobbying the government to fix the funding model for the post secondary education so that the weight of funding Okanagan College is taken off the backs of its own students.”

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Those who attended the rally were asked to sign a letter addressed to the board of Governers, as well as the Minister of Education and Members of the Okanagan Legislative assembly.

The hope is – that letter, coupled with today’s walkout are the first steps towards changes they feel are necessary.

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