On Thursday, June 18, the King’s Student Union presented the university’s Board of Governors (BoG) with demands for them to address anti-Black racism at King’s. At the same meeting, the Board voted to increase tuition at King’s by 3%.
Among their demands, the KSU is asking the school to release a plan for making King’s more accessible to Black people. They ask it include plans for collecting race-based data, to help find the areas where King’s needs to improve support for BIPOC folks.
Usually, only the President of the KSU and two other elected representatives of the student body are allowed to attend and take part in the discussion. For this meeting, the board allowed the entire KSU executive to attend the meeting as observers.
KSU President Levi Clarkson said that the Students’ Union made sure to get in contact with students from the Racialized Students’ Collective to “make sure that [the] demands felt good for them and that they had an opportunity to give us some feedback if they wanted to do so.”
The KSU presented these demands at the BoG meeting not only to address current events, but also to address changes that need to happen throughout the university. The KSU needed to act now and bring those demands forward because “the Black liberation movement is gaining a lot of traction right now, coming on decades and decades of work from Black folks and right now it is a big topic in our public discourse,” said Clarkson.
King’s released their own statement on June 14 addressing anti-Black violence. Clarkson said that even though this statement had some great elements in it, students still found gaps. “This is why we felt it was necessary to respond to that statement and call [on] the university to not only address these things and provide support to Black students,” said Clarkson, “but also to identify the actions that they are going to take long term.”
While presenting their demands to the BoG, Clarkson said that the Board members were incredibly receptive, engaged and asking questions.
The KSU is expecting a formal response to their demands within 2-3 weeks, according to their petition. “We want them to consult the equity officer and committee about what timelines are going to look like,” said Clarkson.
If the KSU had given the university a shorter deadline, they say the university might have come back to them with a more “performative and rushed” answer rather than a thought out plan of action.
“We feel pretty positive about the meeting,” said Clarkson “however there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that these words become actions.”
The KSU said they were also happy to see specific demands coming from current students and alumni of the Journalism School. “Their call to actions are very reflective to our demands,” said Clarkson.
Graduates and current students of the journalism school are also demanding that King’s address anti-Black racism in the journalism program. Their statement notes that the graduating journalism class of 2020 was mostly white and had been taught that year exclusively by white instructors. Their demands include meaningful recruitment and financial support for BIPOC journalism students, and hiring more BIPOC journalism instructors.
At the time of publication, their petition has 430 signatures, including at least 42 current and former journalism students.
The Board approved a 3% tuition increase for the school year of 2020-2021. This matches Dalhousie University’s 3% tuition increase, which was confirmed in May.
Since King’s often matches Dalhousie’s tuition changes , Clarkson said the school would likely only reconsider the increase if Dalhousie did so themselves.
For Clarkson, it is important that King’s students make sure that they are also heard at Dal, since Dal’s decisions impact them as well.
The KSU conducted a survey on how students felt about online classes. Over 65% of those who took part in the survey said they would take a reduced course load or completely defer due to classes being online. When asked whether or not a decrease in tuition would increase the likelihood of enrolment, 80% said yes.
Even with those results, BoG members voted for the increase. The three student representatives were the only ones who voted against it.
“Students are concerned, anxious, upset and angry about the increase given the prospect [of]everyone’s situation,” said Clarkson, “especially for international students who don’t have access to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.”