In our Summer and Fall advocacy updates, we let you know how your UASU made your voices heard in 2021 on issues like textbook affordability, exceptional tuition increases, campus sexual violence, and so much more. Here's a look at what's in the works for Winter 2022.
In order to help students plan better for the upcoming semester, your UASU Executive was quick to advocate for a temporary shift online to allow for improved safety measures in the wake of the Omicron variant. We continue to advocate for a delayed add/drop deadline, which most students are strongly in favour of, as well as quality and accessibility standards while online.
UASU is asking the U of A to provide greater interventions when it comes to ventilation, testing, and masking improvements that will make a big difference for students and our communities so we can return to in-person classes as soon as it’s safe. We hope that the delay will allow us to come back to campus in a safe, planned way.
We’re also developing UAlberta student COVID data with Perks surveys to fill in the blanks. In order to learn about COVID trends on campus and how students feel about returning in person, we've launched three anonymous surveys in the last week and are releasing some of the initial results on Instagram. You can view the report here. We plan to use further surveys to look at trends in ways that the University and the government haven't and continue advocating for student needs.
Black History Month
Black History Month is coming up in February! This is the first year that the Students’ Union will recognize and celebrate Black History Month. Although overdue, we look forward to acknowledging and celebrating black excellence throughout our campus. Here are some of the things that we have planned:
-We will have a speaker series titled “In Conversation With,” a series where we talk about the Black Experience and the different aspects that make up our experiences. We’ll have a few episodes coming out throughout February.
-We’ll be running a spotlight campaign that highlights Black individuals who have paved the way and contributed towards campus and the Students’ Union.
-We’ll be announcing a new UASU award for Black student leadership and community engagement - stay tuned for more updates!
Indigenous Celebration Week
While the majority of events that we’ve planned will remain the same, Indigenous Celebration Week has been delayed to March 21st - 25th so that it can be held in person. You can apply to volunteer as a Session Coordinator until January 30! Registration for the event doesn’t open until March 1, but you can check out the schedule of events here.
Dollars and Sense: Fee Bylaws
Governance shouldn’t be confusing or a pain to navigate, and good bylaws are meant to guide our actions and give us concrete steps forward, especially those regarding student fees. Unfortunately, some of our bylaws are outdated, so we’re in the process of improving them. We’ve created a Fee Governance Review Committee that has been hard at work identifying the gaps, ways to improve them, and make them as clear as possible!
Food Security with Bulk Foods
The idea is to offer healthy, convenient food without producing much waste. This initiative is a simple yet effective way to promote and implement waste reduction and offers a healthier, eco-friendly food option. We’ll be launching our Bulk foods section in SUBmart very soon! Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates.
Sexual Violence Prevention
We are also advocating for a stronger provincial response to sexual violence on our campus. The province needs to step in to provide funds for training and minimum standards for policies. Thanks to loud student voices on this issue we’ve seen some long-overdue movement on these goals. We are making good progress and hope to have an update for you soon!
Mental Health
We’re working with Residences to have the Peer Support Centre provide mental health support sessions once a week, starting in February (COVID allowing). We also met with MP Blake Desjarlais, the Post-Secondary Education critic for the Federal NDP, to discuss the importance of keeping Canada Student Grants doubled as a means to support students through these tough times and how anti-violence legislation may be tied into work on a National Post-Secondary Mental Health Strategy in the future.
Our Pronoun Campaign continues! A two page resource sheet and a slide to share in class has been sent to professors for Winter Semester. So far, 78 professors will be sharing those resources with over 100 classes. Between Fall 2021 and Winter 2022, so far 215 profs have participated, which means roughly 250 classes got those resources and reached thousands of students on campus.
Academics… only better and less expensive!
-ETI: The Executive team is continuing to advocate against the University’s proposed exceptional tuition increases. We are hard at work on this right now, and will have more specific updates later in the semester!
-Exploration Credits: We have continued to refine the Exploration Credits proposal and it will be coming to the General Faculties Council for discussion and feedback on January 31st! We are optimistic that a final vote on exploration credits will take place before the end of the semester.
-Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC): After years of advocacy, the UASU kicked off a pilot project last semester to promote zero textbook cost (ZTC) courses. We estimate that participating course sections (some already ZTC, some newly shifted to have a zero textbook cost) saved students a total of $7 million in Fall 2021. We will update you on how much students have saved in Winter 2022 shortly.
Councillors and MLAs
We also met with Councillor Janz for Ward Papastew, to discuss what role Edmonton City Council can have in supporting future employment opportunities for students. Councillor Janz is already working with us to address bus schedules for students who need access to transit while on practicum or in late night classes.
In advocacy meetings with MLAs and as a member of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) we’re also pursuing greater financial aid, expanding affordable childcare options, and funding for Indigenous programming and spaces.
International Students
As a member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) we’re proud to support their policies and work on the challenges that international students face. CASA’s new informational campaign covers tuition rates, work permits, clearer pathways to citizenship, and highlights how important International Students are to our communities and how we can support better policies. You can access the campaign, learn about this issue and read more here.