Why LUSU’s plan to ‘Fight the Fees’ actually costs students.

Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) and the Canadian Federation of Students have announced a new plan to ‘fight the fees’. Essentially, they are rebranding their annual proposal to vote no to tuition increases or to abstain from the vote at the board of governors meeting by participating in protests or sit ins. Annually, they lose these votes because they are outvoted by the rest of the board of governors and current/future students lose twice because they lose their voice and receive the tuition increases anyways.

The reason I am writing this blog is to show the folly of their plans and to provide a constructive criticism along with contempt as a student who suffers due to their actions. The board of governors typically votes during the summer at their general meeting on the amount of increase they will pass into tuition to help cover the expanded costs of operating the university. These costs are maxed out by the government and for many years it was 8% which is 2.5x times general inflation, currently it is 3%. Tuition rates have increased well beyond inflation and have caused severe strain for students and their financial supporters. I truly believe that the Ontario government and the Federal government need to look for new ways to prepare significant and stable funding increases for universities to cover costs. I would also like to see the Board of Governors move their meeting to during the school year so more students can be present and participate in the processes to which they are subject.

Yet, at the local level there are a number of things that could have been done to reduce the costs associated with the operation of the university and the services it provides to its students if LUSU was able to look beyond their own term in office. When LUSU votes ‘No’ or abstains from the vote at the board of governors they are effectively giving away any and all influence in the decisions on how that money is spent and what mandates we want it to go towards. This voice that students give the individual is wasted and thrown away and does nothing to benefit the university, students or future students.

Looking to the university campus there are a significant number of buildings that were designed, built and continue to operate in a pre-environmental concern mindset. Imagine if LUSU had voted for these fee increases and used that influence to change the landscape of the campus, reducing the number of buildings by combining them into larger structures which not only reduces the environmental impact, it reduces costs in taxes, heating, electricity, maintenance among many more. New facilities are also a huge draw for students and a larger student base spreads that cost over a much larger number of people meaning the individual cost is less. These new buildings influenced by LUSU and the students as to the needs and desires of students with an environmentally friendly and technology conscious mindset could help guide Lakehead for the next 50 years.

A reduction of current facilities into an amalgamated facility also allows for certain other things if the buildings are removed. Increased greenspace, opportunities for future facilities, expansion of facilities. As Lakehead is a school of the north and focuses heavily on the environment and forestry there could be community gardens, traditional aboriginal services or even cultural spaces from the many different communities and countries the international students come from. A modern campus would allow for a multitude of things to happen that could be increasingly beneficial for the student population, Thunder Bay and more.

Working with the university rather then fighting them also brings in a number of other impacts that could benefit student life and reduce the cost to students. Imagine in that new building (s) that LUSU worked with the university to build; it has a grocery store, cafe, among other privately run businesses that increase the offering of services on the campus and reduce the cost. It reduces the cost because now it is not only being shared by government/university and students it is being shared by government/university/students and private enterprise. It also provides employment for students to gain some much needed workplace experience, income and social connection that our university campus desperately lacks. We have 1,200 students on campus that live, study and socialize here. Its a captive audience for businesses lost by poor planning. Foresight, would reduce the cost of operating the university and the cost of university for the students.

As a student I have to question some of the auxiliary fees that I pay that go directly to support LUSU related activities or projects. I pay almost $17 for computer upgrade fees of which I use everyday through the wifi provided by Lakehead, school computers etc and yet I pay $6.66 for LUSU radio that I have never listened to. No private business operates with a subsidy so why is it that LUSU radio can not operate without a student subsidy; is the business plan so ineffective that it simply can not and as a student do I really want to pay for that failed business plan. Answer for me at least is NO. LUSU recently posed the question to students (couple years ago) about rebuilding the pool and the cost associated with that; they posed to students the question if they would be willing to pay for it. As a student who does not use the facility I see no personal benefit but others likely do and as a democratic organization if the student group said yes then that is fine to me. What I do question is: had LUSU considered working with the City of Thunder Bay in finding an operating agreement to use the complex as a facility for gym and pool. Other then a membership there is no cost to LUSU or the students. Whereas now we pay operating, staffing and maintenance costs. Had LUSU worked with the Board of Governors could that building could had been redone on Lakehead’s dollar and influenced other levels of government to reduce the costs. Could students have shouldered 15% of the rebuild cost rather then 100%.

