By Rob South
A new era of government relations started for graduate students on Aug. 22 with the launch of the Alberta Graduate Council. Representing 98 per cent of graduate students in Alberta, the AGC is an umbrella organization that graduate students at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta approved by referendum last spring.
To show the collaborative nature of the AGC, it was launched simultaneously in Edmonton and Calgary. Speakers at the launch talked about the variety of issues facing graduate students in Alberta.
"The provincial governments of British Columbia and Ontario have taken a zero to two per cent tuition freeze for at least the next five years," said AGC Vice-chair Policy and Research Parminder Basran. "It is questionable that the arguably richest province does not do that."
"Some of the things that have happened in Alberta have squeezed graduate students at both ends," said U of C Graduate Students’ Association President Viola Cassis. "While we only compose 11 per cent of the [campus] population, we compose 20 per cent of the food bank clientele."
The AGC will represent close to 10,000 members through meetings and correspondence with politicians and university administrators.
The Ministry of Learning was represented at the Calgary launch by Wayne Cao, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary Fort and Chairman for the Committee on Lifelong Learning.
"I congratulate the graduate students on getting together and making progress," said Cao. "Graduate students play a key role in the innovation and advancement of our knowledge."
Concerns with provincial policy as well as the unique role graduate students play were recurring messages in many of the speeches. Cassis identified the combination of work in research labs, teaching duties and increasing their knowledge of respective disciplines as key components of the role graduate students play.