Doug Ford’s Ontario government announced several changes to the tuition framework at Ontario universities and colleges on Thursday, including a reform that may harm the student press.

The new change would allow students to more easily opt out of paying fees for student organizations and clubs. Many student papers receive funding from levies that students pay as a part of tuition.

“Going forward, institutions will be required to provide an online opt-out option for all non-essential non-tuition fees,” says a backgrounder published by the Ontario government on Thursday.

Students will still have to pay for “essential campus initiatives” like walksafe programs, academic support, and athletics.

The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s main campus newspaper, responded to the news in a Thursday afternoon statement. Part of it reads:

The Varsity is extremely concerned about the impact these changes may have on the future of the student press in Ontario.

Student journalists are often the only ones to hold colleges and universities accountable for their actions, but this policy may allow the schools themselves to determine whether or not student journalism is “essential.”

Student media is the platform for students to make their voices heard, and a fee opt-out could seriously threaten the future of our operations. A government that postures as an advocate for free speech on campus must recognize that student journalism is the bastion of campus free speech.

We call on the Ontario government to recognize that campus journalism is unquestionably an essential service. We are hopeful that the University of Toronto will recognize that The Varsity, like all campus media, is vital to the integrity of this institution as a stronghold of freedom of speech — and freedom of the press.

 

Top image: cover of the September 12, 2018, issue of Ryerson University’s The Eyeopener, illustrated by Alanna Rizza.

Deputy news editor Jaren Kerr was managing editor of The Varsity in 2016-17.

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