The Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador started a road trip across the province on September 1st, 2023, in St. John’s at the Graduate Students’ Union Welcome Fair. The next day, CFS-NL staff and Provincial Executive Committee members drove to Corner Brook. On September 5th, more people joined, and they went back across the island. The following week, Chairperson Mary Feltham went to Gander and Grand-Falls-Windsor and then back to Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. This past week, the Interim CFS National Chairperson Brandon Rhéal Amyot and Campaigns and Education Officer Judith Oviosun came to the province to help with outreach on the Avalon Peninsula. Feltham is going to St. Anthony and Labrador next week, and their goal is to reach every campus in their membership. In addition to Memorial University campuses in St. John’s and Corner Brook, there are 17 College of the North Atlantic (CNA) campuses across the province.
Tales from the Road
CFS-NL has been taking road trips across the province for the past few years to connect with its members. It first started in 2021 as a response to former Memorial University President Vianne Timmons’s “Tales from the Road.” Feltham said that they continue this to directly reach their members, especially at smaller campuses, to inform them of the services that CFS offers. This year, they also wanted to reach members to get them energized for the upcoming National Day of Action on November 8th for Free Education for All.
Over 600 students reached
Regarding the experience, Feltham said, “It was great! We got to visit a lot of smaller CNA campuses, speak to new and returning students, and got to hear some of their unique concerns. It was refreshing to see students so eager to take action for free education.” While Feltham does not have the direct number for how many students they’ve met, she said that on some campuses like CNA in Burin and Bonavista, they got to speak to over 90 percent of the students. Feltham said a rough estimate of the students they’ve directly spoken to thus far is over 600.
Feltham said that while housing was a major issue highlighted by students, another issue that many Memorial students flagged was the discrepancy in tuition they are paying compared to their classmates. She said, “There are so many different fees depending on when you started and where you’re from. There are students paying absurd differences in fees for the same education.”
Rural and urban campuses
When asked if the issues students face on rural campuses differ from those on campuses in urban centres, Feltham responded that most students are expressing affordability concerns. “Having to pay so much for their right to an education is a universal concern heard on each campus,” said Feltham. Furthermore, in more rural areas, she said they heard about challenges in finding affordable, healthy meal options. She said, “There are a few campuses that do not have access to on-campus cafeterias and limited food options near the campus itself, so people need to plan to take meals and snacks in the morning before coming to campus.”
Regarding the current student housing crisis, Feltham said there are not enough houses, and she is “disheartened to know there are many students who are not able to find housing close to their campus.” Some CNA campuses have even changed class schedules to allow for classes to end earlier for students to drive home before it gets dark. Feltham said, “This is unfortunate because it is cutting into their time that would otherwise be spent for learning, and their time in transit is time that could have been spent doing other activities that enhance [their] post-secondary educational careers.”
According to Feltham, many students have expressed an interest in taking to the streets on November 8th for their National Day of Action. She said that planning is unique for each campus and that in addition to the CFS-NL Campaigns Committee, many campuses have established their own campaign committee to plan for November 8th. Feltham is encouraging anyone interested in getting involved to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.