Someone will probably try and say that it is impossible for students and the organization to work together since their goals and aspirations are so different. I would say to that person that they are wrong since Georgian College Student Association did just that. They put their money where their mouth is and put up cash to get a real voice in how it is spent within the organization. Their cash multiplies because they are working with other levels of government to fund the things that they want. They do not get to fund one project on their own they fund four because they are stretching their dollars. They do not get everything they want just as LUSU would not if they decided to go down this road. The influence would be much greater and we would see more student oriented items within campus.

Until LUSU and the Canadian Federation of Students get their heads out of the sand their doing more harm then good for students.


Explaining snow days to Thunder Bay students

I remember in first year that the Lakehead University campus had 2 snow days back to back at the beginning of the school year. It was joyful for the Orillia students but seemed to irk the Thunder Bay students that they weren’t getting days off. Students were making comments about the inability of southern Ontario drivers to deal with a Canadian winter. I totally understand where students are coming from and have personally seen both Thunder Bay and Central Ontario drivers not comprehend driving in the snow. There is one major difference though for students at the Thunder Bay campus to know about the campus down here though and why we may get more snow days.

In Thunder Bay the campus and a majority of its students are in Thunder Bay. There isn’t much driving required for Thunder Bay students to get to the campus and those that make the trip from out of town are smaller portion of student. Which means less reason to shut down the school if only 10-20% of class is commuting. Here in Orillia that statistic is much different. A significant majority of the student population commutes from outside of Orillia to the campus. The best example would be taking the Thunder Bay campus and placing it in Murillo or Lappe and expecting students to drive there during dangerous weather conditions. Large portions of students drive in from the surrounding communities and from Barrie which is the hub of Simcoe County. Highway 11 from Barrie to Orillia is 35 km one way and lined with farmland meaning squalls and whiteout conditions are common. Traffic is also much heavier leading less room for mistakes and more accidents to deal with. The geographical location means a significant portion of the class will be unable or unwilling to attend class due to the weather. Central Ontario also deals with snow drifts like I have never seen before, they are much more common than Northwestern Ontario and more severe. Add in a less comprehensive transit system and the location of school being a primarily car oriented design it doesn’t leave much room when the weather is dangerous.

As Lakehead Orillia deals with another snow day sit down and think if the campus was in Lappe would you take the time to drive there in blowing snow and squalls?

Lakehead’s Teacher Reviews are a Joke

I’m going to be one of the first people to tell you to participate in something that is designed to make the system that we use daily better. I emphasize people to vote, to take part in school surveys and to be a part of improving our lives but when it comes to the teacher reviews at Lakehead I refuse to waste my time. Students like myself are tired of filing out these forms and seeing nothing done to try and improve the quality of professors at the school or remove those that consistently receive poor reviews from students. I can name a couple teachers that I fill out the forms for but that is because they are good teachers. I enjoy their classes and the way that they educate me but I refuse to make a review about teachers who have no interest in teacher, perform poorly at their jobs or have no actual idea about the content they are teaching. Why? I’m the one that started talking about how participating actively supports the improvement of our education and government systems. Professors at Lakehead are NOT required by the university to disclose the content of those teacher evaluations. That means if a teacher is rated poorly by his/her students for things like poor content knowledge, sexism or racism in the classroom or poor teaching quality they don’t have to disclose it. Imagine getting a poor job review and basically saying well it doesn’t matter because that one is staying with me. Wouldn’t you yourself pump yourself up and push the good reviews over the bad ones? Not having to disclose the issues that a teacher is presenting means that the opinions of students truly is not important to the education system. One has to think that there are means of pulling bad teachers but different numbers right or means?

