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SLC discusses EDIA strategies in consultation meeting

By Vama Saini, March 9 2024—

Last week’s Student Legislative Council (SLC) meeting took place on Feb 27. It provided updates from the Honorary sub-meeting, Senate recruitment, and a presentation by the Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (PTF-EDIA). 

Senate representatives Aly Samji and Reeana Tazreean shared updates on the Senate meeting that took place on Feb 22. 

“Because it is quite confidential, the only pieces of information I can share at this point is that the Honorary degree recipients, as well as the Order of the Univerisity of Calgary recipients, have been put forge to the Senate for selection, so they’ve gone through the selection stage at the committee and sub-committee and now will be decided and the Senate level,” said Samji. 

Additionally, updates were shared regarding Senate recruitment, urging the SLC to recommend potential senators who could contribute positively to the university’s governance.

“Some other items that were discussed included a campus-wide mental health strategy. There’s also a new measurement tool that will be used to track engagement between the greater community and the U of C. And there was also a presentation done on food sustainability,” said Tazreean. 

The PTF-EDIA presented an overview of the Task Force’s mandate and progress. The three main purposes highlighted were building awareness, co-constituting a strategy and addressing barriers to access and success for underrepresented or historically marginalized individuals.

Dr. Malinda Smith, co-chair of PTF-EDIA, emphasized the importance of moving beyond good intentions and taking actionable steps through education, training, and practical support. The task force aims to shift from individual champions to systemic change, ensuring that the EDIA strategy reflects the interests of all equity-deserving groups.

“We need action. And what does this action require? Education, training, and practical support,” said Smith. 

The ongoing meaningful engagement stage was discussed, including an upcoming survey. Attendees were encouraged to actively participate in shaping the EDIA strategy.

“Really what we are trying to do here [in this phase] is to create that vision of what we want and talk to the stakeholders that have a say in this and hopefully help us shape what this strategy ends up being and becoming,’ said Ngo. 

Dr. Hieu van Ngo, associate professor and associate dean of the Faculty of Social Work, emphasized discussion and heard back from the SLC by asking questions about what they would like to see from the EDIA Task Force. 

“What do you need to feel like co-creators of this PTF and the eventual strategy that it will create,” said Ngo. 

President Shaziah Jinnah Morsette encouraged regular consultation meetings with the PTF-EDIA and the SU to ensure communication and check on progress. 

Vice President External Mateusz Salmassi expressed the need for more examples of student-led initiatives in EDIA, potentially encouraging greater student participation.

“Something that might be useful is examples of institutional change that has happened at UofC in response to the discussion around EDI or any past examples of students bringing up EDIA issues,” said Salmassi. 

Faculty of Arts Representative Siraj Shah asked PTF-EDIA if they are able to make political statements in their aim of creating an equitable and diverse campus. 

“Being a Muslim student myself, I have felt over the past few months in wake of particular global conflicts, that the university has not responded in a positive way with certain statements being made and so on. For students, particularly equity-deserving groups who are literally losing their families across the world,” shared Shah. 

“So I’m kind of curious to know whether or not the PTF-EDIA office will continually adjust its strategies going forward when it comes to these situations, and whether it can take political stances on decolonization, on settler colonialism, whether it can engage with students who are victims of colonization around the world in a more meaningful way,” said Shah. 

Smith said that issues of international conflicts are typically in the domain of international offices and clarified the role of equity offices in addressing the needs of affected students on campus.

“Part of what we can do is educate people so people feel like their stories are being told. So we created an Islamic [Heritage] Month website. And we did one on Jewish Heritage Month, where we actually captured people’s stories, and we put out articles on Holocaust Remembrance Day. But we also post articles on experiences of Islamaphobia,” said Smith. 

Schulich Representative Seniru Ruwanpura inquired about the Task Force’s strategy for recruiting diverse leadership into the Executive Leadership Team (ELT).

“I think at the moment, for example, on the Dean’s table, there is not a single person of colour, and in the executive leadership, there is only one person of colour. So I wanted to ask, does the Task Force have a proposed strategy in terms of how they can approach recruiting people of colour or more diverse leadership into SLC and ELT? Because I think at the end of the day, you can have all these EDI principles for faculty and staff at universities, but if you don’t have diverse leadership, then it becomes difficult to make sure EDIA is being practiced across university communities,” asked Ruwanpura.  

Smith acknowledged the need for diversity in leadership and highlighted ongoing efforts to track trends in representation.

Morsette addressed the challenges students face in formalizing complaints and concerns regarding inappropriate treatment. 

“There is just a really big difficulty in these processes, even the ones that do exist, and it seems that there is a gap, and that ultimately, in the end, students and the campus community in general, find that maybe there is not a place to formally bring these forward within a trauma-informed space that is designed to handle sensitive things like this,” said Morsette. 

Faculty of Medicine Representative Angelic Uy announced a disability and research conference scheduled for March 16, hosted by the Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Student Association (CRDSSA).

Morsette made an announcement about adjustments to the Health and Dental Plan fees for the upcoming academic year. In response to a successful referendum, the fees will be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with an upper limit of four per cent.

“Alberta CPI of 3.4 per cent was provided in January 2024, and that was used to indicate the percentage in which these fees will be increased,” said Morsette. 

The SU Health Fee will see an increase from $107.12 to $110.76, and the Dental Fee will rise from $104 to $107.54 for the next academic year.

For agendas, minutes and upcoming meetings visit the SU website.

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