Ryerson students leverage YouTube popularity

Ryerson University students have turned to uber-popular YouTube to help reduce tuition fees by unleashing a series of videos that spoof the recent Capital One commercials with a look-a-like McGuinty featuring the song “Hands in my Pocket.”

The videos are a lead up to the National Student Day of Action on February 7, which is the day students across Canada voted for to make post-secondary education the issue, according to Nora Loreto, Ryerson Student Union vice-president of education.

She noted they sought to strike the right balance with the video.

“We’re trying to engage students because it’s an important issue and also engage them because it’s entertaining.”

It appears to be working if the positive response from students is any indication, according to Loreto.

“Students really love these videos,” she said. “Our first one that went up received more than 1,000 hits.”

In addition to being engaging and entertaining, YouTube is an ideal way to get their message out because of its popularity with students.

Because this is a provincial campaign students are plugged into what’s happening at schools across Ontario — from the University of Toronto to Lakehead University – it increases the campaign’s reach and accessibility, she said.

“Putting it on YouTube means that student unions anywhere can make those videos available to their members as well.”

Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Chris Bentley, feels the video campaign was missing some important information.

“It would be nice if it had included the fact that 120,000 students this year are getting a grant from the government of Ontario – that’s one in four students,” said Bentley. “I think there’s a lot going on, more students, more assistance, more grants, higher quality, that’s a real commitment to education.”

The Ryerson Students’ Union asserts that the Ontario Liberal government has allowed tuition fees to increase between four and eight per cent since canceling the tuition fee freeze in March 2006.

When asked for confirmation of these percentage increases in tuition fees, Bentley said, “The percentages are always delightful…What it means is that for 70 per cent of university students they’ll see less than a $200 increase in their fees and for 90 per cent of college students they’ll see $100 increase in their fees.”

He added that it’s up to the institution to decide whether they’re going to increase fees.

Loreto said they have yet to receive a response on the campaign from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office or the Ontario Ministry of Education.

“What we’re trying to do right now is make sure the government can see we actually do have support and we’re a serious force they need to start consulting,” said Loreto. “At this point our correspondence with the government has been pretty limited – and that’s not for lack of trying either.”

Bentley counters that they have been consulting with student unions.

“We had a discussion with all of the student groups about what the new tuition framework should look like,” he said. “Now what we’re doing is making sure the investments that the people of Ontario are making in students education are resulting in the improvements that they should be making.”

Requests for comment from Premier McGuinty’s office were not returned.

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