By Ben Hoffman
Winter 2004 has been a hectic semester around the university, with the most hotly contested Students’ Union election in years happening along with the usual news. Did you miss something? Fear not, we’ll bring you up to speed.
U of C may lose credit cards
Due to large fees, the University of Calgary considered getting rid of credit card tuition payments. The cards cost nearly $1 million per year in fees.
"As part of this year’s tuition fee consultation process, we learned that payment of fees by credit card cost the university almost $1 million in credit card transaction fees," said U of C Vice-President Finance Mike McAdam.
Members of the Students’ Union criticized the credit card companies and the proposal by the university.
"In my opinion, these credit card companies are doing some good business here–to be paid fees only to charge interest and make money later," said Operations and Finance Commissioner Jarrod Fuhr.
CASA and CAUS
January brought discussions about whether it was worthwhile for the SU to stay in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a federal lobby group.
"We’re wasting money," said SU VP Op-Fi Preston. "It’s a poor return."
Other members of the Students’ Legislative Council, like SU VP Academic Demetrios Nicolaides were more optimistic about CASA membership, despite its $29,000 per year membership fee.
"There’s a new PM, a federal election and a new conservative party," said Nicolaides. "The time is now."
The discussion continued and sparked a similar debate about whether or not the SU should maintain membership in the Council of Alberta University Students, the SU’s provincial lobby group.
SU VP External Lauren Batiuk, the mover of the CASA membership vote, said she felt CAUS was more worthwhile.
"Education is a provincial issue, so [I would say] CAUS," she said.
In late January, a pro-life activist from a group in Ontario used a student’s ID to pose as a pregnant mother to see how the University Health Clinic counsels unplanned pregnancies.
Dr. Jann Rogers, the doctor who counseled the woman, explained what the woman did.
"She seemed to want some indication from me what she should do," explained Dr. Rogers. "I was careful to explain to her I didn’t have an opinion on what she should do. There are people, for whatever moral, religious or ethical reason, who would never choose to terminate a pregnancy, and I totally respected that. I said there are some people, for whatever their life circumstances, who would choose to terminate a pregnancy, and I said I respected that."
Petro-Canada building donated
Petro-Canada donated their building to the U of C. Built in 1978 and located in the University Research Park, the building has been leased to the university since 1991. The building houses professors’ offices.
"We felt that it was the opportune time to generate benefit for the community," said Allyson Zarony, Corporate Communication for Petro-Canada.
"Our partnership [with the university] is very important to us," she continued. "We look forward to continuing that."
The SU General Election occurred at the end of February.
Taking the executive positions were Bryan West as President, Mike Bosch as VP External, Laura Schultz as VP Academic, Greg Clayton as VP Op-Fi, and Alex Vyskocil as VP Events.
University administration announced plans to open a downtown campus for the university under their Urban Centre Initiative. U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten said this will help the university provide better service to the community.
"An urban campus allows us to provide better service to the community and, frankly, it also enhances the teaching and research we do in these areas," he said.
The SU responded positively to the idea.
"We truly believe the university should reach the community, and this urban initiative project will do just that," said SU President Jayna Gilchrist. "It will be a lot easier to establish local partnerships with the community."
Rez points plan gone
The traditional style of re-admission to residence, involving a system where points are awarded for volunteering and community service, was changed to a new lottery system with more consideration for academic achievers. The new plan includes guaranteed acceptance for outstanding community service.
After some fine tuning, response to the plan was positive.
"For the average student, it looks like they will actually have a better chance of getting back in this way," said Residence Students’ Association Bryan West.
Students give U of C 7 out of 10
A survey commissioned by the SU and conducted by Claros Research found that students ranked the U of C a 7 out of 10.
The survey also asked students what they found important to quality of education versus their satisfaction with the current quality of the U of C. The category with the biggest gap between importance and satisfaction was "professors who are good teachers."
"We have to put the focus back on teaching," SU VP Academic Demetrios Nicolaides said. "A lot of it was, just basically, [the professors] aren’t good teachers, regardless of the research they have done."
The U of C Faculty Association believes profs at the U of C do emphasize teaching.
"There is this tension between professors being expected to do a lot of research and do a lot of teaching, but even for professors there are only 24 hours in a day," said TUCFA President Dr. Anton Colijn.
