By Gayathri Peringod, February 6 2020—
An Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) representative reportedly voted in favour of tuition and fee hikes at the University of Calgary’s January Board of Governors’ (BOG) meeting.
Allan Lyons, AUPE’s representative on the Board, raised his hand in favour of the tuition increases for the upcoming academic year, say student witnesses who were present at the meeting.
Frank Finley, a former student representative on the Board of Governors, was at the meeting and took notice of Lyons’ vote.
“Despite the fact that the AUPE at U of C is kind of ratified and implemented to support students in their fight against these tuition increases, Allan voted for the tuition increases,” said Finley.
“I think that’s kind of interesting because it’s probably seen as a bit of a betrayal to not just students but AUPE and I’m very curious to see what happens from here on out.”
AUPE has come out against education cuts, holding a picket on campus in late November of 2019 to mobilize those concerned about the impact of the government’s cuts to post-secondary education. The organization’s website states that “this union is ready to represent you in every way.”
The AUPE Facebook page posted about the BOG vote on Jan.19, stating that “UofC students are fighting tuition hikes that make education less affordable. Solidarity! ✊🏼 #FightBackAB.”
Juan Sanchez Higuerey, a civil engineering student, was another one of the 17 gallery members present at the Board of Governors’ meeting.
“I think his vote is a big blow to all students, especially since Lyons’ vote goes against the official stance of the AUPE,” said Sanchez Higuerey.
“We will be paying hundreds of dollars more in tuition while getting a lower-quality education and fewer services.”
However, Sanchez Higuerey went on to point out that Lyons’ yes vote to tuition was only one of a large group, revealing the larger problem of lack of representation of student interests.
“Lyons is only one of 21 members on the board, so I think it’s more important to consider that only five out of these 21 members are elected by students, faculty and staff who spend their day-to-day on campus,” he said.
“It’s inherently undemocratic that most of these governors, appointed by the government, are able to push through this agenda while we are the ones affected by the changes.”
AUPE initially responded and said they would look into it, but did not do so, and subsequently did not respond to the Gauntlet’s request for follow up.
Justin Huseby, Chair of AUPE Local 052 at U of C, provided the following statement.
“The members of AUPE Local 052 are very disappointed that the AUPE representative voted in favour of tuition hikes at the meeting of the Board in January. We don’t know why he voted that way — formal board rules prevent members from discussing votes after they’ve taken place.
“At the end of the day, I want to be very clear that the members of Local 052 and AUPE as a whole are opposed to any tuition hikes t the University of Calgary. Our members have been committed to fighting both tuition increases and cuts to education and here at Local 052 we consider ourselves to be on the same team as students.
“Unfortunately, things like this sometimes do happen in democratic institutions — we certainly don’t dictate positions on every conceivable issue in advance but allow reps to listen to the debate and vote how they see fit. I was outside protesting against the tuition hikes alongside students and many staff members who were there on their breaks as well. It’s really disappointing that the motion to hike tuition and fees was actually passed by a large majority of the board of governors. Students, faculty and staff deserve a bigger voice in these important decisions and we are committed to working in solidarity with students.”