CONTINUED ADVOCACY ON CAMPUS

(December, 2020)

Update: The university has introduced a flexible grading option for fall 2020. Students may choose to apply this option to one of their fall 2020 courses, which means that this course will not be included in their GPA calculation. Details are available at https://www.ucalgary.ca/registrar/student-centre/grades

The SU continues to focus on the quality of online course delivery. We are in discussion with university administration on the following issues:

  • CR/F option for students. Given the exceptionally difficult semester, we believe students must be afforded the choice of a CR/F grading scheme for their classes.
  • Extended breaks in winter semester. The winter semester will likely continue to be challenging, therefore more time to catch-up on coursework or rest will be much needed. We are looking to add an additional 2-3 days of time-off, likely sometime in mid-March.
  • Continued prevention of proctoring for future semesters. While there will not be any proctoring at Ucalgary this year, we want to ensure future students will not have to contend with the privacy violations and added anxiety that often comes with proctoring.
  • Continuation of flexible exam times. Policies already exist that allow for students to choose when to write exams within a 24-hour period. However, these policies have sometimes been poorly enforced and need to be strengthened and clarified.
  • Extension of the add/drop/swap date for winter 2021. This would provide students with more time and flexibility to decide whether a class is the right fit. It sometimes takes a few weeks to know if you would like to remain in a class, and we believe students should have course flexibility into the fourth week of the semester.
  • A student bill of rights. Many institutions have a student bill of rights, a document in which students’ rights and privileges are outlined in a clear and succinct way. These documents are often an amalgamation of many policies but have proven useful in communicating and enforcing these rights.
  • Advocacy on academic workload. Students remain concerned by huge workloads for their virtual classes. It is clear that further work must be done in the institution to better regulate academic workload.
  • Advocacy on course-time issues. We have heard from students that many online courses are going far over their allotted times. Similar to issues on workload, we are hoping to strengthen academic regulations in order to ensure your 50-minute lecture doesn’t turn into a 2-hour symposium.
  • Continuation of extra time for online timed assessments. While students already should be receiving 50% extra time for online timed assessments, many report issues with overly long exams that can barely be completed, even with the 50% extra time policy. Students should continue to receive extra time and not be burdened with ridiculously long assessments.

Returning to a “New Normal”

The SU has worked tirelessly to advocate on behalf of undergraduate students to ensure that the return to classes in Fall 2020 is equitable, accessible, affordable, and safe. Informed by student feedback and data collected by Statistics Canada, SU faculty representatives, and our partner organizations, the following evidence-based principles have guided our advocacy:

  • Tuition increases and provincial budget cuts planned for 2020/21 are inappropriate and should be reversed
  • Additional support is required for instructors to develop online course material
  • Students should not have to pay university fees for services they are unable to access
  • Students require affordable access to transit in absence of a UPASS
  • Health and safety must be prioritized, students should not be required to come to campus if they feel unsafe, and no statutory declaration or doctors note should be required to excuse illness-related absences
  • Safe access to libraries and learning resources must be ensured
  • Residence students must be consulted and their specific needs taken into consideration, including international students returning to Canada and changes to meal plan delivery to ensure safety and accessibility

During our COVID-19 closure, the SU and its businesses have partnered with the Leftovers Foundation to donate as many products as possible, rather than sending perishable items to the compost or landfill. To date, we have donated the following:

  • April 23: Stor and Student Services donated 13 cases of Milk 2 Go and 24 cases of pop and juice to Ronald McDonald House
  • May 1: Student Services and Campus Food Bank donated various perishable items (e.g., almond milk), promotional leftovers from SU Elections, and several items for babies and toddlers to Made by Momma
  • May 14: MacEwan Conference and Events donated 17 flats of assorted juice, split between service agencies making lunches for kids who suffer from food insecurity while schools are closed
  • July 2: Stor donated 12 clear garbage bags filled with chocolate bars, gummy candies, popcorn, rice cakes, granola bars, and nutritional bars split between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary, Alpha House, and YMCA youth programs.
  • Two more donations are being scheduled before our businesses re-open.

We will continue to keep students updated by adding to this page as information becomes available. As the Fall 2020 semester gets underway, we recognize that new issues will emerge, and we encourage students to send us your concerns so that we can continue to update and adapt our advocacy to meet these changing needs.

