As the end of the academic year approaches, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our collective accomplishments and express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as your Students' Union President.
Serving as your president and championing the student voice has been an honour and privilege. When I began my journey at this university, I never thought I would be so fortunate to work with such diverse people and perspectives. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life, and the impact all of you have had on me through your stories and experiences will be something I will never forget.
We have faced numerous challenges throughout the year, but we have persevered and achieved many great things together. I listened to your voices and feedback, and used them to champion and advocate for emerging student needs. Our efforts have helped us amplify our priorities to the University, our new municipal leaders, and the provincial and federal governments. Our efforts have helped to improve students’ lives while they receive a post-secondary education.
What became most apparent during this year was how COVID continued to impact students’ lives. The cost of living and tuition rose as the resources available to students fell. Our team worked hard to save students money wherever possible and provide them with the support they needed to get through a challenging period. I’m proud of what we were able to deliver to the student body, including:
- $13.5 million allocated in the City of Edmonton budget towards Transit Safety.
- $9.6 million allocated toward needs-based aid for around 3570 UAlberta undergraduates, as the Alberta Student Grant for Full-Time Students (ASG-FT) rose from $250/month to $475/month.
- Up to $7.8 million in savings through courses participating in the Zero Textbook Cost Program. Students can also find courses that have ZTC on Beartracks!
- $2 million over two years in savings for the Student Health and Dental Plan, with the addition of gender-affirming care at no cost.
- $1.6 million allocated by the university to mental health support. This includes an expansion of Counselling and Clinical Services to reduce wait times and provide more accessible and culturally competent support.
- $1 million in savings by removing the $40 Instalment Fee for students who pay their tuition over two semesters.
- $200,000 in university funding to build a food pantry for the Campus Food Bank. We also expanded the food bank services, including the grocery bus, breakfast program and snack stations to Campus Saint-Jean.
- $15,000 donated by internal stakeholders towards improving the infrastructure of the period equity initiative.
- Elimination of interest on Federal Student Loans starting April 1, 2023.
- 2% cap on tuition increases beginning in Fall 2024.
While affordability was a top concern for students, we are primarily here to learn and prepare for our future careers. My team wanted to ensure that as students returned to campus, they thrived inside and outside the classroom and felt part of a community. Here are just a few of our accomplishments to enhance student life:
- Implementing new Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policies and Procedures that will be a further step forward in survivor-centred and trauma-informed support for students.
- Implementing new Student Conduct Policies and Procedures.
- Implementing Exploration Credits, which students can use starting in Fall 2023.
- Temporarily lifting work hour limits for international students to gain more work experience and earn more money as tuition and cost of living rises.
- Implementing an all-gender washroom pilot project to locate and convert washrooms in buildings across campus to all-gender. University Commons will also have 49 all-gender washrooms! The SU is also working to secure money to put all-gender washrooms in Dewey’s.
- Green-lighting the creation of a syllabus tool that we will use to create a syllabus bank for students to access their most up-to-date syllabi in a centralized place.
- Creating a new student group oversight structure with the University to be implemented by Fall 2024 so that we can put student life back in the hands of students.
- Creating an experiential learning resource for students who may face challenges during their experiential learning term.
- Creating a Student Financial Aid Working Group to re-evaluate the University’s moderate standard of living threshold and needs-based aid promotion and disbursement processes.
- Updating the Days of Significance at the university to make it comprehensive and representative of the university community.
- Developing a new Teaching, Learning and Evaluation Policy that includes a new USRI (now called SPOT) format. The new framework will translate appropriate student feedback into mechanisms that will improve teaching meaningfully and share past student ratings with current students.
- Held our first-ever Student Addiction Awareness Campaign to help inform the community about addiction and how we can create a community of care.
- Celebrating International Day (I-Day) for the first time in the Students’ Union Building in partnership with the International Students’ Association. The event was in both French and English.
- Finding the International Students’ Association a temporary office space.
- Successfully advocating for an indigenous gathering space at Campus Saint-Jean.
- Restructuring Students’ Council to ensure that it can be an effective governance body where students can engage on issues important to them.
Finally, despite facing many difficulties, we have never lost sight of our values - inspiring change for the world and always moving and planning for the future. Better days are ahead for our community, and we have worked hard to make them a reality. Here are just a few of those moments where our community came together as one university to shape a better tomorrow:
- Held the Second Annual Residential School Memorial in partnership with the Indigenous Students’ Union to encourage critical reflection on the history of residential schools and their effects on Indigenous communities.
- Held a Tuition Protest at the Board of Governors, which engaged students across the university to rally against the fourth consecutive tuition increase.
- Held Break the Record Dodgeball 2022, which brought together thousands of members of the university community.
As I leave this position, I am proud of all we have accomplished together. We have fostered strong relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers throughout our communities to leave our union in a stronger and healthier position. I am confident that our next Executive team will build on our successes and continue the fight for a better student experience for all of us.
Thank you for the honour and privilege of serving as your President this year.
University of Alberta Students' Union President