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SLC passes resolution calling for an independent review of administration’s actions on May 9

By Kimberly Taylor, May 31 2024—

On May 28 the Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) had its second meeting of their term. SLC members took their oaths of office, and appointments to the Operations and Finance committee were made. 

A resolution calling for an independent review of the University of Calgary administration’s decision to remove encampment protesters on May 9 was introduced, discussed and passed.

The meeting opened with newly appointed representatives – Danielle Barry, faculty representative, Veterinary Medicine and Tracy Dinh, faculty representative, Werklund School of Education, taking their oaths of office after being appointed during the May 14 meeting. As well as the appointment of Gabriela Dziegielewska, faculty representative, Science, and Mirza Beg, faculty representative, Cumming School of Medicine, to the Operations and Finance committee after a unanimous approval vote by the members present.

Ermia Rezai-Afsah, Students’ Union (SU) President, asked for an amendment to the agenda to discuss resolution 82.4.

“The 82nd SLC believes that the use of violent force against student protestors and the subsequent reputational damage to the University demands an independent review into the events, decisions, and circumstances which led to the use of violent force,” reads a statement from the resolution.

The resolution rests on a 2015 precedent, the McMahon review, named after the retired judge who conducted the review, Terrence McMahon, Q.C.

The McMahon review investigated a conflict of interest that occurred in 2011. University President Elizabeth Cannon was sitting on the board of Enbridge while the University was launching the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability within the Haskayne School of Business. When the director of the centre, Dr. Joe Alvai, expressed concerns about an oil and gas company being involved in sustainability he felt that he was not listened to and he eventually resigned his position.

“President Elizabeth Cannon acted with integrity in all matters related to the Centre for Corporate Sustainability,” reads a statement from a report on the U of C website. “There were no breaches of university policies or procedures, and no improper conduct by anyone involved in connection with the creation and operation of the centre.”

The links to read the McMahon review in full on the U ofC ’s website are no longer working.

Resolution 82.4 is also intended to include Rezai-Afsah on the University’s Crisis Management Team (CMT).

“The 82nd SLC calls upon the Board of Governors and the leadership of the University to ensure that the President or designate is made a permanent member of the CMT.”

Finally, resolution 82.4 also states that Rezai-Afsah should be able to communicate the resolutions to the Board of Governors and university leadership. 

“The President is authorized to take all appropriate actions to communicate the above resolutions to the Board of Governors and the leadership of the University.”

Rezai-Afsah introduced the resolution during SLC as a call for accountability for the actions of May 9.

“This is being brought forward because we’re exhausting our avenues of escalation and this is where we are at now, and it’s a moment in which we need to use SLC’s voice to amplify our call for accountability with the administration. Because so far the administration has been trying to sweep this under the rug. And that’s not okay so this is being brought to SLC,” he said. “I’ll take questions, I can provide more context, but I feel like this is a pretty fulsome document.”

During the twenty minute question and answer period regarding resolution 82.4 Simchah Atanda, faculty representative, Arts, asked about the next steps following this resolution. Rezai-Afsah stated that the resolution going public may force the university to communicate with the SU more. 

“Usually when we go public with something they get really scared. We’ve been meeting with senior executive leadership, and haven’t been really receptive to our call for accountability. They have other suggestions that I don’t think are appropriate given that May 9 opened a wound on our campus.”

Safaa Al-Khaz-Aly, faculty representative, Law, asked what the SU wants from this independent review. Rezai-Afsah stated that the goal is to establish the truth of the event and whether or not certain policies need to be changed.  

“We’re looking at the actions [and] the decision making that led to calling the police on students,” said Rezai-Afsah. “Asking for a review into the decisions, asking to look at the reputational risk, seeing if admin exhausted different avenues of mediation or dialogue with students [and] how much coordination and initiation they had with CPS in regards with the event.” 

“Also, asking ideally for measures we want to build into the investigation, certain outcomes that the university would have to meet as a result of the investigation whether it be changing policies, whether it be looking at should corrective action on the part of certain members of the CMT of administration. It depends on how the independent review comes out, the first point is to establish the truth of the event, or a truth about the event, so that there can be some form of authority as to what happened because the admin’s narrative is not indicative of reality,” Rezai-Afsah continued. 

Martin Al-Najar, faculty representative, Arts, asked about next steps if the resolution’s call for an independent review is denied. Rezai-Afsah stated that they will wait until the next BoG meeting before making any conclusions.  

“The next board of Governors meeting is on June 14 [so] we’re going to have to see how that plays out. We’re discussing certain passive actions on the side. I think it’s important to see how this plays out. Because one of the things the Student’s Union does that makes advocacy effective is that we cover our bases, we give people the chance to repent in effect, and if they don’t then we escalate.”

After the question and answer period of twenty minutes Rezai-Afsah moved for a vote, and the SLC unanimously voted in favour of passing resolution 82.4.

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

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