SAMRU hosts their second town hall
By Nathan Woolridge, News Editor
On March 13, SAMRU hosted their second of two town hall events for the 2018-19 academic year. The town hall talked about a variety of issues, including changes to the Post-Secondary Learning Act, changes to tuition and fees, along with the upcoming provincial election.
The first town hall occurred on Jan. 23 and saw David Docherty (MRU President), Andrew Nguyen (SAMRU REC President), Steve Fitterer (VP Student Affairs MRU) and Shayla Breen (SAMRU REC VP Student Affairs) talk about issues such as sexual violence on campus, cannabis on campus and use for the old library space.
Originally, the second town hall was supposed to feature Docherty, Nguyen, Paul Rossman (VP University Advancement MRU) and Amanda LeBlanc (SAMRU REC VP External).
But, a day before the event, SAMRU posted on Facebook that “Mount Royal will not be in attendance.”
President Docherty was in attendance for the second event but did not participate as initially advertised on Facebook.
SAMRU also said, “But, the REC team will be available for discussion and to take student questions and concerns back to MRU.”
In attendance was Nguyen, Cordelia Snowdon, LeBlanc and Breen who is the president-elect and will be the new president next year. The town hall was mediated by Peter Ryan, an assistant professor for Public Relations at MRU.
SAMRU introduced an initiative that they are working on to promote voting. This will involve events on Mainstreet and other initiatives to promote voting in the provincial election.
“We just want to get students to the polls,” says LeBlanc. She explains that students have a stake in this province and that students have to research and be aware of the issues. LeBlanc also adds that SAMRU will be helping students see different party’s platforms online.
“Students do have a voice in the matters that affect them,” says Nguyen. “We are trying to harness that student voice.”
Breen stresses that the REC for SAMRU is a non-partisan organization and doesn’t influence students on who to vote for. LeBlanc says that they welcome students of all “political stripes.”
There was mention of hosting a candidates forum and that information will be released soon. Ryan also talked about the recent release of Orange Chinook, written by MRU professors. He says he has a chapter in the book and that it may help students grasp some of Alberta’s political culture.
Tuition and fee changes
The town hall talked a little bit about Bill 19, a framework that regulates tuition costs and mandatory non-instructional fees. Bill 19’s mandate is to provide fairness to Alberta’s students attending college and university.
Does Ryerson student association’s actions affect SAMRU?
Ryan asked if the events in Ontario would affect the student association here in Alberta. Specifically, the scandal with Ryerson’s student association.
Ryerson’s student union is facing an audit of over $700K in questionable expenses.
“We are audited every year by an external firm,” says Breen. She says SAMRU has had clean audits for around 10 years. She says that SAMRU is very transparent when it comes to its spending.
Nguyen talked about the process that spending has to go through before it becomes approved and that it is very difficult for unneeded expenses to not be questioned.
Changes to MRU fees
“It’s really stressful,” says Snowdon. She says that the new fees were very short-notice for students. Snowdon predicts that students next year will be better off because they will be more aware.
“It’ll be easier, I imagine. But, we will see how it goes.”
The REC is suggesting that students who are having issues with the new fee should speak to someone at the Student Financial Aid and Awards office. MRU has assured SAMRU’s REC that they will work to find ways to support students experiencing difficulty paying this deposit.
Snowdon says there were issues raised to her and the REC that there were reports of students not getting into the right courses, which was stopping people from finishing their degrees on time.
“You have to pay to show that you are dedicated to coming here,” says Snowdon.
Transportation at MRU
The topic of affordable parking at MRU also got some attention when someone from the audience asked about the topic.
Nguyen says that he has turned his efforts toward different options of transportation to the school, such as increased transit and cycling. This is something that he has been advocating for the last year or so, he says.
Members of the REC tell the audience that affordable parking is important, but that it is the city and not the university that mostly mandates the parking fees.
Nguyen also highlighted that parking fees are put back into other areas of the university.
Wrapping it up
Before the town hall ended, Nguyen made a point to mention the new appointment of the university’s new president, Tim Rahilly. He said that he was able to represent the student body in the selection of the new president.
“Get involved with your student association,” says Breen before the event ended. As mentioned, she will be the new REC president in the Fall.
For January’s town hall, there was one student who asked a question in the open forum. This time, there was an option to ask questions both with the microphone or anonymously on a piece of paper and then it was read to the representatives.