First annual SU community report

By Sarah Dorchak

The Students’ Union presented its first annual report to the community April 5. Throughout the evening, SU president Charlotte Kingston detailed the accomplishments of the 67th Student Legislative Council in working towards their goal of improving accountability and transparency to the community.

For 2009-2010, the SU hoped to increase external institutional advocacy, continue to host diverse and inclusive campus events, support undergraduate and teaching research, increase student community space and introduce environmental sustainability in SU operations.

“Our goal is to be recognized as a definitive voice, to engage and build community across campus and to grow in a responsible and sustainable manner both financially and environmentally,” Kingston said.

Major Changes

The SU started to rewrite their governance bylaws this year, aimed at improving the organization.

“The goals of [the governance renewal] were to empower faculty reps to increase their connection to their constituents, to provide more opportunities for valuable student employment across campus and to increase the capacity of the executive team by employing paid individuals,” Kingston explained.

As part of the renewal, proportional representation for faculties has been introduced, largely in response to the creation of the amalgamated faculty. The number of faculty representatives will now depend on the number of students in each faculty. With this change, an academic policy committee accountable to the SLC replaced the Student Academic Assembly. Another change was the replacement of the vice-president events position with VP student life, allowing a more focused approach to enriching the student experience and community building. Executive commissioners are no longer elected, but are now appointed, paid positions. This change offers 10 new employment opportunities for students.

Future Plans

Thanks to the February referendum, the proposed increase to expand the refugee student program was approved and will be implemented in September 2010. In 2009, the SU launched a pilot program expanding the campus food bank to other Calgary post-secondary institutions. The project is under review, though there are plans to extend the expanded service in late 2010.

June 23-26 the SU, in partnership with Gallivan and Associates, Conestoga Students Inc. and the SAIT Students’ Association, will host Leaders’ Hall. The four-day development conference offers students the chance to learn about effective leadership.

In late 2009 renovations began in Mac Hall which will offer increased seating capacity and four new food vendors. The renovations will be completed by September 2010. As part of the Mac Hall renovations, the SU is planning on opening a resource centre for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer community, with the tentative name “Qmmunity.” Lastly, there are plans to extend the U-pass to spring and summer students. A referendum held next year would decide the expansion.

SU Accomplishments

Throughout the year, the SU has advocated for students on external issues like debt, recession-era education and, of course, tuition. In October, a Debt City event and over 400 participating students raised awareness to all levels of government about the pressing issue of student debt. In November, the two-day Recession Era Education event addressed the issues of student debt and unemployment. The event also attempted to hold the Stelmach government accountable to the tuition fee policy, a 10-year commitment. To further student advocacy for the tuition crisis, the SU also organized the Tuition Day of Action, with over 2,000 students attending and participated in the March to the Legislature. The SU also has addressed the need for affordable housing in their Secondary Suite Campaign to the municipal government.

Other student life events were held throughout the year, like the wellness and arts and culture months.

The SU also dealt with academic advocacy. They held open access week in late October and have actively participated with the National Survey of Student Engagement’s three-year action plan for post-secondary institutions. In March, the SU along with the Graduate Students’ Association announced Robert Clegg as the U of C’s Ombudsperson — a new powerful advocate for students. The SU worked to help develop a new non-academic misconduct policy. To support what Kingston calls “one of [her] personal pillars,” the Students’ Union Sustainability Board was established to influence environmental decisions and to promote environmental issue awareness.

The SU expanded coverage of the undergraduate health and dental plan to include vision benefits. They also introduced a dental office next to the Wellness Centre in Mac Hall.

“I believe [the SU does] a lot of important, intangible things for students on campus,” Kingston concluded. “If you make a great investment in your community and you care about being involved and contribute back . . . it’s important to reward the students back.”

Financial reports and the governance renewal rationale are both available on the SU website

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