PCP: Point

Gabrielle Klemt - 2T Geological
Posted on: February 2, 2018

By now, you’ve probably noticed the campaign Protest CECA. They’re hard to avoid; they’re on your route to class, they’re in your face on bathroom walls and now they’ve even invaded your email inbox in the form of not one but two response emails. Why should we care, why indeed does Protest CECA care?

As Engineering students at the University of Waterloo, it is mandatory for us to be enrolled and take part in Co-op. Waterloo Co-op, the holy grail held up as a golden standard to every university for miles around: look at us, we do it best. But we pay steeply for a glimpse of those tantalizing Cali job postings, and we have no choice but to pay for it. Many of us have used CECA’s services and found them lacking in more ways than I care to list here and have opted instead to use our own wiles to earn a job outside WaterlooWorks, and yet we continue to pay the ever-hungrier monster that is CECA’s “staff salary” budget.

Now it might seem that the Protest is one-sided. Why criticize CECA now, we know they’re been raising fees for ages—not a year has gone by that they haven’t raised them. Additionally, why are they asking CECA to show us their budget, when there has been an investigation into this that has been going on for about a year now?

The plain fact of the matter isn’t that the Protest is some silly, shallow, almost-too-late-to-the-teaparty movement. It’s the result of a slow burn and it’s exploding now because we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t want fees raised for a reason that seems to a to be a feeble excuse for wanting more money from a cash-strapped population, we just want to know where the money is going!

Transparency. That is what this movement is all about. That’s what we want, and we want it now. We don’t want to keep paying more, blindly: we want to know why. As the petition states “To increase student co-op fees while a deep dive investigating the very need for such a fee increase is still in progress undermines the integrity of the deep dive.” The “deep dive” is on-going but it’s taking too long.

Since starting their Change.org petition, Protest CECA has raised over 2,900 signatures at the time of writing this article with more expected in the coming days. Respondents to the petition have shared their reasons for protesting, which are mostly centered around CECA’s claims that fee hikes are going towards salaries. One student saying, “CECA does not provide enough support and asks for more money. Cannot accept,” with another writing “…the salaries are outrageously high for the little amount of service that students receive from CECA. Especially since this is currently being investigated the salary increase should not be higher than the recommended rate of inflation. Our tuition and fees are some of the highest in Ontario and Canada as a whole.” And they’re not wrong.

It’s true that I’m no great fan of CECA, I don’t believe their services are representative of the money we pay, and I don’t think they care about the programs that aren’t high-profile, but I am not the only one and there has to be a reason for that. As one student put it “There should be some transparency to the client (student body) on how the budget is being spent. If students feel they are not getting value for money, why would the fee be mandatory? Shouldn’t good service be mandatory? What is CECA “guaranteeing” to the client for the money? To what level are they held accountable?”  The generally accepted opinion of the student body is that CECA’s advice to students is often rude, unhelpful and downright demeaning, and students feel that employers are treated as more important than students. It’s only a surprise that this “protest” hasn’t come sooner.

The overwhelming interest in the issue has now caught the attention of administration enough to warrant an official response sent Thursday, February 1. The email to all students essentially said they noticed that students care, they have been working with students on a review of co-op fees, and nothing is going to change in the meantime. So stop buying coffees now if you want to afford to get a job next term.

In conclusion, though I think that there is not going to be much of a change from this—at least not more than was already on its way through the FEDS-led review, or “deep dive”—I’m happy to say that finally here is an issue we, the students, can really get together on and get behind. Students from every faculty are affected by this fee hike and for once FEDS is doing the right thing instead of standing idly by while we feel powerless to make a difference in our own lives. It may be true this Protest is not changing anything concrete, but it is showing us that we can work together to get the ear of the administration, and that feels pretty good too. And hey, now we’re all aware of the issue we certainly won’t let it stand in future and we’re sure as heck going to be waiting for the outcome of this long-anticipated deep dive. So, speak up CECA, we’re listening.

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