By Sophia Lopez, May 6 2022—
May marks the beginning of the new term for the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) elected executives and representatives.
The SU hosted their Colour Night event last Friday to celebrate the newly elected team and welcome them to the upcoming school year.
In conversations with the Gauntlet, SU President Nicole Schmidt and VP Academic Shaziah Jinnah expressed their excitement to work closely with each other and the rest of the executives and representatives for this new term. Schmidt in particular is estatic to continue working at the SU, especially considering that she is the first female to hold the president position for two terms.
“I just feel really lucky and fortunate that students still had faith in me and still wanted me around for a second year to do this job,” said Schmidt. “We had a lot of really successful advocacy wins last year, both internally and externally to the university, and a lot of really tangible gains for students. So I’m really excited to continue that momentum and work into my second term.”
Going from a full-time student to stepping into an executive SU position, Jinnah is prepared for change and understands the responsibilities she now has to take on in her new role.
“I think it’s definitely a change for sure, from what I’m used to,” said Jinnah. “But I couldn’t be happier to be sitting in this chair, and just really hitting the ground running and getting the work done from the get go.”
A big part of Schmidt’s plan this year is to get the provincial government to commit to tying all tuition increases to Canada’s consumer price index (CPI), as a way for students to prepare for future tuition increases. Schmidt explained how this plan is a result of the major tuition increases students have had to face over the past three years — an issue she has been fighting against since the beginning of her first term as SU president.
“Previously with our [New Democratic Party] NDP government they had a tuition freeze, which was really great for students at the time — but obviously, now students who are enrolled in post secondary institutions in Alberta, they’re really paying the price for that,” said Schmidt.
Beginning in the upcoming fall term, students can expect Jinnah to address concerns regarding reading break and how students should be able to use this time as a way to regroup and rest — not to complete assignments or study for upcoming exams.
“I’ve heard issues around assignments being due over reading break or immediately after, and I want the university to commit to ensuring that does not happen,” said Jinnah. “That’s my goal, is ensuring that I can try and get that commitment this year and work towards an understanding that benefits students.”
As we slowly approach a more normalized reality, with decisions such as the campus mask mandate being lifted, Schmidt wants to make sure students are also starting to recover financially by introducing internal resources to help them find job opportunities outside of the university.
“Something that we’ve seen in the last two summers especially as the pandemic started — but really in the last few years since the [United Conservative Party] UCP government was elected in Alberta — is a decline in the number of work opportunities for students over the summer months,” said Schmidt. “So I’m really hoping to work with the administration to develop some sort of employment program to really incentivize local employers to hire University of Calgary students, either for the short term or the long term.”
Quality of education is very important to Jinnah, as she discussed her goals for a more equal, diverse, and opportunistic university experience for students. She plans to increase the awareness and access to Universal Student Ratings of Instruction (USRIs) and Open Educational Resources (OERs).
“I want to ensure that there’s adequate student representation. USRIs represent one of very few opportunities students get to provide educational feedback in a particular course, and it’s an extremely valuable tool when used properly and in meaningful ways,” said Jinnah, “And at the same time as well, empowering students, specific groups on campus, and intersectional identities — OERs are tremendously important, especially for students coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”
Schmidt expressed how the team is still learning from each other during this transition period into their new roles, but that everyone is very excited to get going.
“I’ve just been really learning a lot about them and figuring out how I can best support them moving into this year,” said Schmidt. “I’m just really excited to be able to have the opportunity to continue in this position for a second year.”
Jinnah is beyond excited to start working with her SU team, and spoke on how grateful she is to have fellow executives she can look up to and learn from.
“I am extremely privileged to be working with a team like this. Together, I think we can collaborate really well,” said Jinnah. “It’s not just that I have this opportunity to advocate for students and represent them as an SU executive, but I also get to collaborate and work with my team members.”
To learn more about the SU, along with the representatives and executives a part of the 80th Student Legislative Council, visit the SU website.