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Notes from Council: Council debates potential mask mandate and World Cup watch parties

"There's no such thing as personal choices when it comes to respiratory viruses," councillor says.

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

At the November 22 Students’ Council meeting, council discussed the potential of reinstating an indoor mask mandate, and if the Students’ Union (UASU) should hold watch parties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Business Students’ Association and Lister Hall Students’ Association also proposed Faculty Association Membership Fee (FAMF) renewals.

Business Students’ Association and Lister Hall Students’ Association request FAMF renewal

The Business Students’ Assocation (BSA) FAMF renewal request was presented by BSA President Scott Roberts, and Vice-President (finance) Emma Neilsen.

BSA provides different events and services for students at the Alberta School of Business, and according to Neilsen over 3,000 students are represented by the association.

“The purpose of our FAMF is outlined in our constitution, and it’s assigned to four main categories that directly benefit business students,” Roberts said. The categories are student club funding, student wellness initiatives, conference funding, and projects of public good.

BSA is requesting to renew their FAMF of $10 per Fall and Winter semester, with collection starting in Fall 2023 and ending in Winter 2027. Students will have the option to opt-out through a refund form.

Lister Hall Students’ Association (LHSA) President Michael Griffiths also presented a FAMF renewal request to council.

Griffiths said that as a resident association, LHSA’s job is to “represent and advocate for the students, and provide additional programming.”

LHSA is requesting to renew their FAMF, which is a one-time $75 fee for all residents of Lister Hall. Collection would start on September 1, 2023, and end on August 31, 2026. An opt-out option would remain available.

Councillors debate potential of an indoor mask mandate

UASU Vice-President (finance) Julia Villoso and Vice-President (student life) Joannie Fogue, motioned to discuss the potential of reinstating a mask mandate. This follows the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta’s (AASUA) decision to request the U of A to reinstate the indoor mask mandate.

The motion moved into debate, and councillors shared their opinions.

Ibukun Ojo, a nursing councillor, said that while she is not in favour of the severity of COVID-19 mandates that were once instated, it is valuable to encourage things like masking and getting a fourth dose.

“If we start these conversations now … it will be easier. But if we’re just saying ‘no masks,’ and suddenly one day everybody has to mask again, that’s a harder sell for people,” Ojo said.

Lionel Liu, a kinesiology, sport, and recreation councillor, agreed that masks should be encouraged.

“In the current state, masks should be strongly encouraged. If you feel sick you should wear a mask, [or even] stay home,” Liu said.

Alex Dorscheid, Board of Governors representative, said that people should be able to choose to wear a mask or not.

“People are tired of it. They want to go to school, they want to live their lives. They know their own risk tolerance … they can wear masks on their own personal will,” Dorscheid said. “You can get your boosters, there are very effective vaccines available. You can do what you want to do with it.”

Haruun Ali, an arts councillor, said that “there’s no such thing as personal choices when it comes to respiratory viruses.”

“Masks have been proven to work, they’re proven to limit COVID-19 from spreading … we might as well get ahead of the curve,” he said.

Daniela Carbajal Velez, a science councillor, said that council is not qualified to be discussing this topic.

“We’re not in a place to be saying what we should or should not do. We really need consultation from medical professionals,” she said.

Villoso ended the debate, and thanked councillors for their contributions.

Council discusses the potential of hosting World Cup watch parties

Ali and Liu brought forward a motion to direct the Executive Committee to organize watch parties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Ali said that students have asked him if the UASU was planning on hosting watch parties for the World Cup. According to Ali, students also expressed their desire on social media for watch parties to be held.

“I want to be clear, I condemn human-rights violations. Laws in Qatar do need to change,” Ali said. “I just want people to be able to watch soccer, and students have been clear that they want to watch soccer.”

Ali also mentioned that in Executive Committee minutes from a recent meeting, “staff were willing to organize [watch parties] and the executives were the ones to say no.”

“We can 100 per cent talk about this,” Fogue said. However, she mentioned that under Bylaw 1100, the Executive Committee has the authority to make a final decision on this matter.

According to the November 17 Executive Committee minutes, the Executive Committee voted to “direct UASU staff not to stream the FIFA World Cup games.”

In the minutes, UASU President Abner Monteiro said that some students could feel uncomfortable if the games were played on SUBStage in the Students’ Union Building (SUB).

“There are a lot of games — every single day for a large portion of the day — and there are students who won’t feel comfortable coming into SUB during that entire time, as they have stated to Executives,” Monteiro said.

However, he made it clear that “students are more than welcome to organize their own [watch parties].”

Chanpreet Singh, an engineering councillor, said that watch parties are something for an events team or student group to organize, not Students’ Council. He also noted Students’ Council does not need to comment on the politics in Qatar.

“We should not discuss other countries and their own political affiliations,” he said.

Ali then decided he wanted the motion to be dropped, as he thought it wouldn’t gain enough support. Because the motion entered debate and became property of council, it could only be tabled for the next meeting or voted on.

Singh and Ali left the meeting which resulted in a loss of quorum, and the motion was tabled to the next meeting.

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2023-24 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science. She enjoys skiing, walks in the river valley, and traveling.

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