Listen Up York University

by: Janelle Wallen-Charles

We come from an educational background. We worked through elementary school where everything was given to us our textbooks, and the teachings. Then we move through High School and the same things apply, but Jesus no! Not when it comes to University or College. Nope, they have us giving up our very lives to pay for books, tuition, food, housing.

Listen up York University!

You have to agree that tuition is out of hand! The very fact of having a degree, and thinking that going through these next 4 years, or even 10 years of University will secure a good future, then I don’t really know what you expect. Every person you encounter will say

“Hey stay in school” or

“Hey get an education because having an education will get you a better job.”

 Trust me we’ve all heard these saying whether it was from our parents, aunts, uncles, doesn’t matter, but you can’t tell me you have never heard someone say this to you. So why do you think that is? I’m starting to think that this whole post secondary education thing should be free no? We practically hear it all the time.

But honestly in my opinion nothing is built into cement. Like Have you ever known someone to get a degree and not even use it? I have, or to get a degree and it cannot even contribute to their profession later in life? I have, but yet we are paying thousands and thousands of dollars for a degree that In a way isn’t concrete.

That fear of the future? Fear of the bills? But let’s just leave that for another time York, because I need to bring to your attention the fact that there are students around us, that are struggling with food insecurities.

You didn’t know that did you?

I didn’t either.

 I didn’t know until it was brought to my attention that students are so focused on paying their tuition, paying for their books and their living expensive that they can’t even afford to put food into their mouths. They are there wondering where their next meal is coming from, and honestly I can’t imagine ever having that thought go through my head. Or the thought of having a strict diet because I can’t afford to eat the way I need to. If a student can’t even think beyond the point of their next meal, or afford to live healthy, is that not saying something about the amount of tuition we pay, the amount they charge for a dam text book.

I came across a journal article that was called “tackling student hunger and the stigma that comes with it” by Steve Kolowich. In this article he talks about a girl named Toni Arksenein who has first hand knowledge about student hunger. He quotes “whether you are at Columbia or a community college there will always be people struggling to make ends meet. And when money gets tight food is always the first expenses to go. The soft more, Ms. Arkasenien, was never less struck by the stories her classmates told her, passing out in academic buildings after skipping on meals, eating cereal 3 times a day, planning there schedules around when grocery stores will hand out food stamps.

Listen up York University!

We have to look at the bigger picture of the situation. Students have no money to afford the necessities outside of school. Doesn’t matter the amount of hours you put in at your jobs, money is how we live and everybody and everything wants some of it! Does anyone even care? Well we can say that YFS cares, that the government cares to an extent.

My name is Janelle Wallen-Charles and I just got to say that I don’t want to live a life of ignorant is bliss anymore, and neither should you. Open your eyes to the reality that’s around you, that’s around me. We need to get our heads out of the sand and I’m here to help you.

The York Federation of Students is an organization here on campus that advocates on behalf of all the York University students. While I was looking up on them I wanted to find out more about this Organization, and exactly how they have any relevance to us.

I stumbled across a York University Blog that was posted by Rebecca and I thought it was interesting to get another person’s view point on what the YFS does exactly she says that

 The YFS is York’s official student union. The YFS is the largest student union in the country, representing 53,000 full-time and part-time undergraduate students. Essentially, the YFS represents you! The union supports services, events, campaigns and clubs. The YFS also focuses on general advocacy for students, and on community building through involvement, and advancing true York Pride.”

After hearing about the amazing things that YFS had to offer us, I needed to do a little bit more digging, I wanted to know how they helped advocate on behalf of tuition fees and how did they help food insecurities that is a major issue in our York community. So I had the honour of getting into touch with Ms. Rawan Habib who is the Vice President of campaigns here at York.

I wanted her intake on what YFS is doing about the Student hunger and how they hold their campaigns in order to help student hunger. This is what she had to say

The YFS has been committed to combating food insecurities on our campus. This is evident through several initiatives that we have taken on over the last few years. We have one of the largest and most frequently used food banks in the city. This food bank is open to all students, and they are able to access it whenever they need! We recently expanded our Food Bank, and we are looking forward to continuing its expansion in the coming years to ensure that it remains open for as many students, and community members, as possible.

In 2013, we launched a task force on campus hunger. The purpose of this task force was to assess the accessibility and healthiness of food options on our campuses, and provide solutions for both us as students, and for our administration to commit to. We have since been committed to ensuring that the recommendations that came out of this task force report be implemented. One recommendation that has already been implemented was to have a way of purchasing ethically sourced vegetables on campus: we launched our Good Food Box program that operates out of our Member Services Office. Students are able to purchase boxes of fruits and/or vegetables that are delivered bi-weekly from local farms.

And what about the hunger count survey, what is that all about?

The hunger report is our latest initiative regarding food on campus. Similarly to the Task Force on Campus food, this survey will be assessing the accessibility and healthiness of our food

options on campus. However, it also focuses on the general food security of students on and off campus. The survey results will be compiled in order to write and publish a report that provides statistics and solutions for food insecurity specific to our York Community. This is expected to be published later this semester.

Listen up York University if there is someone out there that you know is struggling with food insecurities please let them know that there are food banks, and other means that will help feed them. Or if you are struggling to make ends meet yourself and cannot afford to the food essentials, do not hesitate.

You are not alone.