Most students don’t know that their evaluations mean nothing. In order for the negatively to truly make it to the decision makers you need to make a presentation to the dean of the specific department or you need to provide an email of the account of the struggles to him. I’m sure that a large population of students would be uncomfortable with dealing with this individual based on their concerns. The evaluations are supposed to be a indirect means of presenting to the decision makers their feeling on their education. In order for Lakehead students to truly feel like their opinions are being heard the evaluations NEED to be sent to department heads good or bad.

You would think that there are other means of rooting out bad teachers right? Marks would be bad, attendance would be bad or large numbers of students would drop a class in order to protest the class? Marks can be and often are inflated in order to fall into line with the university requirements. Some teachers may give bonus marks, some may give marks through attendance or participation and many teachers give bell curves. This means that the quality of marks is often representative of the quality of education (but not always) but that teachers are able to fluctuate their numbers in order to present a better image. These do not accurate represent the education that students are getting and worse they allow teachers with poor standards to preserve their positions until it is almost impossible to remove them from teaching.

Attendance is often as indicator of how students perceive a class or a professor. Our largest lecture hall holds 200 students and for teachers who are viewed to be positive, educational and understanding their classes are well attended. Now as time goes on there is an attendance drop but typically a large portion attend the classes. Teachers who are viewed to be uneducated, unmotivated or perceived negatively will see this attendance drop significantly early on. I can account for this happening in 2 classes I have taken with the same teacher. Both times in large lecture halls with full student capacity. The class attendance quickly dropped off and this is representative of the poor ability to hold a class, present oneself and the topic with confidence that this individual has. The main lecture hall quickly dropped to less then 1/2 of the class attending by 5 weeks in and around 1/4 (50 or less students) close to the end of the semester. This is directly repeated in his current class and this is a direct result of his inability to teach the content accurately or with confidence. Lakehead should consider this to be a more important factor and the causes behind it when they come to consider teachers and who they intend to educate.

Students dropping a class is one way to see how a teacher is doing but its not always an option for many students. Many times classes may be mandatory for a student in order to graduate and he/she will be forced to sit through the class whether he agrees with it or not. A large drop rate may be an indicator though of students who don’t agree with or are struggling due to the means/method in which a teacher conducts himself. I know for a fact that a class I was in has seen an incredibly drop rate as a result of the way the teacher taught the class and her methods. While I perceived her to be very well educated and knowledgeable on the content of the class she seemed to think that we had the same degree of knowledge. Evaluations of testing materials were done as a means to drop individuals from the class and as a result she has had a large drop rate in her class. In this case its not about the content of the class or the teacher but how she conducts herself and her marking that has pushed a large number of students away. This should be a red flag for the university as it is not the job of professors to play games with numbers or to play hardball until they have a small chosen group. It is their job to educate the masses and provide them with the information they need in order to make the world a better place.

I guess by getting the information out there that the process Lakehead has is broken and is in need of repair. I urge Lakehead students to avoid the evaluation system and take the comments directly to those that make the decisions. In order for us to make the school better we need to change it from the inside and put pressure on the decision makers to make that change.

Event Center

The Thunder Bay Event Center wasn’t and never has been about a AHL team, tourism or how much money a facility could make. It has been about investing in the community that we call home and taking pride in our city. Thunder Bay currently has an arena that is 60 years old and doesn’t meet the needs of the people today, going forward or 20 years into the future. Councils of past have deferred this conversation until almost at the bitter end (Major renovations required in the 2020 range). Every year we delay we are one year closer to having to spend millions on a facility that can’t accommodate those with physical or mental handicaps. It grows harder for an older population to access and doesn’t meet the desires of an environmentally friendly young generation. Businesses are being left to wait for an answer from the city and the electorate to if they will have their major boost. We are left with a decision to make on whether we need to build this center or not and I believe the answer is yes.

