By Ashar Memon, December 19 2018 —
2018 was a never-ending gauntlet all on its own. Here’s our top 10 news stories from a long 12 months.
University of Calgary student’s postponed sentence of U of C student convicted of sexual offense causes uproar:
Just days into 2018, a British Columbia judge postponed the sentence of a convicted sex offender so that he could finish his winter semester at the U of C. Connor Neurauter was sentenced to 90 days in jail beginning May 2018 for sexual interference with a 13-year-old girl. According to a victim statement, the girl said that Neurauter choked her and blackmailed her using nude photographs to keep their relationship a secret.
News of the sentence swept the campus community and beyond, as an online petition that called for Neurauter’s expulsion garnered nearly 80,000 signatures. The U of C released a statement saying that while they don’t have the grounds to expel him, he would be escorted off campus if he were to appear. Neurauter began serving his sentence intermittently on weekends on Feb. 9.
Elizabeth Cannon resigns; U of C searches for a new president:
In January, U of C president Elizabeth Cannon announced that she would resign from her position effective Dec. 31, 2018. Cannon was appointed as president in 2010, becoming the first woman to hold the position at the U of C. Cannon announcement set off a months-long search for a successor, which lasted for most of 2018. In June, the U of C released a candidate profile for those wanting to take the position and the application period closed later in July. While it amassed a pool of over 400 candidates from around the world, the U of C decided to stick with someone close to home, announcing in November that its vice-president research, Ed McCauley, would become president in 2019.
Students’ Union cedes ownership of MacHall in resolution to years-long dispute:
In February, the SU and the U of C announced that they had reached an agreement over the ownership and management of MacHall, ending a lengthy dispute over the student centre. The SU filed a lawsuit against the U of C for majority ownership of MacHall in October 2015, and in October 2016, the court ruled against an injunction request by the SU to continue operating the building while the lawsuit proceeded. The U of C had been managing MacHall since then. As part of the agreement, the SU took over the building’s management in May 2018, with the U of C becoming its sole owner.
Bermuda Shorts Day financial woes continue to grow:
For the first time ever, the SU began charging a $5–10 entrance fee to the Bermuda Shorts Day beer gardens this year, citing the need to rein in the large deficit incurred by the event in previous years. The SU blamed the U of C for rising costs, saying they were left no option.
Despite the entrance fee, BSD’s deficit this year grew to over $98,000 — about $10,000 higher than the previous year — and the event had its lowest attendance in at least 6 years, calling into question the future of BSD.
Provincial government caps post-secondary tuition to inflation, limits executive salaries:
In October, the Alberta New Democratic Party introduced a bill that imposed several new regulations on post-secondary tuition and fees — among them, capping tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index. The bill passed its third and final reading in November. The NDP also announced in October that it would extend the current tuition freeze through the 2019–20 school year.
Tuition regulations weren’t the only contentious item to come under the auspices of the province this year — the NDP also announced that it would limit post-secondary executives’ salaries after students at the University of Alberta protested their president’s $824,000 salary amid budget cuts in May.
Construction projects take over U of C campus:
The U of C’s main campus became a major construction site this year as extensive renovations to the MacKimmie Block went underway. In March, a construction crane was installed beside the MacKimmie Tower, and over the summer, the building was decanted and prepared for the addition of at least two new floors. As part of the renovations, the U of C closed off Swann Mall and moved notable campus landmarks, including the Rock and the Prairie Chicken. Construction of the MacKimmie Tower is scheduled to finish in 2019, while the entire MacKimmie Block will be done in 2022.
Thanks to a $20-million donation in June, construction will begin on another building for the Haskayne School of Business in 2019. Named after its donor, Calgary businessman Ronald P. Mathison, Mathison Hall will be located beside Scurfield Hall.
SU executive resigns after punching a student:
Students’ Union vice-president external Puncham Judge resigned from her position in April. Since she was elected to serve a second term, the position was left vacant heading into the 2018–19 school year. Then-SU president Branden Cave originally cited personal reasons for her resignation, but documents obtained by the Gauntlet under the provincial Freedom of Information Act revealed that she resigned after punching a fellow student in the face at the BSD beer gardens.
In June, the SU announced that it would leave the position vacant until an October byelection, despite having received multiple internal applications to fill it. In September, two candidates ran to fill the role — though one immediately said she no longer wanted the position and would not campaign. Then-senate representative Anayat Sidhu was sworn in as vice-president external in October after receiving 66 per cent of the vote.
Greyhound cancels bus routes in Western Canada:
In July, Greyhound Canada announced that it would cease operating all of its routes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and all but one route in British Columbia effective Oct. 31, sparing only a Seattle–Vancouver line operated by its United States counterpart. The company blamed a drop in ridership for the move. A quarter of all U of C students reported having an initial Canadian address outside of Calgary and many students rely on Greyhound routes to travel home from school during the academic year. Without Greyhound, many said they are left with little to no reliable and affordable options for transportation.
U of C stops collecting fees for student groups, plunging Engineering Students’ Society into disarray:
In September, the U of C abruptly announced in an email that it would no longer collect fees on behalf of student groups, singling out the Engineering Students’ Society, which was the only student organization collecting fees through the university. The ESS had been collecting a $10 semesterly fee after 70 per cent of engineering students voted in favour of the fee in 2006.
The society said the decision effectively revoked the membership of all engineering students in the organization and that it would affect nearly all aspects of its student programming. ESS also decried the U of C’s lack of student engagement or consultation with the group over the move. Over the fall semester, ESS began working with the SU to arrange a different way to collect the fees.
Calgarians head to the polls to vote on Olympic bid:
The city finally headed to the polls in November to decide whether to bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Much of 2018 was spent discussing a potential Olympic bid, with tense debates in Calgary’s council chamber and a slew of media leaks calling into question the transparency of the bid and financial feasibility of the hosting the games. Just days before Calgary counsellors were set to vote on whether to carry on with a plebiscite, the bid nearly died after disagreements over funding between the city and the federal government reached a boiling point. A last-minute deal was made and the question of whether Calgary should host the games went to a vote in November, with advanced voting stations open at the U of C in MacHall.
Ultimately, Calgarians decisively put the question to rest, with 56.4 per cent voting ‘no’ to hosting the Olympic games.
Bonus — Student emails every ‘Nicole’ at U of C to find woman he met night before:
“Met you last night and you gave me the wrong number,” was the subject line of an email sent by a U of C student to every person named ‘Nicole’ in the university’s institutional directory. Carlos Zetina, a first-year student at the U of C, was hoping to reconnect with a woman he met the night before at a bar. The 246 Nicoles who received the email began talking among themselves and started their own little community of Nicoles, creating a Nicole-only Facebook group and hosting a Nicole-only dinner party. Zetina ultimately reconnected with the right Nicole with help from the new gang of Nicoles.