At the beginning of the semester, my roommate found herself without access to a personal computer for seven days. She managed to juggle switching classes and registering for conferences by running to the library between lectures or borrowing a laptop from a friend for a few hours. If this had happened last year, she could have avoided this hassle by participating in the library’s Laptop Lending Program (LLP).
However, recent budget cuts have forced McGill to make substantial reductions to library services. These include the end of 24-hour access to libraries, the move of the Life Sciences Library, and the cancellation of the LLP. The LLP has since been replaced with a bursary fund that can be accessed via the Minerva financial aid menu. While the first two cuts doubtlessly affect more students than the latter, surprisingly few people are discussing the repercussions of losing the LLP.
The bursary fund, though more cost-effective to the university than the LLP, is nowhere near as accessible. The fund is unable to help students whose laptops have been stolen or broken just before an important due date. It also adds another hurdle for students who do not have the means to purchase a laptop on their own. The financial aid process is already filled with lengthy applications that take up a great deal of time to complete.
The single greatest divide in education today is social class. Students from wealthier families have been shown more likely to succeed academically than their poorer classmates who lack the resources needed for academic assistance. McGill, consistently ranked as one of the top 25 universities in the world, certainly is wildly cheaper than its American counterparts—but for many students, the costs of tuition, books, rent, and living are exorbitant.
The financial burden placed upon students can be offset by loans and scholarships, but these simply cannot cover everything. Students still find themselves unable to afford an apartment close to campus or a summer-long unpaid internship. The LLP managed to offset the costs of a computer without the paperwork or hassle of applying for funding. Under the new Bursury fund, students with financial difficulties will be forced to spend late nights at the library, using slow computers instead of working at home while they wait for approval.
McGill students seem to have little trouble rallying themselves around a cause; our campus has witnessed countless protests and demonstrations over the past few years. McGill students are also in the midst of a massive campaign for equity and inclusivity. While ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and values are all acknowledged, we seem to gloss over the practical challenges of socio-economic differences.
In this respect, the playing field can never be truly equal, but the loss of programs such as the LPP only widen the ever growing gap of inequality amongst students. For a community so focused on action, equity, and inclusivity, it’s unclear why McGill students are more focused on minute matters such as the installation of bike gates than they are the loss of such a beneficial program for their community.