Jul. 25, 2012 - Issue #875: Shout Out Out Out Out
This past Monday the University of Alberta released information on a drastic restructuring of the university residence, Lister Hall. The changes announced by the University of Alberta administration affect who can live in Lister, how Lister elects its representatives and how students organize their living situation. It's not an obvious choice for public comment or debate outside of a campus environment, but the University administration's decision, and the process by which it happened, is indicative of the type of environment the administration is attempting to create on campus.
Students and the university have established various committees with student seats, which develop policy on student issues from food prices to building new recreation centres. There is a developed culture of consultation on campus. The LHSA is an elected body. It works with the University of Alberta Students' Union (representing the general student population), Residence Services, and the university administration to ensure the needs of residence students are met.
Elected residence representatives carry substantial weight. The current changes the university is proposing changes the employment conditions of 46 students who currently work for both the LHSA and the University, which students took as a sign of cooperation between the two bodies. Now the University is offering money to these employees to work solely for the administration and not the LHSA. As well, as the University is removing the ability of returning students to live in Lister, the future of the elected representatives of the LHSA and their capacity to represent students in that residence is unknown. So too is the ability of residence students to then be represented at a university level in governance decisions.
The University of Alberta made these decisions without consulting students, without using the established channels of debate and discussion and the result of these decisions removes the power of elected student representatives. These actions demonstrate a lack of interest in student issues and representation.
Students at the University of Alberta, much like Albertans themselves, are generally more keen to participate in consultations and committees, than protests. If the possibility of advocacy and consultation exists, that is usually the road chosen, but when the University acts with deliberate disregard for student concerns, it is making the choice to exclude students from established democratic consultation processes. At that point, what choice do students have to be heard?
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