Students’ Union byelection offers science students the vote

By Sarelle Azuelos

University of Calgary students aren’t quite free from voting just yet. The Students’ Union byelection starts next week and students from every faculty will be able to vote on two referendum questions while science students have an extra box to check off.

The SU currently charges full-time students a $1 access fee each semester to support the Disability Resource Centre. This fee, and another Career Services fee of $2 per semester, will be taken over by the university as part of the new ancillary fee introduced this fall, making the student contribution redundant.

The SU referendum question is aimed at avoiding double charging students.

“There’s a bit of history behind both of these with the Students’ Union we’re very proud of the history, I mean the resource fee especially,” said SU vice-president operations and finance James Delaney. “That’s something we brought to students years ago and we wanted to make sure this is a service available on campus.”

In the late 1990s the U of C was undergoing funding cuts from administration and the SU stepped in to maintain what they felt was a necessary service. Today, SU funding to both the career office and DRC make up a small percentage of their overall budgets. Delaney said the university has promised to maintain the level of funding to both organizations.

“Now, of course, the disability resource centre is provincially mandated to exist so the university has to provide that service and the career services centre, I don’t think any major university in the world would try to exist without a career centre these days,” said Delaney. “That would be recruitment suicide. We feel like these services are both ones the university should be taking on.”

For members of the science faculty, Phil Hasen, Ola Mohajer and Jack Siu are running for the SU representative position. Other representative positions left unfilled in the last general SU election ­– social work, education and law ­– are all acclaimed.

SU chief returning officer Sabrina Grover explained that these faculties are often acclaimed because of the small number of students on campus.

Mohajer was a science representative until two weeks ago, when the Student Legislative Council denied her request for a term excusal. Mohajer, a fifth-year biology and religious studies student, is currently studying at McGill University because the U of C does not offer all her required classes. Mohajer was forced to resign in order to run again in the byelection.

“I decided to run again because I had already started my projects that I had promised, I guess what would be my previous constituents, during the last election,” said Mohajer.

Her two largest projects include working with professors to reduce the cost of class materials and making it easier to match students with professors for undergraduate research opportunities– common goals among candidates.

Mohajer has already sent a proposal to the dean of science to discuss professor involvement in her affordability initiative and a database of undergraduate research requirements is in the works. She doesn’t believe that living off­-campus has affected her performance as a science representative.

“I think in terms of communication there’s no issue. I have been dealing with students through email and phone calls and I have been working on my projects,” she said.

Mohajer will return to the U of C for the winter semester.

Hansen is a third-year natural sciences student who recently transferred from Mount Royal University. He said that while Mohajer can Skype into SU meetings, her inability to vote is “not a good idea.”

His platform addresses increasing textbook affordability and lab times.

“The labs are always too short and lab equipment is expensive, textbooks are expensive,” he said. “We pay for enough, we got an increase last year in tuition, parking’s gone up, everything goes up every year. It would be nice to try and have something go down or at least not go up for once.”

Hansen admitted he was not “fully educated on the process of the SLC,” adding that he would approach the Canadian Roundtable of Academic Material to increase bursaries for students. CRAM is a national lobby group of student unions and associations dedicated to reducing textbook costs through new policy, they do not provide funding to students.

Hansen said he would also promote the University Bookstore Loan Program that gives free textbooks to 100 students in need each year.

Siu, the final candidate for the science position, is a biology major with a minor in nanoscience. His primary goal is to start a faculty-wide newsletter to improve communication between departments and promote events.

“If you look at the engineering faculty, they’re all spread out into different departments but if you have something happening, they all kind of do it together,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy and they’re really excited about what they do and that’s something that’s lacking in science that I want to see kind of happen.”

Siu also wants to create a database for students interested in undergraduate research and streamline the application process.

“It’s really messy to search online, to look up all the professors’ information and to figure out what kind of student they want,” he said.

Voting is online through the Student Centre, Oct. 26-28.

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