The SU executives have been busy over the summer, transitioning into their roles, working to have student issues heard in the media, and preparing for the fall semester. Cultivating strong relationships at all levels of government has been a key priority for the elected SU executives. Over the summer SU executives have had the opportunity to meet with the UCP Minister of Advanced Education, Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, and many elected NDP MLAs. Read all about what we accomplished this summer, as well as what we are still working on!
Affordable housing solutions cannot wait
For the second consecutive year, UCalgary on-campus residences are completely full, leaving many students scrambling for alternatives. Vacancy rates in Calgary are the lowest in nearly a decade, and prices have increased rapidly. Many students are struggling to find affordable housing near the university and are being forced to live far from campus, often in areas poorly served by transit.
The SU is here to help fight back. To provide assistance immediately, we put a call to action out for all Calgarians with a spare room or rental to consider renting to a student and posting it on the SU’s housing partner’s website at www.places4students.com. Calgarians showed up for students and played a key role in helping many students find a safe place to live. Anyone with a place to rent can continue to post listings on the SU’s housing partner’s website at www.places4students.com. The immense support from Calgarians coming together to support students when they need it most has been heartwarming, but the need to support folks being impacted by the housing crisis doesn’t stop there.
Looking at the bigger picture, the SU is advocating to the city council the importance of supporting and implementing the housing affordability recommendations, which will be brought to committee on September 14th. The recommendations are essential for students and Calgarians alike, to address the housing challenges that folks are currently facing. The SU advocacy team will be speaking to city councillors before this meeting to express the need to pass all 33 housing recommendations and the significant impact that the housing crisis is having on students. Join the SU at City Hall on September 14th to stand in support of the housing recommendations!
Taking a big STEP forward
Did you have trouble finding a summer job between the school years? You weren’t alone. This summer, youth unemployment was double the provincial average, pushing many students further into debt and unable to make ends meet. With increased tuition and cost of living, many students need full-time work in the summer to support themselves and afford tuition.
The Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) helped students find meaningful work over the summer, but that program was cancelled in 2019 and has not been replaced since. This summer, we met with multiple government officials expressing the importance of reimplementing a temporary jobs program that supports students and helps connect them to employers. This work will continue throughout the year in hopes of providing students with more options to gain temporary employment opportunities next summer.
Making progress here on campus
A big win that is just in time for the fall semester is that your term breaks will now be actual breaks. The university has recognized that term break is a time for students to prioritize their mental health and well-being, free of academic assessments. Even though the 2018-19 calendar recognized that term breaks were critical aspects of student well-being and mental health, we heard from many of you that it didn’t feel like a break with so many assignments still due in your courses. Our SU President Shaziah Jinnah Morsette started the fight to make sure that student mental health was made a priority during her term as VP Academic last year and has seen that fight through this year. We are overjoyed to have the university commit to respecting students’ need for time to rest and take care of their well-being ahead of this fall semester. Relevant policy changes to ensure that their statement can be enforced will be worked on by the University this governance year. Term breaks this academic year will be held during the fall and winter semesters from November 12-18th and February 18 –24th, respectively. Read the full statement from the University on the Term Break Resources website here for more details.
Tuition prices remain a major issue for students, and it is important to have your voice heard. The SU is working with the university to finalize a tuition and fee consultation guide. This is especially important to ensure that student consultation is consistent and meaningful throughout discussions regarding tuition and fee increases. The SU continues to advocate on behalf of students in these discussions and determining how best to foster ongoing communications between the university, the student body, and the Students’ Union.
In 2020 the university paused the use of Academic Regulation relating to Supporting Documentation and Statutory Declaration (M.1), announcing plans this past June to reinstate this policy. The SU fought heavily for the university to pause the reinstatement of the regulation before having thorough student consultation because this policy does not work for students, but the university moved forward with reinstating the policy anyway. However, because of continued advocacy, the SU has received a commitment from the university to work together on a holistic review of regulations around absences due to illness for assessments.
Demand at the SU Campus Food Bank keeps increasing as student costs skyrocket. The SU Campus Food Bank has been actively supporting the campus community for over 30 years and worked tirelessly over the summer to continue to support folks. To expand the SU Food Bank capacity, the SU hired a third food bank coordinator to help support outreach and awareness efforts, food literacy education, and food hamper preparations. To donate or access resources from the SU Campus Food Bank visit here.
If that wasn’t enough for you, we also have two meaningful wins to benefit students coming back to school! First is that walk-ins at the wellness centre are back for students. The SU has been working with the SU Wellness Centre to bring walk-in appointments back to better support students. Second, club funding has also been streamlined, meaning it’s now easier for clubs to access funds for events and activities. Learn more about Clubs here.
SU executives extending advocacy efforts
Finally, the executives have extended their advocacy efforts at municipal and federal levels through collaboration with other post-secondaries. Vice President External Mateusz Salmassi was elected the Director of Advocacy for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Through this role, he elevates the advocacy work the SU does by collaborating with other student associations across Canada to fight for student needs federally. The hot button issues this summer have been housing and student affordability, as mentioned earlier in our blog.
SU President Shaziah Jinnah Morsette was elected as chair of the Calgary Student Alliance (CSA) at the beginning of her term, representing 120,000 postsecondary students on municipal issues in Calgary. This role allows her to amplify the voices of postsecondary students in Calgary, by collaborating towards common goals and bringing attention to the challenges students in Calgary are currently facing. Significant efforts from Shaziah and the CSA have been focused on housing and the upcoming city committee meeting on September 14th. The work that she has undertaken to strengthen the relationships among postsecondary institutions in Calgary has been vital to further the SU’s advocacy reach.