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Louie Villanueva

Students’ Union, university at odds over student representation on faculty councils

By Fabian Mayer, October 27 2015 —

The Students’ Union and university administration are clashing over student representation on faculty councils. Both sides acknowledge the importance of student representation, but disagree on the process by which students are appointed to councils.

The SU argues a sub-committee of Students’ Legislative Council should nominate student representatives with voting power to sit on faculty councils. The university believes each faculty should be able to independently choose which students sit on their council.

These councils are the highest decision-making body within a faculty. They determine enrolment standards, what programs are offered and what those programs look like.

Vice-president academic Stephan Guscott argues the SU can provide representatives with training and support to ensure they effectively represent students.

“The SU is the main channel of communication between undergraduate students and the university and we believe that should also be the case within faculties,” Guscott said.

He mentioned that students chosen by faculty councils are unaccountable, and claims there have been issues with attendance in the past.

“Faculty are comfortable working with the students they’ve worked with previously, but sometimes that doesn’t work out in the best interests of students,” Guscott said.

Guscott believes the university should require faculty councils to include voting student members nominated by the SU. Provost Dru Marshall disagrees, arguing that faculties have individual cultures that must be respected.

“As the provost, it would be very dangerous for me to make a decision on behalf of every faculty,” Marshall said. “I think the faculties themselves are the best arbiters of who those students should be and why.”

Marshall believes students unaffiliated with the SU can be effective student representatives.

“Local students really understand the issues in the faculty. They care deeply about their programs and they’re completely hooked into the issues of the day,” Marshall said.

Each faculty council is rewriting their terms of reference (TOR) — documents that spell out the council’s purpose and composition. Three faculties’ TOR have been submitted so far, and none of them include voting student representatives nominated by the SU.

Despite this, Guscott remains hopeful that educating faculties about the SU will yield progress.

“It’s a lack of understanding of what the SU’s role is and that’s what we’re trying to address,” Guscott said.

According to Guscott, the SU is also asking the ministry of advanced education to clarify rules around student representation on the councils.

“If we get clarity from the ministry, that’s something that could change. If that did change, then all the faculties would have to be in compliance,” Guscott said.

Guscott also plans to present the SU’s case at a dean’s council meeting in November.

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