Allison Cully/the Gauntlet

The SU's woeful tales of tuition

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The last day of classes for the fall semester was the big day of the tuition vote for the University of Calgary's Board of Governors and though the result is always the same (the BOG approving a tuition raise for as much as they possibly can, which is now limited to the inflation rate), the path to get there is usually varied and has its own quirks. Last year, the Students' Union tried a new approach where they still voted no towards a tuition increase, but assuming it was inevitable, decided to also ask the board to agree to tie increases in tuition to improvements in the quality of education and other indicators at the university. The board emphatically agreed and patted the SU on the back for coming up with such a thoughtful approach to tuition increases.

This year the SU chose to trek a similar route, but instead of asking for an improvement in quality of education, came up with a list of recommendations including a focus on the university improving the way it is governed. Though it is commendable that this year the SU approached students through a two-day session at That Empty Space to ask what they wanted the SU to bring to the board, the resulting proposal missed the point by heavily weighing their own criticisms of the university's internal governance structures against the concerns students brought forward at the town halls.

Students approached the SU with concerns about student spaces, the quality of teaching, the budget priorities and the corporate culture of the university and the university's reputation. These all seem a far stretch from worrying about whether the university has a vision statement or questioning the university's investment strategy-- two of the points raised in the SU's tuition consultation document, which is available on the SU's website. This is not to say that these points shouldn't be raised, but if students were concerned about quality of teaching and the university's reputation, and the university is not improving despite the agreement last year, the SU needs to continue working on those points and not distract the board with a tangential proposal about improving the governance structure.

Members of the SU were unhappy that they didn't get much of a chance to affect the final tuition consultation document. It was presented before the Students' Legislative Council, but it needed to be passed out to the board soon after and therefore could not be changed in SLC, despite other SU members concerns. That is the wrong way to approach the biggest policy paper the organization comes out with all year.

Students seem to be getting less and less value out of their student representatives' lobbying efforts at these tuition board meetings. Last year, the SU managed to get the board to agree that they needed to improve on certain indicators. But it's hard to keep the university accountable to them and so far they have shown either marginal improvement or declines according to some measurements. This year, the SU criticized the way the university runs the organization, which is a stretch away from the concerns students approached them with in the town halls they held. The SU needs to focus on what students care about or risk distracting the board from the real concerns at hand.




This article exactly hits the point behind the control-freak "vision" behind both Ms. Baez and Weatherbee; they just know better than their paying members. It's a paradox; these pesky undergrads both pay their salary BUT they happen to be policy obstacles!

Another year, more misrepresentation.