“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
During the July 26 Students’ Council meeting, council received presentations from Elev Homes, the sexual violence response coordinator on changes to the Code of Student Behaviour, and on the Students’ Union Building (SUB) Master Plan.
Changes to Code of Student Behaviour and Sexual Violence Policy
Deb Eerkes, University of Alberta sexual violence response coordinator, presented to council on changes to the Code of Student Behaviour and the Sexual Violence Policy.
In February, the Government of Alberta issued a letter to public institutions directing them to update their sexual violence policies. According to Eerkes, the letter’s four general directives were to update and modernize policies and procedures related to sexual violence, ensure procedural fairness for the complainant and respondent, infuse trauma-informed practices, and align with best practices.
Eerkes said the Code of Student Behaviour contains the procedure for complaints of sexual violence against a student, which is why changes to the policy are necessary. She added the Code of Student Behaviour “has not been substantially reviewed” in over 20 years.
“The Code of Student Behaviour had to be compliant with the minister’s letter and checklist and it was not at all in very many ways,” Eerkes said.
Changes to the Sexual Violence Policy will be limited because of its recency, but include translating legal terms into plain language and the creation of the Options Navigation Network. The Options Navigation Network will consist of institutional units such as the Office of the Dean of Students. This will help victims to understand their options and how to move forward with complaints.
“When someone comes to them and says, ‘hey, I have been subjected to sexual or gender-based violence, I want to know what my options are,’ they can be 100 per cent clear and accurate about what the options are and what each of those options means,” Eerkes said.
Both policies improved sections on privacy and confidentiality. Additionally, Eerkes said the policy has been “decriminalized;” this is to ensure there were not any overlaps with the criminal system and less focus on punishment, focusing on the learning environment instead.
“We should be talking about our learning environment, and how to make it safe, approachable, supportive, and vibrant — the way our mission says we should,” Eerkes said.
Following the presentation, Joannie Fogue, Students’ Union (UASU) vice-president (student life), asked Eerkes how the student misconduct procedure will be revised to ensure that the respondent and claimant have equal grounds to appeal.
Eerkes answered that in the revised code both the claimant and respondent will have the right to be heard and the right to an impartial decision maker. Whereas in the previous code, only the respondent had those rights.
In the new code, respondents can appeal on any grounds and the claimant can now appeal on two grounds. The claimant can appeal when they did not have the right to be heard or they did not have an impartial decision maker, Eerkes said.
“[Claimants] don’t have the full rights of any kind of appeal the way that the respondent does and that’s strictly because the [Post-Secondary Learning Act] is written the way it is,” Eerkes said.
Eerkes explained that if both parties had the same right to appeal it would result in a never-ending process.
“You would have this never-ending loop because you’d have an appeal granted [that] would send it back to a decision maker … which was subject to appeal by the other person … [and] you’d never get the end of a process, which is not trauma-informed.”
Elev Homes present their student housing services to council
Elev Homes co-founders, Kevin Mpunga and Jean Bruce Koua, presented to council. Kwasi Boateng, Elev Homes’s third co-founder, was not at council. Elev Homes provides renting and living spaces for students by providing services that assist tenants throughout the renting process.
The presentation introduced the services offered by Elev Homes and what they can do for U of A students. Services offered by Elev Homes include matching students with a home, booking viewings, and making lease agreements easy to understand.
Haruun Ali, an arts councillor, asked what agreements Elev Homes currently has with the UASU.
Mpunga answered the UASU and Elev Homes have verbal agreements and a letter of intent, stating that Elev Homes intends to work with the UASU to help students with housing needs, which is in alignment with the UASU’s mission.
Marc Dumouchel, UASU general manager, was in support of the startup company.
“I think they’ve done a really good job. I’m glad that the [UASU executives] brought them to [council] to see what we could do to support them,” Dumouchel said.
Students’ Union Building Master Plan presented to council
Dumouchel and Stephen Boyd, an architect for the UASU, presented the SUB Master Plan which is a document that will guide the future renovations and development of SUB.
“We want to create a future for SUB that combines long-term planning with a stable funding source, and most importantly to students, the integration of sustainability as the guiding design principle.”
The building plan is a strategic plan for SUB and an outline for long-term development. The process involves the SUB planning committee and the design team. The plan will consider sustainability, community, economics, and history.
“It’s an outline of a long-term development path for the Students’ Union Building. It won’t be a static document,” Dumouchel said. “[The SUB Master Plan] will be a living document that evolves and adapts over time.”
The plan included possible construction projects including a new atrium space, a new north entrance, and rearranging Dinwoodie Lounge.