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Taylor Institute strategic plan, OER policy discussed at Feb. 26 SLC

By James Falls, February 28 2019 —

A number of consultations marked the Feb. 26 meeting of Students’ Legislative Council, the final session before voting opens for the 2019 SU General Election.

The council first saw a presentation from Natasha Kenny, senior director of the University of Calgary Taylor Institute for Learning and Teaching, on the institute’s strategic plan. Kenny said they hope to launch the plan in fall 2019. Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance Kevin Dang expressed a desire for increased emphasis on adapting to the changing needs of students.

“It’s a five-year plan, but things change in five years and adapting to things like how people teach — there could maybe be a bit more focus on that,” Dang said.

Engineering representative Ioana Rontu questioned who the target audience of the plan was.

“It’s difficult because it is the entire campus community, but it’s also our national and international partners in teaching and learning,” Kenny responded. “It is really all academic partners.” Rontu replied that she would like to see the plan take a more in-depth approach.

Vice-president academic Jessica Revington commented about a need for greater focus on undergraduate students in Taylor Institute programming.

“Undergraduate students see the TI as a place classes might be held or a cool study space, but don’t see it the same way graduate students do,” Revington said.

President Sagar Grewal then delivered a presentation on the SU’s draft strategic plan, which he said will provide “a big picture of the entire organization” for the next three years. This comes after a survey launched in January for SU staff and volunteers. Grewal highlighted that in the new draft, the SU is “examining ways to share the plan with the campus community.” Grewal explained that feedback showed that the SU needs to place a greater emphasis on transparency and advocacy.

The inclusion of the terms ‘inclusivity’ and ‘accessibility’ in the SU’s updated mission and values statements was an item of discussion for council members.

“I’d like to see more of an emphasis on accessibility. The SU is seen as a cloud in the sky council that does things and isn’t immediately relatable to students,” said medicine representative Maireed Whelan.

Social work representative Marissa Bennett underlined a need for greater clarification, saying, “I wanted to note that inclusivity is not the same as accessibility, those are two distinctly different things.”

Grewal explained the use of the terms, saying that ‘inclusivity’ was more encompassing of diversity. He also noted that accessibility would fit better in the mission statement “as something we focus on every day.”

The strategic plan draft will move to first reading on March 5 and the second reading will follow on March 12.

Revington and Dang presented a report on the SU’s Open Educational Resource (OER) policy for feedback from council.

“We’re at a certain point with our OER advocacy where we can’t really proceed without additional government funding,” Revington said.

Revington also said that “the idea of the advocacy policy is to clearly outline the SU’s position on OERs” and that the U of C is the “only post-secondary institution in Alberta to be able to practice or try something like this with OERs that has been able to impact students.”

Science representative Sadiya Nazir asked about collaboration with stakeholders, particularly with professors who would write the textbook. “[The SU is] currently working with Libraries and Cultural Resources to speak with professors who use their own textbooks to explore how OERs can benefit them as well as students,” Revington replied.

Arts representative Quinn Stevenson asked whether there were any initiatives on campus to raise awareness of OERs to students directly. Revington acknowledged that there are none, saying, “Most of the battle is with faculty and professors behind the scenes. We don’t necessarily need the buy-in from students.”

When asked what the ongoing push surrounding OERs would entail, Revington said that the SU will continue advocating for more funding. She also expressed a desire to make OER advocacy a Council of Alberta University Students priority.

In his executive report, Grewal reported meetings with provincial candidates from the Green and Liberal parties and participating in ongoing meetings in the search for a new U of C vice-president research. Revington highlighted meetings with administration about students illegally distributing copyrighted textbooks digitally.

SU vice-president student life Nabila Farid reported consultations with administration on Bermuda Shorts Day and other end-of-semester events. Vice-president external Anayat Sidhu mentioned finalizing drafts for the SU’s new strategic plan and meeting with provincial candidates. Dang reported ongoing meetings surrounding the new strategic plan and the annual policy review.

The next SLC meeting will be held on March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in MacHall Executive Council Chambers. Access elected official reports, trimester reports, minutes and all other SLC documents here.

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