 

HERE AT UCALGARY

Institutional advocacy involves everything from course delivery methods and grading, the cost of tuition and fees, and which services will be accessible for students when courses resume in Fall 2020. Guided by the principles above, the SU has achieved the following for students:

  • Update: The SU advocated for increased access to printers for students living in residence. Starting November 1, students can book a 30 minute appointment at one of four designated kiosks to print, copy, or scan.
  • Update: The SU advocated against remote proctoring. We have learned that there will be no remote proctoring in either Fall 2020 or Winter 2021. An official announcement is expected from the university soon.
  • In May, the SU secured a seat on the Academic Crisis Management Task Force (ACTMF), which shapes decisions on key issues of course delivery, academic accommodations, library access, student health and safety, asynchronous course delivery, issues with remote proctoring, and more.
    • The SU’s seat on ACTMF ensured that students will have a 24-hour window to take online exams in Fall 2020
  • Ongoing discussions are taking place with Ancillary Services to ensure residence students’ concerns about accommodations and meal plans are addressed, and a letter has been sent to university administration outlining these concerns.
    • This includes advocating for accommodations to be available for international students’ 14-day quarantine to take place on-campus (for those returning to live in residence) when they are able to travel to Canada.
    • The SU is encouraging open dialogue between the Residence Students’ Association (RSA) and Ancillary Services.
  • The SU has received confirmation from university administration that students will not have to pay full fees for services they are unable to access, including Athletics and Campus Recreation.
    • Fees will appear in full when students register and will be reduced when details on the reductions have been finalized, before payments are due.
    • The UPass fee ($155 per semester) will not be assessed in Fall 2020.
    • The Athletics Fee ($51.75 per semester), which covers approximately 1/3 of the cost of the DINOS varsity athletics program, has been waived for all students Fall 2020 due to the cancellation of varsity sports by their leagues’ governing bodies. A decision about the fee for Winter 2021 is expected by October.
  • SU Faculty Representatives are developing and distributing surveys to better understand the impacts of course delivery, transit, quality of education, and faculty-specific issues.
    • The survey was open until August 7. Results will be reported at SLC later in August and will inform SU advocacy moving forward.
  • Update: The SU advocated for personal protective equipment to be provided to students, and the university will be providing two free reusable masks to students returning for the fall semester.
    • Free masks are available starting August 4
    • Masks must be worn in all common areas on campus, and the university’s protocols are subject to change as they reflect guidelines put in place by the province and the city of Calgary
  • Update: The SU advocated for self-isolation spaces to be provided to international students returning to live in residence, and these spaces will be available at a pro-rated cost with the option to purchase a meal plan.
    • Additionally, CAs and RAs who had placements in first-year residence will be provided with alternate work opportunities (including new wellness ambassador roles). Details are forthcoming from the university.
  • Update: The SU advocated for safe access to libraries and learning resources, and contactless pickup and bookable individual workstations will be available in the TFDL.
    • The UCalgary bookstore will be offering online ordering with on-campus pick-up and delivery options available. See their FAQ here.
    • Bound and Copied is currently open for email and phone orders on consignment textbooks with curbside pickup and delivery available.
  • Update: The results of the SU survey have been published. Over 1,100 responses were recorded. Results have already informed meetings with Calgary Transit, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and other decision-makers.
  • Update: Students will not have to pay the campus recreation fee ($37.48/semester) for the fall 2020 and winter 2021 terms. Students who have already been assessed this fee will have the fee reversed.
    • All students can access the Fitness Centre despite the fee being waived. See the Active Living FAQ for details.
  • Update: The university has posted an update on winter 2021 course delivery. SU advocacy will continue to address emerging and ongoing issues identified by students throughout the fall semester.
    • Service fees for services that will not be accessible to students will be removed and not charged for students registered in winter term courses.