Scene 3

While I was browsing through Stats Canada I stumbled across a survey that was conducted back in 2002. This survey asked students how much they spent based on three themes, “access to post secondary education, persistence in programs, and ways in which students financed their education.”

The Typical full-time students spent more than $11,000 to put themselves through an eight-month academic year in 2001 and 2002, according to a new statistical snapshot of young Canadians aged 18 to 24 in 2002.

Can you believe $11,000 dollars for tuition, have they lost their minds? I’m over here complaining in my head about the debt I have from Seneca College, but if this was my tuition yearly?

Oh please Jesus help me!

I don’t know if you guys saw but a couple of weeks ago there was a protest outside of Vari hall that had to do with the reduction of tuition fees. I had been on the bus when I saw this, and I was curious, but due to the fact that I had class I couldn’t go. So I asked Ms. Habib what her intake on this protest was.

“The November 2nd Day of Action was one of the escalating tact’s for our provincial Fight the Fees campaign. Students in Ontario pay the highest tuition fees in the entire country, yet, receive the lowest quality of education. Education is a right for all - regardless of identity or experience. As a reaction to the inaccessibility of our current education system, the Fight the Fees campaign was launched. The campaign, and the Day of Action, were demanding: 1) Free and Accessible Education for all, 2) All repayable loans into non-repayable grants, and 3) the removal of interest on pre-existing loans. The national Day of Action was a day where students from all across the country (every single province!) hit the streets to demand more accessible and affordable post-secondary institutions. It was an incredibly successful event here in Toronto, however, the fight is still not over. The fight for free education will continue until we as students win!”

My York University people, do you hear that? The fight for free education isn’t over until we as students win!

Scene 4

But I guess all of those protest and campaigns are getting somewhere. The government is hearing us out when it comes to all of these protest against the outrageous fees for tuition because I’ve heard about that new law that will be in effect come 2017.

Free tuition for households that make under $50,000

Yeah I know, and don’t get me wrong it gives plenty of our not so privileged people to get an education, but what about the students who’s house hold income is more then $50,000?

What about them? What is your intake in the matter?

Since this new law does not apply to me, I approached my mom, Angella Wallen to get her opinion about the matter

What happens to people that make lower then $50,000. There has to be more then that, it has to be vetted properly. Like why do you only make $50,000? If you are a new comer to Canada then No! I pay my taxes. My child deserves something from that, doesn’t have to be total free. There is people who make over $100,000 and for their child to get free education it wouldn’t be fair. New comers would come to Canada only for the free education, and take the knowledge back to their country. So what we would be paying for educating the world with tax payers money? So like I said before the process would have to be vetted really carefully.

I honestly agree with my mother, what made the government come to such a specific price rage of how much a house could make in order to get free tuition, right? I mean I do have OSAP but OSAP is judging me based on how much my mother makes, and you know my mom doesn’t help with my tuition or my text books, and on occasion my transportation. So how exactly is the judgement of how much my mother makes really fair?

If you really take it in students need to put down their parent’s income in order to sign up for OSAP, but OSAP is judging on their parent’s income, so how does OSAP know how much there parents are helping them? Doesn’t make sense to me really.

Scene 5

Now if you ask me about my opinions on the matter, I’m just going to say I am fed up. I am a recent graduate at Seneca college, at the Keele campus. Each year I paid approximately $3,000 dollars. That’s $6,000 for my two year programs. Not only that but I live in Ajax and take go transit every single day to get to school, which is approximately $300 a month. Take $300 and X it by 8 for the amount of months that is school which is $2,400. Now let’s add that $6,000 dollars and the $2,400 and we get $8,400. Can we all just take that in.

So where does that leave me after the next 3 years when I am really done?

In a pickle, that’s where it leaves me!

We will be crawling trying to pay these student loans.

We will have constant mail reminders about it until we cough up the rest of the money. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for being an educated independent woman, but I’m not for being an educated, rolling in debt, independent women.

What I mentioned before, the $6,000 was what I owe the government, I haven’t even included the rest of the 3 years I will be paying for my York University degree.

But that stills leaves the problem of food insecurity. What will happen to them?

Food is not cheap in general, like have you ever been to York’s library, and see the amount that they charge for pens, and notes books?

To damn much! That’s how much!

And the price of food on campus, you would think that it would be reasonable, but nope, they milk us on campus, they milk us at the book store, they milk as an institution as a whole.

No wonder we have food insecurities; food is expensive… it’s as simple as that.

And the thing is life is not going to get cheaper, I have a good feeling that maybe, just maybe tuition will be free eventually, but food prices will keep going up, rent will go up, everything seems to get more and more expensive.

Like come on, did you hear about TTC raising their fees?

We live in a society where people just don’t really care as long as they are making as much money as possible then they are sleeping really good at night.

So that’s why we have YFS, people like Ms. Rawan Habib, who care… who take the time to speak out and to help us.

Listen up York university,

things are not going to get any easier, especially for the generation to come… because I can’t see things getting any cheaper or easier for us. Good luck York University, I hope I opened your eyes to our reality.



(2003, September 10). Post secondary education participation survey. November 25, 2016  

Kolowich, S. (2015, November 13). Tackling student hunger and the stigma that goes with it. The chronicle of higher education, 62(11), A16.

Rebecca. (2015, July 24). The York federation of students- the coolest student union around. November 25, 2016.

Recommended sources

(2016, February 25). Path ways to education Canada applauds the government of Ontario for support of education. November 25,2016