The move sparks discussions about whether a free student press is essential on campuses.

“Fuck Ford! Fuck Ford! Fuck Ford!” yelled dozens of students in front of Queen’s Park. The crowd gathered outside the Ontario legislative building on a cold Jan. 18 afternoon, holding signs to protest the Conservative government’s announcement on changes to tuition and the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

The day before, Premier Doug Ford’s government announced that university and college students will have the power to choose how the additional fees they pay will be allocated. The ancillary fee, also known as a student levy, is paid on top of tuition and goes towards funding campus groups, services and student media. Students will now be allowed to opt out of paying fees for services or organizations they don’t support, according to Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training, colleges and universities.

Journalists and student organizations say the move could jeopardize campus press, as some student media rely on the fees to function.

“Without access to this funding, Ontario student publications will not be able to operate. The jobs they provide to students will be gone,” says a statement from the Canadian University Press, which represents over 40 student publications.

Fullerton also says the government is eliminating free tuition for students from low-income families while also cutting tuition fees by 10 per cent. The government announcement also states that while some fees will continue to be mandatory, such as WalkSafe programs and counselling, post-secondary institutions will be required to provide an online opt-out option for “all non-essential non-tuition fees.” This appears to leave universities and colleges to decide which other fees are considered essential.

Emma McPhee, vice-president of CUP, says most newspapers in Canada are funded through student fees. She says without the funds, the quality of student journalism could deteriorate or campus media could outright vanish.

Of late, campus media has been under attack at many universities, highlighting the precarity of their existence.

Continue reading this story on the Ryerson Review of Journalism website, where it was originally published. It appears here with the editor’s permission.