Notes from Council: UASU sees their sixth councillor resignation in 2022-23
Out of the 35 seats on Students' Council, 14 are now vacant.
“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
On April 4, Students’ Council received a councillor’s resignation, discussed proposed implementations from the Aboriginal Relations and Recommendations Committee (ARRC) report, and approved the campus safety recommendations and residence policy updates.
Council receives their sixth resignation of 2022-23
Former engineering councillor Chanpreet Singh resigned from his position on council, effective after the April 4 meeting. Singh’s resignation marks the sixth in 2022-23.
Singh’s letter of resignation discussed councils’ March 7 meeting, specifically the debate on the reduction of seats in council. During the discussion of the bill, Singh “along with a few other councillors, left the council meeting, which lead to the council quorum being lost.”
When council lost quorum, they lost the minimum number of councillors that needed to be present in order to continue conducting council’s business, meaning they were unable to vote on the motion. However, according to Singh, council was able to regain quorum and proceed.
Singh said that he was later informed that he violated the governance code of conduct; namely that councillors, in accordance with Bylaw 100, should “not deliberately delay or impede meetings and functions of the UASU.”
Singh said that his leaving was due to his concerns over the reduction of council size not being heard, specifically concerns about diversity within council. In past discussions of reducing council size, there were worries that the seat reduction would lead to a reduction of students’ ability to sit on council and have their voices heard, especially for minority groups.
“I have the right to recuse myself and leave a meeting, if I don’t feel the meeting is of any productive use of my time, or my viewpoints are just being ignored and buried without any valid responses,” Singh said in his letter.
“Councillors exert their personal views on all members of the council, and dictate what is the right way and wrong [way]. Freedom of expression is under severe threat at council.”
During speakers’ business, Council Speaker, Christian Zukowski, commented on the statements made in Singh’s resignation letter.
“The various perspectives on the question of reducing council size were heard. However, the right to be heard does not equal the right to veto. In the end, the deliberative process prevailed.”
Singh’s resignation leaves 14 council seats unoccupied.
The ARRC report is based off lived experiences, says ARRC member
Council approved the recommendations from the Aboriginal Relations and Recommendations Committee (ARRC) report, and planned to discuss items from the report at the next council meeting.
After consultation with the Indigenous community and UASU service staff, the ARRC report builds on recommendations made by ARRC members from 2018-19. The report aims to “provide an educational basis on reconciliation and Indigenization for the UASU.”
The recommendations made in the report focused on education of Indigenous matters to the UASU. These measures of educating include giving council access to training that helps create safer spaces on council for Indigenous peoples, and blanket exercises on the histories and ongoing struggles facing Indigenous students. The report also requests that this education be ongoing, rather than occurring in singular incidences.
The report also recommended that the UASU provide education to councillors on respectful engagement with Indigenous peoples and the integration of programming that caters to Indigenous students.
In introducing the report, ARRC chair Chantel Akinneah said that “the theme of the report is to highlight some of the barriers faced by students on campus, specifically Indigenous students.”
The report proposes structural changes to the UASU that will address the barriers Indigenous students face.
Another ARRC member and writer of the report, Daniela Carbajal, said that the report isn’t just structural, but also focuses on lived experiences of Indigenous students.
“The report is based on people’s lived experiences with colonization and all the trauma that comes with it. I hope you don’t just see a report, but you see that these are things that a whole society has to deal with,” Carbajal said.
“The recommendations are more about giving the same attention and resources to Indigenous programming, especially things being hosted or co-hosted by the UASU.”
The motion to adopt the recommendation section of the ARRC report passed unanimously.
Students dissatisfied with meal plans, according to residence policy updates
Council discussed the updated facts of the residence policy following consultation with senior leadership in campus services and different residence associations.
The updated facts of the policy included acknowledgments that the cost of meal plans in 2022-23 has increased three per cent since the 2021-22 year, in addition to a 2.25 per cent increase in rental costs since the same year.
The policy adds that in the upcoming year, the cost of the meal plan is going to increase by another six per cent. 56 per cent of residents were dissatisfied with the food quality, while 54 per cent were dissatisfied with the variety of meal plans in a 2021-22 survey.
The policy also states that student leaders and first-year residency students must purchase the meal plan, as well as upper years in Schaffer Hall.
Fees for students to be members of the residence associations will also be collected by the university, simultaneously with other fees that the university collects from residency tenants. The updates also specify that these fees are set by Residence Associations through the UASU.
After no discussion, the policy updates passed unanimously.
Campus security and safety reports “address prevalent issues” in protective services
Council then moved to approve the recommendations made in the campus security and safety review reports.
The previous years’ policy committee made the recommendation to “address prevalent issues with the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) and Edmonton Police Service that became prominent following the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The updates to the report included advocacy for police officers to acquire mental health qualifications. Additionally, the report recommended conducting wellness checks through social services workers. Improved safety on transit, specifically through the integration of police officers and social workers, was also discussed in the recommendations.
The updates came from reviewing “where the policy was lacking and where it could be updated,” said Christian Fotang, the vice-president (external).
Nursing councillor Ibukun Ojo said that the updates received “a lot of feedback and different opinions within the community … so it’s able to respond to a lot of the concerns that come from diverse groups.”
The motion to approve the recommendations from the campus safety and security review report then passed unanimously.