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SU submits claim for judicial ruling on Lister policy changes

April Hudson
News Editor
Jan 16, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Jan. 16, 2013.

The Students’ Union officially filed a judicial review against the University of Alberta Friday afternoon to appeal changes made to Lister Hall over the summer.

Six months have passed since the university announced unilateral changes to the student residence, and the window for this particular legal action was set to close Sunday, prompting the SU executives to execute a plan that had been bounced around since the beginning of the dispute.

“From the very beginning, we’ve wanted to work with (the university) to find the best solution. The manner in which this all came about, obviously, is not optimal — and going to (judicial review) is not the best solution, either — but at this point we just wanted to make sure we keep all our options open,” said Students’ Union Vice-President (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar.

“We’re trying to make lemonade out of really terrible lemons, and I think that really speaks to why we felt like (the judicial review) … was almost forced upon us.”

Legal action is the latest in a long line of attempts by the SU to get the university to back down from its decision to implement changes, which included changes to the staffing structure and alcohol policy. Negotiations have petered out and no compromise is in sight, according to Sumar.

“I think, in certain areas, we’ve actually gone backwards,” he admitted, when asked what headway the SU has made over the past six months.

“We continue to be optimistic about the university’s ability to resolve this as an internal issue, as opposed to taking this to the court and having the court decide on it.”

The judicial review means the Court of Queen’s Bench will look over the case and decide whether the U of A violated its own policies and rules in order to make the changes to Lister.

For a judicial review, the applicant — in this case, the Students’ Union — needs to prove how the public body — the university — made a mistake.

SU Law Councillor Mario Babic expressed concerns in November that the SU executive had not properly presented facts to Students’  Council.

At the time, he said although there may have been justified grounds for the pursuit of a judicial review, those grounds were not elucidated to Council.

However, Babic told The Gateway in an email interview this week that, after a cursory reading of the documents, he believes the Students’ Union has a strong argument.

“It is not a baseless claim by any means. I look forward to getting some free time to delve into the documents fully as to improve my understanding of the entire situation,” he said.

Up until this week, the Students’ Union has kept quiet about considering a judicial review, which according to a November interview with SU President Colten Yamagishi was to protect the university and not shed a negative light on the situation.

That has changed, now that a review has been officially filed.

“We just wanted to make sure we were transparent about the whole situation … We wanted to make sure the admin wasn’t given carte blanche to abuse their power or suppress students,” Sumar explained.

“And it’s not just about Lister students … It’s about protecting all of our students, and making sure that the university doesn’t have the ability to just say, ‘We’re making these changes — deal with it.’”

Sumar said he has heard a lot of negativity from students in Lister in the six months since the changes took place.

He also said he has been made aware of numerous situations with students in Lister that have been handled poorly by Residence Services recently, although he clarified many of these situations are hearsay.

“It’s not really a good situation there. I don’t want to use the term ‘police state,’ because that has very negative connotations to it, but you see a few underlying characteristics of that type of situation,” he said.

“It just seems like what’s happening there is wrong. And I think the way in which we as the SU executive are reacting is not just necessarily to what is going on in Lister, but how that could expand over the entire campus.”

Although Sumar says the SU has not heard back from the university yet in regards to the judicial review, a statement obtained from U of A administration acknowledges the SU’s actions.

“The university has received the SU’s application for a judicial review and is reviewing it,” the statement read.

“We will not be discussing this further publicly as the matter is in litigation.”



Comments

Good job SU.



Posted by Kirsten on Jan 14, 2013

How much money is being spent for the supposed breaking of policy that effects all of about 1200 students? Weak SU. Weak.



Posted by Student on Jan 14, 2013

Thanks SU for not simply backing down from this issue. The University administration advocates working with its students while simultaneously ignoring them. It’s sad when they will only respond when it’s convenient for them or if they feel they have something to gain. I’m happy with who’s actually representing us.



Posted by Sean on Jan 14, 2013

Great. Both sides legal fees come out of the pockets of students. Lister was a disease filled hell hole. It needed to change. Where was the SU when change was needed? Someone had to change something. This isn’t the hill to die on SU.



Posted by Johnny on Jan 14, 2013

@Student

Reread this please:
“And it’s not just about Lister students … It’s about protecting all of our students, and making sure that the university doesn’t have the ability to just say, ‘We’re making these changes — deal with it.’”

It’s not just about direct impact it is also about the principle.

As for the numbers: Lister is closer to 1800 students if you want to ignore the former residents who feel passionately about this issue and any student who would like the University to listen to its students more.

1800 is about 6% of the undergraduate population. The SU works with at least a 1.5 million dollar budget, 6% of that is 90000. So in the most basic sense you could say Lister residents are entitled to 90000 of the budget directly benefiting them. I’m pretty sure SU budget meetings, but I can’t remember, revealed not even half of that was ready to be allotted to legal fees for this issue. Its unfortunate that SU money will need to be spent but if you think its a waste to fight for the student voice then you probably aren’t the type of person to take advantage of SU programming or services anyways so you’ll be ok!



Posted by High Priest Kony Mongoose on Jan 15, 2013

HAHAHA Yeah right!  What a complete joke.  I call B.S.! This has absolutely nothing to do with protecting ALL UofA students and EVERYTHING to do with a vendetta regarding Lister.  THIS IS CLEARLY ONLY ABOUT LISTER. The SU has already spent way too much time on this and made it into a much bigger issue than it should have been.  And now that the changes have been in place for a while and the sky didn’t fall instead of moving on to other important issues they continue to waste time on this. What a complete contradiction for the SU to say they are suing the University in the name of protecting students when the University clearly made these changes for no other reason than to protect students.

Its time for the SU Exec to move on and by move on I mean move out and stop wasting time and students money on this.  Stop lying about the real reason why you are doing this.  It is insulting to the other 94% of students. If this was really about ALL UofA students then you why didn’t you pick a more important “issue” that actually represents a much larger majority of students.  Thanks for wasting my money SU. :(



Posted by i_want_a_refund! on Jan 15, 2013

Our SU operating budget is approximately $10.5 million dollars



Posted by Colten Yamagishi on Jan 15, 2013

Worst…SU…Ever…



Posted by Ona Budget on Jan 15, 2013

Colten, that is not the point. Lister Hall is only 6% of the student population. Putting your other promises “on the back burner” is absolute bullshit, as that is what you promised 30,000 students; not 1800. Lister Hall is the University of Alberta’s building. I think you should consider that before you try and fight what they have done with it.  At the end of the day, the LHSA is A STUDENT GROUP!!!!! Why don’t people understand that? If you were actually concerned about the “student voice” at the University, you would ASK THE STUDENTS what they want done with their money and not go spending is on causes that more than 90% of your students aren’t involved in. I live in Lister, and have for many years…. but this needs to stop. If you want to be a voice for the students, then actually listen to them.



Posted by Colten.. open your eyes on Jan 15, 2013

“...the University clearly made these changes for no other reason than to protect students.”

I think you meant for no other reason than to protect their own asses. Changes that result in less supervised alcohol consumption (not less alcohol consumption) and removing their employees involvement with the students association in order to extinguish their abilities to contrast policies residents don’t agree with only benefits the University’s liabilities.

I hope you don’t miss your $1.34 too much! :(



Posted by High Priest Kony Mongoose on Jan 15, 2013

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