“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
COVID-19 pandemic causes loss of 100 Students’ Union jobs
Like the rest of the university, the Students’ Union has been forced to undergo changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students’ Union President Akanksha Bhatnagar said the Students’ Union recently laid off 100 employees as it shuts down most of its operations. Those laid off mostly consist of students in part-time, casual, and unionized engagements.
“It’s been really difficult at the SU as well, having to keep up with all these changes,” Bhatnagar said. “A lot of these positions were hosted by students, so we have to connect students with different supports during a time like this. However, with all our operations being closed…. we don’t have many options.”
The Students’ Union is also planning to launch a mental wellness campaign to help students navigate the hardships of the pandemic. To support international students, Bhatnagar said they will also be trying to incorporate a cultural lens in the campaign.
Students’ Union vice-president (student life) Jared Larsen said that they are looking at cancelling all events in large spaces for the rest of the school year and have postponed student group funding indefinitely.
In terms of Week of Welcome (WOW) which usually undergoes planning around this time, Larsen said he can not say whether the event will be held next year.
“Things are very touch-and-go and our staff are making multiple plans for different types of situations that may come up in the future.”
Golden Bears and Pandas Legacy Fund asks council for renewal
After failing to pass in the University of Alberta Students’ Union 2020 election, the Golden Bears and Pandas Legacy Fund is now asking for Students’ Council to consider renewing the fee at the current level until the next election.
Last election, the Golden Bears and Pandas Legacy Fund plebiscite did not pass, receiving 3980 ballots against the plebiscite and 3115 supporting it. However, since the fund ran as a plebiscite, student votes are not legally binding, allowing Students’ Council to still vote on the fate of the fund.
Council will vote at their next meeting on April 7 to decide whether the fee will be collected this year at the current rate on the condition it runs as a referendum next executive election.
At the March 24 council meeting, Anna Dunn, fourth-year recreation, sport and tourism student and the president-elect of the University Athletics Board (UAB), presented why the fund should be continued.
According to Dunn, the fund helps pay for pre-season travelling, audio and video technology for broadcasting games, honoraria for volunteer part-time assistant coaches, GUBA and Patches mascot costumes, promotes events and new equipment for athletes.
Dunn also said that the fund is not only used to support student-athletes, but also students not involved in sports through free admission to special tournaments, providing free perks such as food to students at certain games, and through employment.
Dunn said that the fund employs around 400 students, with a considerable amount being international students and only a quarter being student-athletes.
In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Dunn pointed out that many of the Golden Bears and Panda’s key fundraising events were cancelled, making the reliance on the fund greater than usual. Due to the pandemic, Dunn said UAB is also expecting a decrease in fundraising.
Native studies councillor Nathan Sunday asked how Dunn could justify Students’ Council keeping the fund, fundamentally overlooking the undergraduate student voice.
Dunn said she believes the fund did not pass in the elections due to a weak campaign.
“I don’t think we got the word out about what the legacy fund is truly about to undergraduate students,” she said. “We didn’t do a very good job of getting the message out about what this legacy fund really provides and how much it contributes to actually students, not just student-athletes.”