“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
At Students’ Council on January 23, the University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) held a special meeting — before their regularly scheduled one — to consider an appeal relating to a complaint made against a council member, under the Student Governance Code of Conduct (SGCC).
Afterwards, in council’s regularly scheduled meeting, Vice-president (academic) Pedro Almeida reported that the university is not implementing the Academic Materials Program (AMP) in fall 2024. In addition, he said the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) program has reached its highest usage yet.
Student requests appeal for complaint, saying councillor breached code of conduct
The Gateway received an email sent to councillors on January 11, from UASU Speaker Christian Zukowski, containing the special meeting’s agenda. In it, a statement was provided outlining that a complaint was submitted to Zukowski for review, citing that a member of council had “breached the SGCC.”
The SGCC is a regulatory document for actions and proceedings related to UASU student representations, the statement said. The SGCC exists to “create, enforce, and protect equitable practices and spaces in UASU governance.”
Per the statement, Zukowski initially ruled that the complaint required no further action. However, the complainant appealed this decision to Students’ Council for review.
In his email, Zukowski said that council’s consideration of the appeal would occur in closed session “to protect the confidentiality of those involved.” The identities of the complainant and defendant were not revealed outside of closed session.
As well, the document outlined that “specific information in regards to the complaint cannot be conveyed at this time to uphold the safety, security, and privacy of all those involved.” Details about the complaint were provided confidentially to Students’ Council during closed session.
In the adjudication process, council members were to listen to relevant testimony, and evaluate whether the complaint required further action. In which case, they could overrule Zukowski’s ruling.
The decision for the appeal was to occur in open session.
Council dismisses appeal due to “lack of standing”
During the special meeting, Zukowski presented on the SGCC model, to go over its purpose and applications to student governance. In addition, general guidelines involved in adjudicating whether further action needs to be taken in response to a complaint were discussed.
Following the presentation, law councillor Damon Atwood questioned whether the complaint being made was valid. He said “according to policy, only student representatives can actually make a complaint.”
Zukowski said that there had been a “procedural miscommunication” in conversations with students, where “it was indicated that the code of conduct was an option for them.”
“As individuals, we felt uncomfortable saying no, when that was provided as an option,” Zukowski said. He apologized to council members for the miscommunication.
“We can’t really hear an appeal of a decision made, in respect to a complaint [made] by a person who didn’t have standing to bring a complaint in the first place,” Atwood said. “It doesn’t seem to be very compliant with existing rules.”
Zuwkowski said that this was also something they could discuss in closed session. He also identified that the complainant was not present in the special meeting. In addition, he hadn’t “heard from them via email.”
Council then moved into closed session to discuss the decision for the appeal.
In open session shortly after, Board of Governors (BoG) representative Stephen Raitz and Atwood introduced the motion to dismiss the appeal due to lack of standing. Council unanimously approved the motion.
AMP not being implemented fall 2024, ZTC usage “has reached its highest level ever,” Almeida says
Council moved into their regularly scheduled meeting. As a part of the consent agenda, councillors approved the 2024 Student Representative Association (SRA) membership fee referendum questions for the Engineering Students’ Society (ESS), HUB Community Association (HCA), International House Community Council (IHCC), International Students’ Association (ISA), and Organization for Arts Students and Interdisciplinary Studies (OASIS).
Next, in Almeida’s oral executive report, he confirmed that the university is not implementing AMP in fall 2024.
“AMP not [being] implemented is a huge win for students from across the university,” Almeida said in his written report.
On October 10, council officially endorsed the UASU’s oppositional stance on AMP. The program, proposed by bookstore manager Adam Medaglia, would charge undergraduate students a flat-fee for digital access to course materials with the option to opt-out.
“AMP will not be coming in fall 2024,” Almeida said. “Congratulations to all the student leaders who participated in the advocacy around that.”
In addition, Almeida said that the proportion of ZTC class sections for the winter 2024 semester is 32.7 per cent. This is the highest of any term since the ZTC was introduced.
In order to motivate U of A faculties to integrate ZTC into their courses, Almeida introduced the ZTCup. The award recognizes faculties’ “efforts to make courses more affordable for students by offering them with ZTC.” Furthermore, Almeida collaborated with the U of A Library to create a direct outreach campaign. In this campaign, instructors using textbooks the library had access to were encouraged to use the library’s version “to save students money.”
”ZTC has reached its highest level ever this year for … the second consecutive time,” Almeida said. “This has made the fall 2023-24 academic year the highest ZTC academic year yet. That’s super awesome to see.”
Council appoints members to CAC, Bylaw, and Finance Committees
Lastly, arts councillor Nathan Thiessen was declared as a member of the Finance Committee via acclamation.