SAMRU hosts town hall to discuss issues
By Nathan Woolridge, News Editor
On Jan. 23, the Students Association (SAMRU) at Mount Royal University (MRU) hosted a town hall. The event was held in Wykham House around noon and saw four individuals on stage answering questions: David Docherty (MRU President), Andrew Nguyen (SAMRU REC President), Paul Rossman (VP University Advancement MRU) and Shayla Breen (SAMRU VP Student Affairs).
The group discussed three main topics — cannabis on campus, the old library space and sexual violence education and prevention on campus.
In October, Canada officially legalized cannabis for recreational use. The university was crafting a policy on cannabis, but was not able to follow through because of the announcement of the city’s bylaws for public consumption.
“We were sad to see the city’s bylaw on [cannabis consumption],” said Breen.
“We are determining how we can work with the city on harm reduction,” said Nguyen. “We are waiting for the city to respond. The issue of cannabis on campus remains in the hands of city council.”
Rossman adds to the conversation by saying, “We ended up landing on a revision of the smoking policy … that policy got approved when we were notified that the city would [ban public consumption].” The revision was put on hold once the city’s bylaws were announced.
Rossman said there is a possibility to adapt once city bylaws change.
“If city council would change their use … we would work to facilitate that change,” explained Docherty.
As many students know, the old library space remains vacant. There has been some speculation of what the space will be used for.
“We hear a lot from students about opening up that space for study space,” said Nguyen.
But, according to discussion at the town hall, it appears the space will be used to combine student services into a centralized space. Docherty suggests that this could see the movement of the Iskim Centre and other similar services into that space.
But, when will we see something moved into that space?
Well, funding is a main concern. Nguyen says, “Once there is funding confirmed for the old library space, students will be consulted.” The representatives said that they continue to ask the government for funding to get started on updating the space.
Breen said, “We heard from students that there wasn’t enough transparency” about what would be happening with that space.
Nguyen tells attendees to consult the Campus Master Plan to see an outline and redesign plans for the space.
The representatives also stated that the large cost of staffing the old library space right now is the biggest reason that the space isn’t available now to students.
The education and prevention of sexual violence in the university was also briefly addressed.
Breen says a lot of their sexual violence education and awareness comes from SAMRU’s Pride Centre. She said their work is focused on education about consent, racism, transphobia and other important areas.
SAMRU representatives, Breen and Nyugen, talked about lobbying the government for education and funding for supports. They also state that their job is to “hold MRU accountable to the policies they have in place on sexual violence,” according to Breen.
On MRU’s side Rossman addressed what the university is doing to educate on and prevent sexual violence. Rossman says, “It’s a difficult question and dialogue to have, but an important discussion.”
He says the biggest question is: “Are we changing hearts and minds of perpetrators?”
“Our role is to create a community and environment that is safe and secure,” said Rossman. A part of that role is to “change the narrative around believing.”
Rossman also briefly touched on the training that residence services staff goes through to help and assist students, specifically in dealing with sexual violence.
Only one individual took the opportunity to ask Rossman, Docherty, Nyugen and Breen a question throughout the town hall, even though students were invited to approach the microphone at any point during the event.
Docherty also addressed him leaving after many years as president. He was asked what his favourite things have been at MRU. He said he has some fond memories of watching student athletes help people on move-in day and celebrating convocation. He will be leaving MRU in May.
This town hall was the first of a town hall series. The second event will be held on Mar. 12 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.