The survey will help the SU decide how to spend $830,000 offered by university administration for quality initiatives.
In early March, the SU started discussing what they would do with money they were being offered for quality improvement initiatives.
Administration offered the SU and Graduate Students’ Association $1 million to put towards quality after the SU surveyed what students considered to be a quality education.
"Because we’re conscious of the fact students are paying increased tuition, and we’re recommending another increase, we’re trying to ensure quality of their degree," said U of C VP Academic Dr. Ron Bond.
GSA President Jeff LaFrenz was optimistic.
"The results from the quality survey provide good information for the discussions," he said. "Our discussions have been productive so far, and I feel certain we will be able to work out something that is mutually advantageous. The GSA and SU have a common cause in wanting to increase the quality of both the undergraduate and graduate student experience."
Review Board overturns election
Failed presidential candidate Phil Barski and representatives from Barski’s Cabinet petitioned to overturn the 2004 SU General Election. The Review Board concluded flaws in the voting software prevented individuals from voting for their candidates, and overturned the election.
"Uncontested evidence was provided that members of the electorate were unable to cast a vote," wrote Review Board Chair Arlene Blake in the Review Board’s decision. "No evidence was provided to confine the number of persons who may have been similarly affected by this error in the electronic voting system."
There were 44 complaints filed against the election software, leading the Review Board to the conclude the election results were materially affected.
VP Academic-elect Laura Schultz didn’t like the election being overturned, citing that the race took time and effort and repeating it might eliminate former candidates from the race.
"[The Review Board’s decision] definitely puts candidates, students and the organization into a bit of a twilight zone," she said. "This decision denies thousands of students who are graduating this year the right to vote. It’s a bit ironic."
Tribunal reinstates SU election results
After deliberation, the Tribunal, the SU’s highest judicial body, reinstated the election results. The Tribunal heard the case after a previous ruling by the Review Board was appealed by the SU.
"We were unanimous in our decision to reverse the Review Board’s decision and allow the election to stand," said Tribunal Chair Christine Nugent.
Arguments from Barski’s Cabinet stated the Tribunal’s decision broke the constitutional rights of the electorate.
The SU’s lawyer, Bill Quigley, said the Barski’s Cabinet’s case was just "an attempt to throw enough on the wall that something will stick."
Rez policy change: leave 24 hours after finals
Residence Services, in an effort to turn noise levels at the end of the year down, changed their old policy of asking students to leave 24 hours after the last exam in the final exam week.
The new policy requires students to leave 24 hours after their last exam.
"The change was initially put in place last summer," explained Residence Director Jim Dunsdon, who is new to the U of C this year. "From what I understand, there has been a problem with students partying [in residence]. It was quite a problem for those who [were] studying."
Student reaction was critical, but some agreed with the new policy.
"There are lots of great places on campus to study," said second-year student Michael Coburn. "There’s the study lounge downstairs [in Rundle Hall], which they just redid [and] the libraries are open all the time."
Mandatory rez phone package
Residence Services is implementing a new phone plan, which will be mandatory for students living in residence.
The plan costs students $300 per year, and includes a phone line and high speed internet access for each individual.
RSA President Bryan West is optimistic about the plan, pointing out the cost is cheaper than the same product in a residential area.
"I think it works out to $37.50 a month," he said. "On the research I’ve done myself, high speed Internet itself is $42.95 a month and regular phone is [about] $24. You’re taking almost a $30 deduction [for a single line]. If you look at it that way, it’s a pretty good deal."
Student reaction was mixed, especially among residents of four-bedroom apartments, who would normally be able to split one line four ways to save cost.
"I think it’s ridiculous that they’re making students pay even if they don’t own a computer, and they have [a] cell phone," said third-year student Tariq Albarwani. "It’s not so much the money, I have to pay for things I don’t need or want."
SU President censured
April saw the censuring of SU President Jayna Gilchrist. Fellow council members were disappointed with her performance.
"It’s saying we’re not happy with her conduct as of late," said External Commissioner Jim Bailey. "She’s missed too many meetings and is not fulfilling her duty."
Gilchrist was unhappy about the move and defended her job.
"I’ve done the best job I could this year," she said. "I honestly believe I couldn’t try any harder. Some people refused to be led."