Our city is undergoing a major transition from its resource based roots to a more diverse and stable economy. We seeing the errors of our ways when we decided that building on the fringes was the best option. The mindsets of city leaders, planners and developers are now about centralizing and supporting the things we already have. The city determined through an impartial third party that the city members supported this and that the marina was the best option. It’s the best option because its supported by the surrounding businesses and fits in the city’s plan to upgrade our community. It’s about improving the image of our community, supporting the businesses and community members that make the city tick. Most importantly it’s investing in us, our community and our people. We take pride in the fact that we have the most hockey players per capita but yet our facilities are underfunded, old and falling apart. We complain about the conditions of our infrastructure… well ladies and gentlemen this is a part of that infrastructure and it has been neglected for too long. We need to proceed with the plan for the event center and invest in our community. Our region is small so busloads of people will not come to the facility but the people that come out to support the Lakehead Thunderwolves will continue to come out. The parents who support their kids through hockey seasons and comes to the games will come and fill the seats of the event center.

This plan is not perfect, it will need some revision and the community should be able to provide ideas for this but we cannot let a minority of people express their thoughts louder than those in the majority and perceive them as right. We need to do what is right for our community today, tomorrow and 50 years from now when they look to a new building. People say a lot of things about this plan and how its negatives outweigh its positives. The fact it will lose money or the fact that we won’t ever be able to truly support a professional team. To me this project gets people so amped up because it has that potential to really bring the community together and be that spark that lights a fire under people. It is a major change from the way the city has conducted itself in the past. It challenges the mindset of thousands of people into a new, greener way of thinking. A downtown location is the best option for not only Thunder Bay but for major sports arenas around the world. We have seen Edmonton, Calgary, Minneapolis all look towards their downtown cores as the best option for their redeveloped arenas. We are even seeing Kanata look and see the error of their ways with the development of the Ottawa Senators home arena so far away from town. This project is about more then simply saying we want to have world class hockey here in Thunder Bay.

It’s not about the money, the AHL or a downtown hotel. It’s about the people of this community and giving them the chance to attend a world class building. It’s about investing in ourselves and making ourselves a stronger community and how we represent ourselves to those around us. Our city needs to have that boost where we invest in the recreational facilities that we as a community enjoy. This is about improving the quality of life that we expect to have in our city. The money issue can be figured out as well as the parking but I believe that this is truly about us as a city.

Lets build it Thunder Bay.

Lakehead University’s Parking Problem:

As lakehead University – Orillia has grown there has been an increase in the number of students who have had to drive to the campus in order to attend classes. The Orillia campus is situated in a farmers field which allows for cheap future growth potential but makes it a commuter based school. This means as the school grows it needs to provide additional spaces for students to park in order to attend classes which is a costly venture. This has become increasingly challenging as Lakehead University wants to keep it LEED diamond status of which adding parking stalls would negatively affect. I believe that there is an opportunity to address the concerns of Lakehead Students and Lakehead University through a number of different means by working with the community. This article will focus on a number of different initiatives that Lakehead could take in order to address its growing parking issues.


Lakehead University currently has 2-4 car stalls set aside for people who carpool. Carpooling rules at Lakehead University include vehicles with 2 or more people in them which allows them to use these stalls. These stalls fill up fairly quickly and there is no real means of policing the vehicles as they come in. Lakehead Security can’t accurately determine if someone is using it for their own spot regardless of the rules or if it is being legitimately used. I believe that Lakahead could address these issues by expanding its offering of carpooling and providing students with perks to carpool. Carpooling is a great way for people to reduce the environmental damage they create, build social relationships and still use a vehicle. Here are a couple thoughts on how Lakehead can promote carpooling.

1. Add more spots for carpooling vehicles to promote its use.
2. Place a security camera by the carpool spots for the vehicles protection but also to find out if people are using the spots illegally.
3. Fine those who use these spots without merit.
4. Create a carpooling website for all Lakehead students to use in order to find rides and reduce traffic.

The program could work as such: when registering for your parking pass the website would ask if you plan to carpool with friends. If yes, it sends out an email to those people and to your lakehead University email asking to sign up. If the 3-4 friends confirm his email then you received a 10% reduction on your parking pass costs. Using a mobile application or the website you check in to the spot and how many people you came with and it gives you a points system which unlocks prizes. After 2-3 months of consistently carpooling with other students it gives you and your carpool mates a $10 voucher to the café. The program would be available to students who would regularly drive to school and who because of this program don’t drive to school anymore. The costs savings to Lakehead could be enormous and would prevent them from having to build additional parking lots. If using this program we could eliminate 15% of cars coming and going to campus it could save a lot of gas, time and money.

