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Students walk out of GFC meeting to reinforce demands that U of A take stronger action against sexual violence

Undergraduate student members of GFC walked out of the November 29 meeting to emphasize their demands that the U of A take stronger action against sexual violence.

Students walked out of General Faculties Council (GFC) to reinforce their demands that the University of Alberta take stronger action against sexual violence.

Undergraduate student members of GFC, the highest academic governing body at the U of A, walked out of the November 29 meeting to emphasize their demands that the U of A take stronger action against sexual violence. This walk out followed a letter released by student representatives approximately two weeks ago, which voiced 10 specific demands student representatives have for the post-secondary institution when combatting sexual violence.

Rowan Ley, president of the Students’ Union (UASU), began his comments by voicing the need for GFC’s help to combat sexual violence and misconduct.

“Unfortunately at the U of A serious allegations have been made against people in positions of power and trust,” Ley said. “At the UASU we’ve been fighting to stop this from happening to any other students and have been working towards justice for survivors.”

“Last week, we released 10 demands towards fixing how our community addresses sexual violence, but we need help from the rest of you in positions of power on campus, as GFC members, instructors, academic leaders, and peers.”

Ley then announced the student walk-out — inviting GFC members to join.

“The undergraduate student members of GFC will now be leaving this meeting in protest to reinforce the seriousness of our demands and to show GFC that this space needs to be safe for survivors,” he said. “We invite you to join us and we will send you all more information shortly.”

Shortly after walking out of the GFC meeting the UASU released a petition in support of “reforming sexual violence and response.”

GFC meeting adjourned to December 6

After students walked out of the meeting Carolyn Sale, associate professor and GFC elected faculty member, proposed adjourning the meeting to another date. She questioned whether the approval of the meeting agenda was necessary before adjourning the meeting.

“Do we need to proceed with approving [the meeting] agenda before we can move to adjourn this meeting to another date and time?” she asked. “We can’t of course proceed [the meeting] without the students — that would be blatantly wrong.”

Bill Flanagan, president of the U of A, said approval of the agenda was necessary before moving to adjourn the meeting.

After GFC members approved the agenda, Sale moved to adjourn the GFC meeting to January 17. Flanagan then requested GFC take a short break, voicing a desire to consult with Kate Peters, secretary to GFC, and Brad Hamdon, general counsel and university secretary.

Once GFC members returned from the break, Melissa Padfield, vice provost and university registrar, brought forward the idea of discussing stronger action against sexual violence at the November 29 meeting, instead of adjourning.

“I wonder if we could modify the motion to lead this change and discuss this issue today, so that it’s not delayed any further and all members of GFC are aware of the details as the UASU would like to have them made aware,” Padfield said.

Sale said that would not be possible, as the meeting agenda for the November 29 meeting had already been approved. This prompted Steve Patten, ex-officio GFC member, to propose adjourning the GFC meeting to a date earlier than January 17.

“I would be open to the suggestion of a new date as a friendly amendment [to Sale’s motion],” Patten said. “I think [Sale] made a point that we need a date to maintain our agenda. I really [appreciated Padfield] saying it is important we need to move forward with our business, but I think it is wrong to move forward without the students.”

“Approving [Sale’s motion] would be an act of standing in solidarity with students on a really important issue… [and] I am hoping that someone like [Peters] and others are busy thinking they could suggest a friendly amendment [to Sale’s motion] which would [change the adjournment to] a new day in December.”

GFC then amended Sale’s motion, and adjourned the meeting to December 6.

Areeha Mahal

Areeha Mahal was the 2021-22 News Editor and previously served as a Deputy Arts & Culture Editor and Deputy News Editor. Additionally, she is a second-year Biology and English student. When she’s not learning the Krebs cycle for the millionth time, Areeha enjoys stargazing, baking pies, and listening to Bob Dylan.

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