City of Calgary

While most large-scale decisions rest with either the university or the provincial government, municipal advocacy remains important and ongoing. Specifically, the SU has worked on the following issues, realizing several important outcomes for students:

  • Update: The UPass program will remain suspended through Winter 2021. Discounted books of 10 single-use tickets will continue. An official announcement is expected from the university soon.
    • The SU is continuing to advocate for reduced monthly pass prices in meetings with city councillors and other officials.
  • Since April, the SU has been engaged in joint advocacy with the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the University of Calgary to lobby for restrictions on the city’s Fair Entry program to be lifted. Fair Entry includes the low-income transit pass; however, it requires that applicants use household rather than individual income.
  • The SU has partnered with the GSA and Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) to ask the city to provide monthly passes in Fall 2020 at the same rate as Band B of the low-income transit pass ($38.15/month).
    • Lobby meetings include the Mayor’s Senior Policy Analyst, Cllr. Farrell, and Cllr. Gondek, all of whom have shown interest in the proposal.
    • On July 17, a joint letter (SU and GSA) was sent to all city council members asking for their support of our ask for a reduced monthly transit pass rate for full-time students.
  • Update: The SU successfully advocated for a temporary alternative to the UPass for Fall 2020: Books of 10 tickets are available at a 40% discount ($21.00) beginning August 4
    • Up to 5 books of 10 tickets may be purchased per month
    • UCalgary ID card or proof of active student status must be shown at the time of purchase
    • Effective August 4, ticket books will be sold at the following locations:
        • Parking & Transportation Services between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday
        • Residence Services (Dining Centre) between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday
        • Foothills Medical Bookstore between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm, Monday to Friday (will need to call phone number on the door entrance)
        • Main Campus Bookstore between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, Monday to Friday (south exterior doors, opens Aug 17)
    • For questions regarding this program, please see the university’s website or contact parking@ucalgary.ca
    • The SU will continue to advocate for reduced monthly transit pass rates for full-time students
  • Update: As of Sunday, August 23, discounted transit tickets will be available at the new Campus Service Centre located in the main lobby of International House (169 University Gate NW) along with Unicard, Parking, and Residence services.

Government of Alberta

Post-secondary education is within the jurisdiction of the provincial government. Both independently and through our membership in the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), the SU has lobbied the government of Alberta to ensure that students’ need are met in the following ways:

  • Both CAUS and the SU called on the Government of Alberta to indefinitely postpone the implementation of performance-based funding (PBF) and cancel the cap on institutional expenses.
    • PBF has been delayed by one year.
    • Expense caps have been cancelled.
  • The SU has identified the following areas of advocacy to pursue leading up to the Fall 2020 re-launch:
  • A letter has been sent to the Ministry of Advanced Education outlining student concerns and asking for a meeting to discuss direct provincial support to reduce the financial burden on students in Fall 2020
  • Update: The SU met with the Minister of Advanced Education, who indicated there are no current plans for emergency bursaries but that the ministry will consider our proposal.
    • The Minister suggested that students who have already submitted an Alberta Student Aid application and feel they require additional loans submit a “Level 1: Request for Reconsideration” through their Alberta Student Aid Account. Further, recent graduates re-paying loans may be eligible for the Repayment Assistance Plan.
    • The SU believes that increasing loan debt is not the answer students need; rather, increasing non-repayable, upfront grants will encourage participation in post-secondary and ease skyrocketing student debt.

Federal Government

Students across Canada have been impacted by job loss, lack of employment opportunities, increased cost of living, and uncertainty about the future of their education. International students also face unique challenges that must be addressed federally. Through our membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), the SU has ensured that the voices of UCalgary students are heard by the federal government in the following ways:

  • Both CASA and the SU are calling on the federal government to ensure that international students are able to return to Canada to start or continue their studies.
    • If you’re an international student who has a valid study permit, or were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, you’re exempt from travel restrictions.
    • If your in-class courses are being moved to an online-only format because of COVID-19, you’re still eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).
    • International students can temporarily work more than 20 hours (until August 30, 2020) if the work is an essential service.
    • On July 14, new temporary policy changes were announced to provide greater flexibility for international students when applying for study permits and beginning studies online.
  • CASA commissioned a study of post-secondary students’ experiences during COVID-19.
  • CASA has compiled a list of resources to support students during COVID-19, including the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) which is available now.
  • On June 25, the Canada Summer Service Grant (CSSG) opened, providing between $1,000 – $5,000 for students who volunteered instead of working this summer.
    • CASA has identified gaps in this program, specifically that it excludes international students and anyone over 30 years old, and will continue to advocate for greater inclusivity.
  • Update: The Government of Canada has closed the CSSG program and is not processing applications.
    • CASA is calling on the government to re-allocate the $900 million promised through the CSSG towards immediate student supports such as bursaries