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Notes From Council: Concerns about tuition increase process, delayed timelines within council discussed

Following a six per cent increase to international student tuition and delays on council committees, council addressed concerns and queries.

“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.

At the Students’ Council meeting on June 28, council voiced concerns about the current tuition increase process for international students, delayed timelines for committees, and items being brought to council on short notice.

During open forum, a staff member from The Gateway asked Abner Monteiro, University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) president, to elaborate on comments made at the recent Board of Governors (BoG) meeting made by Steven Dew, U of A provost and vice-president (academic). Dew had stated that students indicated there was “no clear need for further consultation” regarding the six per cent tuition increase for international students. 

Monteiro answered that the International Students’ Association (ISA) and UASU met with Dew to ensure that all opinions were heard, however, the university “felt that the item was ready to move forward.”

A follow-up question was asked on the consultation done for the tuition increase at the Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee (TBAC) earlier in the year, as previous UASU executives did not include plans for further consultation in their reports to council. Clarification was asked for what the plans for consultation were at the time. 

Monteiro answered that the previous executives saw the proposal in TBAC for the tuition increase in April, which was during the end of their terms. From that point, the proposal was not brought up until being placed onto the Academic Planning Committee agenda.

“There was a slight miscommunication because of the fact that everything was happening during the executive transition and final exams.”

The last question asked by The Gateway was what the UASU plans to do regarding the continuity of knowledge during the transition period of UASU executives to address this issue.

Monteiro said that in conversations with Dew, he was told that the university does have a responsibility to not deal with such matters during a transition period. Monteiro voiced to Dew that the process needs to be done earlier and received a commitment that consultation won’t overlap with the transition period in future.

Question period brings up questions about consultation, engagement, and timelines

During question period, Marc Dumouchel, UASU general manager, said that because the Sustainability and Capital Fund Committee (SCFC) will not be formulated until August, planning needs to be done prior to that date due to the urgency of construction timelines. 

Simran Dhillon, a science councillor, asked Haruun Ali, an arts councillor, why the nominating committee is behind on the selection of committees such as SCFC, Student Group Committee, and Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Committee.  

Ali said that there is “leftover work from the last [nominating committee],” and the senate candidate should have been selected by the last nominating committee. According to Ali, the reason the timeline is delayed and set for the end of July is because nominating committee is trying to select candidates that are actively engaged. He added that the committee was set up late on May 31 compared to last year’s which was set up on May 6. 

“Unfortunately, this year, it’s just due to timing, which has been hard this year. So hopefully, we can take this as a good lesson,” Ali said.

Chanpreet Singh, an engineering councillor, asked Monteiro how he plans to address the lack of consultation with international students during the tuition increase process.

Monteiro answered that work will be done with the university and the Graduate Students’ Association to ensure that the consultation process is improved.

“[We will be working] to ensure that we can consult with everyone who is going to be affected by these proposals … and also ensuring that consultation is done earlier,” Monteiro said.       

Jashan Mahal, an arts councillor, said consultation during the tuition increase process has left international students feeling “powerless” and asked Monteiro why it is not possible to have an international student representative sit on TBAC. 

Monteiro voiced the need for more than one form of consultation, rather than just TBAC.

“[I] want to ensure that international students get the opportunity to make sure they’re at the table; I think the fact that we only have one form of consultation in TBAC is extremely problematic.”

Milan Regmi, an arts councillor, asked about the plans to include departmental associations (DA) in the Student Representative Association (SRA) Summit so that there is collaboration on student issues between DAs, SRAs, and faculty associations. 

Monteiro responded by saying that DAs are crucial in the student governance structure and he will work towards seeing how DAs can be supported and building relationships with DAs.

Levi Flaman, a business councillor, made a comment stating that the late start of terms and committee timelines “sucks,” however, council should be working “twice as fast” to catch up.

“When we’re appointing [late] to university boards, like the Senate, that reflects poorly on us as an organization, and it only fuels fire to the argument that the university doesn’t take us seriously,” Flaman said.

Council discusses proposed changes to collective agreement

Julia Villoso, UASU vice-president (operations and finance), moved to ratify changes to the Collective Agreement between the UASU and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1368.

Council then moved in-camera to discuss the motion. 

As council moved back into ex-camera, Flaman said that he is opposed to the motion as the information relevant was given to council on short notice. 

“Regardless of our personal circumstances, we all deserve the full weekend to absorb and digest any and all information related to any and all motions we’re voting on,” Flaman said.

Dumouchel clarified that the late notice was “not our preference” and that the reason the information was not distributed earlier was because of security issues. 

Flaman motioned to postpone the item to the next Students’ Council meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

Martin Bendico

Martin Bendico is the 2022 - 23 News Editor. Martin is a business student with a major in Business Economics and Law and a minor in Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Management. He is also working towards a Certificate in Real Estate and a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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