“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
At Students’ Council on January 10, Abner Monteiro, Students’ Union (UASU) president, gave an update on the 2022-23 executive goals, and former councillor Haruun Ali’s resignation was announced.
Resignation of former arts councillor announced
Speaker Christian Zukowski announced the resignation of former arts councillor Haruun Ali. The resignation went into effect January 1, 2023.
“My time on Students’ Council has been a consistent battle between myself and a few executives. It’s been a disappointing battle with much of it happening under the guise of in-camera sessions,” Ali said in his resignation letter.
“I expected a union that would fight for students tooth and nail. I never expected to see the amount of infighting, and inefficiencies that plague our governance. These consistent battles with ourselves, which have been primarily targeted towards me, will harm our reputation to the student body and to the public.”
There are currently 21 councillors serving on Students’ Council, leaving a total of 14 vacancies. Six faculties are currently not represented by a councillor: agricultural, life, and environmental sciences, law, medicine and dentistry, Native studies, open studies, and pharmacy.
UASU president provides update on executive goals
Monteiro updated council with the progress made on the 2022-23 executive goals, which were first introduced to council on September 6, 2022.
The executives created five goals for the 2022-23 term: “building an engaged campus community,” “walking the Path of Reconciliation,” “(re)envisioning our learning environment,” “creating safe and welcoming spaces,” and “fostering an inclusive and equitable university experience.”
In order to build an engaged campus community, the executives have expanded the coverage of the Sustainability and Capital Fund in order to “encourage initiatives on campus.”
“We’re still in the process of completing an online system for student groups, and [allocating] additional funding for student groups,” Monteiro said.
Second, initiatives toward reconciliation included a memorial honouring those lost to the residential school [system], planned by Joannie Fogue, UASU vice-president (student life) and Julia Villoso, UASU vice-president (operations and finance).
Fogue has also been advocating for the creation of a dedicated gathering space for Indigenous students at Campus Saint-Jean, and the executives have been advocating for the inclusion of Indigenous course content in more courses.
“We have been working with General Faculties Council to include Indigenous course content into all the different courses we have across the institution,” Monteiro said.
Towards “(re)envisioning our learning environment,” the executives are currently advocating for the creation of a syllabus bank, and are working on improving academic advisement. They were also able to expand the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) pilot project, which saved students over nine million dollars last school year.
The executives have completed initiatives towards the fourth goal: creating safe and welcoming spaces, by revitalizing furniture in the Students’ Union Building and Dewey’s. They have also been working on addressing safety concerns, such as sexual violence and transit issues through advocacy with the university and municipal government.
“We were able to hold the university accountable for sexual violence prevention commitments,” Monteiro said, referring to the new Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policy. “We’ve been actively advocating to the City of Edmonton to improve transit frequency and coverage, and to expand cell reception for underground light rail transit (LRT) systems.”
The executives have also been advocating for the conversion of low occupancy washrooms on North Campus to gender-neutral washrooms.
“University Commons will have 43 gender-neutral washrooms when it opens, but even across the institution the university has converted a number of washrooms to gender-neutral as part of a pilot [project],” Monteiro said.
Finally, in order to foster an inclusive and equitable university experience, the executives have been “actively advocating to the federal government to increase operational funding for universities, and advocating for additional funding to expand Indigenous centres and programming,” according to Monteiro.
The executives have also been advocating for the translation of BearTracks to French, and for different religious holidays to be recognized in the university calendar.