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Notes from Council: UASU approves two student fee increases, executives say farewell

"I leave the UASU with stronger relationships and a better reputation, not just on campus, but in the city, the province, and in the country," UASU president says.

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

At the April 18 Students’ Council meeting, the 2022-23 executive gave their farewell addresses, council discussed increases to the student health and dental plans, and approved their budget for next year. 

In his farewell address, Board of Governors (BoG) representative Alex Dorscheid discussed some highlights of his term — including the elimination of the tuition instalment fee, advocating for the university to donate $200,000 towards the Campus Food Bank, and his work in expanding hybrid education at the U of A. 

“If you’ve read the draft strategic plan, hybrid learning is something that’s been highlighted in it. They recognize that this is the future of the U of A,” Dorscheid said.

Vice-president (external) Christian Fotang highlighted the provincial cap on tuition increases that was announced for domestic students this year. Additionally, he discussed his advocacy towards the $13.5 million allocated for transit safety in the City of Edmonton’s budget, and increased funding for the student work program. 

“As much as I take pride in these accomplishments, I recognize that our work is far from over. There is still so much to be done, so many challenges to be faced, and so many battles to be won. The fight for a better tomorrow never ends,” Fotang said. 

Julia Villoso, vice-president (operations and finance), discussed some of the challenges she faced during her term during her farewell address.

“I’m leaving this position bittersweet. I absolutely love the Students’ Union, along with many of the people I got to meet,” Villoso said. “It was hard, although there were things I was able to accomplish and was genuinely passionate about.”

“People were telling me that I don’t deserve to be in the position that I’m in, nor am I qualified to be here and take up space. I haven’t said that all year because I know my actions don’t only affect me, but the rest of the organization and my team … I didn’t realize that I was going to sign up for one of the worst years I’ve ever had for my mental health.”

Villoso asked councillors to reach out to those who are struggling, whether they are a friend, colleague, or loved one.

“We are all in emotionally laborious roles. I just ask that we don’t continue to worsen it for one another … if you notice that your friend, colleague, or loved one may be going through something, please reach out and check on them.”

During his farewell address, President Abner Monteiro acknowledged the state of the UASU.

“In the work we do, relationships are crucial to better support students … I leave the UASU with stronger relationships and a better reputation, not just on campus, but in the city, the province, and in the country,” Monteiro said. 

Monteiro highlighted his work with the other executives, including his work with vice-president (academic) Gurleen Kaur on the Zero Textbook Cost which was estimated to save students a total of $7.8 million. He also mentioned his work with Villoso and vice-president (student life) Joannie Fogue in saving an estimated $2 million for students over two years in the student health and dental plan, including gender-affirming care at no cost.

Monteiro also noted his advocacy with Fotang to secure $9.6 million toward needs-based financial aid, and how he worked with Fogue to allocate $1.6 million for mental health supports at the U of A.

Kaur and Fogue both did not give a farewell address. 

Student health and dental care plan fees to increase 4.3 per cent

Council then discussed the proposed increase to the student health and dental plan fee. The proposed increase is 4.3 per cent, or $13.55, for 2023-24.

Levi Flaman, a business councillor, voiced concerns about the lack of information about the proposal, saying that council has a “really bad habit of trying to slip things through in the last minute with insufficient notice and information.”

Kinesiology, sport, and recreation councillor, Lionel Liu, commented on the increase being another fiscal obligation for students, following the tuition increase coming next year.

Fogue and Villoso said that if the increase wasn’t approved there could be up to a $50 increase in 2025, and it could force the UASU to utilize their reserve funds.

“This could lead to potentially having no more money left in the reserve funds, which could lead to no longer having a plan,” Fogue said.

“If we don’t do it this year, we should expect for future years to have $50 increases, rather than the $13 that we’re proposing today,” Villoso added.

The motion passed with only two members — Liu and Flaman — in opposition.

Council approves 5.5 per cent increase to SU membership fee in 2023-24 budget 

Council then discussed the capital and operating budget for 2023-24 based on the budget principles that were previously passed. In accordance with these principles, the budget outlines that the UASU is expected to spend less than what it is expected to make. The budget also includes a UASU core membership fee increase of 5.5 per cent. 

Additionally, $60,000 is dedicated to future UASU projects. The budget also allocated $40,000 for student groups and another $30,000 to “make room for councillor compensation.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Amanda Sparks

Amanda Sparks was the 2022-23 Staff Reporter for The Gateway. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English. When she has time, you can usually find her under a pile of blankets crying over fictional characters, baking, hiking, or spending time with her cat.

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