An Open Letter to the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union Executive | By Navneet Khinda and Nikki Way

TO:

Colten Yamagishi, President
Petros Kusmu, Vice President (External)
Dustin Chelen, Vice President (Academic)
Saadiq Sumar, Vice President (Student Life)
Andy Cheema, Vice President (Operations and Finance)

Dear Members of the Students’ Union Executive,

As you are well aware, the upcoming budget cuts and their implications to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions will have serious repercussions for generations of students to come. Budget cuts are one thing, but mandating that the direction of research align exclusively with the province’s economic diversification goals and a forced merging of programs across campuses is extremely shortsighted policy.

These issues have led to a number of discussions within various communities to be affected by such cuts, and though we are happy to see this taking place at a grass-roots level, we believe that the Students’ Union has an obligation to take some sort of leadership role in order to effectively channel the momentum that is building. Momentum at the grassroots level is great, but we have seen too many similar movements fizzle out in the past, which has led us to believe that direction and organization is needed. And who better to lead that charge than the students elected to represent students and defend their interests?

We do not imagine that the proposed cuts will be easily reversed, even if matched with protest, but what we do want to ensure is that this issue does not fall victim to the short news cycle and be buried beneath other news. Publicity is needed, not only throughout the province, but nation-wide, in order to pressure our elected MLAs and bring attention to the implications of these decisions.

This message was originally intended solely for the Vice President External, as relations with external bodies falls directly under that portfolio, however we believe that the entire Executive team bears a certain responsibility in doing something. We completely understand the precarious political situation you may be in as student politicians soon to transition out of your term in office, and we know this is not a small task to ask of you. But we are writing to encourage the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union to take a strong public stance against not only the proposed budget cuts, but more importantly against the so-called “mandates” the province will be sending to the institutions.

Furthermore, we believe that the SU should work and organize with faculty associations, faculty and administration at the U of A, and Student Associations of all post-secondary institutions in Alberta, especially the larger advocacy group, the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS). We believe that if a resourceful team of leaders takes leadership, many students will fully support the cause.

As politically engaged and concerned students here at the U of A, we urge you to consider fostering a student movement greater than just a “discussion”. We wish to see a strong and cohesive effort to bring the affected parties together to form a unified voice.

Sincerely,

Navneet Khinda, 2012-2013 Arts Councillor
Nikki Way, 2012-2013 Undergraduate Student-at-large Representative

CC photograph courtesy of MrBG on Flickr.

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