Off-Campus Parking:

Lakehead University has consistent access to Orillia transit but for many students it’s not a viable option because they either live out of town or need to drive in order to get to school. Lakehead has already partnered with the City of Orillia to purchase parking spaces for students at the Rotary Place for a cheaper cost. The students pay Lakehead and then they pay an annual fee of roughly $10,000 for the spaces to the City of Orillia. I would like to see this program expanded with the partners in the community and with the City of Orillia. Lakehead students pay for a yearlong bus pass in their tuition which means they can take the bus for free at any point in that year. There are a couple opportunities I see for Lakehead to look at community partners to fill its parking woes. There is a call center, movie theater and the City of Orillia all of which have lots with quick and easy access to Orillia transit. Based on their proximity to campus one could have a reduced fee and consistent access to parking.

The Call center has a large parking lot that is rarely full and could easily accept 20-30 vehicles that belong to students. Based on its proximity to the school you could charge a little less than the rotary place spots but add to the available spots without having to add parking on your own property. That business makes good use of its available spots and it provides an additional source of income for the business. The photo below shows one of the parking lots that could be used for additional parking and the bus stop going to the school and coming back are very close to the site.

Call Center Lot

The Movie theater again is another business which I believe could benefit from the additional access and money coming into its business. The movie theater is often empty during the day so its lots are open and available for students to use. As movies start to come close to starting is when its lots become a little fuller and a little more challenging to find parking. I believe the area shown in the photo could be set aside specifically for Lakehead University students from a 8 am – 5 pm basis and then after that they would be fair game for patrons of the theater to use or students with late classes. As the distance increases between the school and the parking space the cost would decrease for the students. This could be attractive for students who don’t want to pay for $400 for a parking pass come September but might be more willing to pay $250 or 300.

Movie Theater Lot

Finally there is a lot of opportunity for Lakehead and the City of Orillia to work together to find a use for the municipal lots that are owned by the City of Orillia. I believe that the city could set aside areas in these lots for students who are driving in and pay a fee $100-150 to park there for the school year without fear of being ticketed. This would not only bring in additional revenue for the City of Orillia but it would also allow students to use Orillia transit and show just how valuable of a tool it is for the community by raising its ridership numbers. Orillia bylaw could continue to ticket vehicles in this area as normal and take in those revenues while accepting the additional revenue from those vehicles. If students don’t have the pass in their car window then they can be ticketed as if a normal vehicle failure to pay. The benefits are there for both Orillia and for Lakehead to mitigate the parking disaster that continues to happen at the school.

Downtown Lots

Enforcement and additional rules

Lakehead University would need to make sure that people who are parking in the areas that have been designated for students are in fact students who have paid. This would mean that they would have to go to these areas and check on the vehicles to make sure they are registered and have paid. This would mean that Lakehead would be allowed to ticket on other businesses property and those revenues would come back to the university in the form of parking tickets. This would keep the students in line with regards to stealing spots designated for paying students and would keep these spaces available for students from other individuals. The City of Orillia could continue its bylaw enforcement of its parking stalls as it does currently depending on the agreement. If those spots were designated for specifically Lakehead vehicles they would fine those without a pass which may require bylaw amendments. If they allowed students who paid to park as long as they had a pass anywhere in the designated lots then they could continue on as normal.

Signs designating the spots would need to be put in to show that this was a designated area and allow for proper implementation of the rules and conduct. There would also be a fee associated with being able to park in other lots. So if you purchased a main campus lot spot you would pay nothing to park in the other 3 lots (downtown, call center and movies) where as if you bought a downtown spot you would pay $100 and only be able to go up as close as the call center. You can always go down and further from campus for free.

Hopefully with full implementation of these plans Lakehead can address the constant concerns of students about a lack of parking without having to spend millions on parking lots that sit empty throughout the summer and 3 of 7 week days. Carpooling and working with the community partners are just a couple ideas I had in order to address the issues at Lakehead’s commuter campus. The campus needs to do more to get people out of their cars and into transit, carpool, buses or alternative means of transport.