Student leaders hold annual lobby conference

By Chris Adams

Student leaders from across the province met in Edmonton this week as members of the Council of Alberta University (CAUS) Students rubbed shoulders with government officials during its lobby conference from April 7–10.

CAUS is a provincial lobby group that advocates for undergraduate students attending the five universities in Alberta. Students’ Union president Raphael Jacob said the conference is important for CAUS’s efforts.

“Basically we found that the most effective way to advocate when you have many member organizations is to have one intensive week where everyone comes to the capitol and you book as many meetings as you can in a day,” Jacob said.

Jacob said the lobby conference will allow CAUS to make an impression on the entire legislature. CAUS members met with Premier Hancock before he introduced them to the legislature during question period.

“Many of those people in the legislature, we’ve had meetings with them, they know we’re meeting with them,” Jacob said. “There’s a sense of immediacy there when we’re all gathered together.”

CAUS lobbies in three areas of concern: affordability, accessibility and quality. Issues like mandatory non-instructional fees and the tuition cap are top priorities.

CAUS hopes to pressure the Progressive Conservative government to provide the grant funding they promised in the last election. Jacob said providing funding to potential rural and aboriginal students would make post-secondary education more accessible.

Mental health and open educational resources fall under CAUS’s category of quality. Jacob said they hope to create open-source resources for the most common classes province-wide, something the government plans to implement with the Open Educational Resources Initiative announced Tuesday.

CAUS wants to reintroduce the Summer Temporary Employment Program. The government cut the program following a seven per cent net decrease in funding to post-secondary last year. Alberta is the only province without a summer employment program for students.

The lobby conference helps train new SU executives. Incoming SU president Jarett Henry and incoming vice-president external Levi Nilson are attending.

“We really see lobby-con, provincially at least, as kind of the first taste of lobbying and to light the fire in their bellies,” Jacob said.

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