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Notes from Council: Student groups present 2023-24 fee proposals

The Gateway and International Students’ Association presented their fee proposals for 2023-24.

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

NOTE: At the November 28 council meeting, The Gateway presented a DFU proposal to council. Due to a Conflict of Interest, reporters only included basic information about the fee included in the presentation, but left out answers and statements given during question period. To prevent further COIs, Gateway reporters sat apart from the campaign members presenting and are not a part of the campaign itself. More information on the presentation is included in the recording of the meeting.

At the University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) Students’ Council meeting on November 28, The Gateway presented their dedicated fee unit (DFU) proposal, and the International Students’ Association (ISA) presented their faculty association membership fee (FAMF) proposal for the 2024 UASU election. Initially, ISA presenters misspoke and said they were presenting a DFU proposal, but later clarified their proposal was for a FAMF.

Emily Williams, former Gateway Editor-in-Chief and current board chair of the Gateway Student Journalism Society, presented on behalf of The Gateway. The Gateway is the U of A’s independent student-run media outlet.

The proposed fee is $2.64 per fall and winter semester, and $1.32 per spring and summer semester. Augustana students would not pay the fee. Students would have the option to opt-out. The fee would start from fall 2024, and continue for a five-year term. Williams said the fee would support an expanded reporting staff, more frequent print issues, and increased student outreach.

Next, co-presidents Amirali Bigleri and Aiman Saif presented on the ISA’s fee (ISAF). Council voted to allow the ISA to present, as they mistakenly submitted an unfinished version of the proposal. The Gateway requested the updated version of the ISA’s presentation. The ISA rejected the request.

The proposed fee is $5.00 for full-time undergraduate international students and $2.50 for part-time undergraduate international students, per fall and winter semester. The fee would apply to all U of A campuses.

Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) councillor Jillian Aisenstat asked if the fee would apply to international students on CSJ and Augustana campuses. Saif said that the ISA isn’t planning on collecting a fee from these students, because the fee amount would be small due to the population size of international students on each campus. Bigleri then clarified that CSJ and Augustana international students would pay the ISAF. Bigleri later clarified to The Gateway that international students at CSJ and Augustana will pay the same amount as those on North Campus, but the fees collected will go to the Student Representative Associations (SRA) on those campuses.

The Gateway reached out to the ISA to clarify the amount Augustana and CSJ students would pay. They did not respond in time for publication to clarify how much students would pay. The ISA later clarified that students on CSJ and Augustana would pay $5.00 per fall and winter semester.

ISAF would be implemented starting fall 2024 for a three-year term. Students would be able to opt-out. Students in co-ops and internships would be exempt from the fee.

According to the presentation, the fee would help the ISA provide international students with programs and services. For instance, ISAF would fund the International Students’ Benefit Card (I-Card), which offers student discounts and benefits in Edmonton. It would also fund the ISA’s award program, events and welcome program, community support fund, and mental health and wellness services.

ISA not registered as a society, council discovers

Council members found that the ISA had not registered under Alberta’s Societies Act. As such, the ISA does not fulfill the requirement to run for a DFU.

Arts councillor Nathan Thiessen referred to ISA Bylaw 700, which states that “the ISA shall submit its audited annual financial statements to the UASU as per UASU Bylaw 8200, and within one month to the provincial registry as per the Societies Act at the end of the fiscal year.”

“When was the last time the ISA submitted an audited financial statement by an external auditor, in accordance with bylaws?” Thiessen asked.

Saif replied that when the bylaws were written, the ISA was not collecting a fee and ”refrained from doing a … professional audit, because that would’ve cost an additional amount which was not added in [their] budget.”

In a follow-up question, Vice-president (operations and finance) Levi Flaman quoted section 3.1 of ISA Bylaw 100. The bylaw states that “the ISA shall be registered as a society under the Societies Act of Alberta.”

”When I looked at the registered societies list, I could not find [the] ISA,” Flaman said. “So, are you registered?”

Flaman cited “at least two” breaches of the ISA’s legislation that council had already counted. “How many more are there?” Flaman asked.

ISA president apologizes for “oversight,” says proposal is for FAMF

Bigleri said that the bylaws were written during the ISAF proposal in 2021. They have not been updated since. According to Bigleri, past ISA members did not get approval for a DFU. Instead, they “changed plans and went for a Faculty Association Membership Fee (FAMF).” The UASU collects a FAMF on behalf of a faculty association from their members’ tuition, which is then distributed to the faculty association for their use.

”I apologize for this oversight. It’s a mistake on our side,” Bigleri said. “We are not currently considered a society.”

Vice-president (student life) Michael Griffiths asked the ISA to clarify whether they intended the proposal to be for a DFU or a FAMF.

Saif said she misspoke and that the fee was actually for a FAMF.

UASU President Christian Fotang asked council to consider that the ISA “is still pretty recent, and it’s still growing and evolving.” In addition, he asked council to “try to ask questions from the context of the proposal.”

“I think there’s been a real attempt to show students that they’re trying to be good stewards of their memberships’ dollars. Along the way, there are going to be many growing pains and lessons. Just as many other faculty associations and DFUs have gone through,” Fotang said.

In addition, Speaker Christian Zukowski said that “presentations are a great opportunity for feedback and dialogue.” He told the ISA that if they make changes to their proposal, those changes can be forwarded to council.

Student expresses frustration with UASU’s response to Israel-Palestine conflict

During open forum, student Marija Cvetkovska expressed frustrations about getting in touch with UASU executives regarding the violence in Israel and Palestine. She read out the email correspondence between her, Griffiths, and Fotang. Cvetkovska took issue with the length of time it took to receive a response from UASU executives and secretarial staff.

“I kept on going on about the Palestinian conflict. And then at one point, the receptionist actually said ‘please stop harassing me’ and hung up the phone on me,” Cvetkovska said. “I almost feel like I’m getting silenced.”

Griffiths initially reached out to Cvetkovska, and encouraged her to “direct questions or concerns … to the executives,” per his email. During open forum, Griffiths told Cvetkovska that the UASU is comprised of students who are “working really hard to address the many student concerns that [they] get.” He added that their frontline staff “don’t have the capacity” to answer questions regarding the conflict. Griffiths said this is why he “offered [himself] to [her] as an outlet to engage in these conversations.”

Councillors approve release of funds not to exceed $10,000 for a Dewey’s washroom upgrade

Lastly, Flaman and science councillor Laurel Ford moved to approve the release of funds from the Sustainability and Capital Fund, to pay for the Dewey’s accessible and gender neutral washroom upgrade schematic design report. The release of funds will not exceed $10,000, according to the motion.

The motion passed unanimously.

UPDATE: At 1:05 p.m. on December 10, The Gateway updated information regarding the ISAF, including specific fee amounts for CSJ and Augustana and the scope of the fee.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

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