7:48am – I’m standing outside University Hall at the University of Alberta with over 500 students who got up early to protest tuition and residence fee increases. It’s freezing cold outside, so it’s really great to see so many people out facing the cold and being active citizens!
8:00am – I’m now sitting in University Hall and there’s a nervous tension in the air. The Board of Governors are sitting, preparing for their meeting while the chants of “access now!” are coming from just outside room.
8:03am – The meeting has begun and I’m thinking this might be painful to live-blog. The Board Chair Brian Heidecker is now talking about agenda items. I think he might rival Premier Ed Stelmach for charisma.
8:06am – Chairman Heidecker is now praising Barack Obama.
8:16am – Not sure who the Governors of Alberta’s largest public post-secondary institution are? Here’s a list:
William Cheung, Gordon Clanachan, Marc de La Bruyère, Brian Heidecker, John Hoddinott, J.D. Hole, Agnes Hoveland, Linda Hughes, Michael Janz, Don Matthew, Janelle Morin, Jay Nagendran, George Pavlich, Gerard Protti, Sol Rolingher, Oliver Rossier, Indira Samarasekera, Bruce Saville, Don Sieben, Ben Whynot, Dick Wilson
4 women, 17 men. Pretty reflective of the Alberta’s population, student population, etc, etc, etc…
8:25am – Holy Web 2.0, Batman! Governor Michael Janz is tweeting from the meeting.
8:32am – Provost Carl Amrhein is about to start their presentation to justify this year’s tuition hike. Amrhein takes the time to preemptively call the student position ‘inaccurate‘ before starting his presentation.
8:37am – I’m curious how many people in this room find themselves in this category?
8:44am – University VP Finance Phyllis Clark is presenting the ‘institutional budget risks.’ Just about as exciting as it sounds.
8:49am – GSA President Ben Whynot is schooling the Board Members on the responsibility of Governors towards the institution while starting the presentation from Graduate Students. “Dissatisfaction with current investments” includes funding disparities across departments, hefty differential fees for international students, & lack of access to childcare for graduate students. U of A Graduate students accessing childcare pay an average of +$700 per month (it may be just me, but that sounds like a lot!)
9:02am – Thinking about how difficult it must be for Governors to actually wade through the positions of the administration and the students. How do you tell what is reality and what is positioning and agendas?
9:08am – Students’ Union President Janelle Morin is beginning her presentation. Commenting on students’ role on the board. “My obligation to highlight one area where the University is falling short” “gaps between students school costs and their expected revenue flow” “tuition is poised to pass $5,000 this year“
9:15am – Morin: Average accumulated debt for a U of A undergraduate student is $23,000. Over half of undergraduate students graduate with debt.
9:18am – Morin: Average earnings of an Albertan with a Bachelors Degree: Men: $70,000; Women $54,000.
Students’ Union summary: improve access, improve quality.
9:21am – Heidecker has opened the floor to questions and observations from the Administration and the Board members on the three presentations. Having been to this kind of meeting in previous years, I know the kind of gold mine for quotes this can be. Let’s go!
Provost Amrhein – ‘Post-secondary education is a shared responsibility between the Government and the people.’ Shouldn’t the Government be the people?
9:28am – Calling this meeting frustrating would be an understatement. Can someone convince me to run to become the Students’ Union Board of Governors Representative? They’re all wearing nice suits. Maybe I’d be able to get a nice suit too? I don’t think I’d wear a suit. This board needs less ‘suits.’
9:31am – Governor Sol Rolingher: “I made the decision to have a child while in University. It happened. I don’t know why.” Rolingher then went on to explain that ‘it is a herculean task to overcome financial deprivation, but it’s part of being on campus and learning.’ (rough quote). Keep in mind that he said this while wearing a very very nice business suit. Doesn’t it make you feel better that this public board is filled with men of the people like Rolingher?
9:43am – Provost Amhrein: The tuition increase covers salaries and benefits.
“According to the University of Alberta’s fiscal statements for year ended March 31, 2007, U of A president Indira Samarasekera was paid $591,000 in salary and benefits. Her Number Two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned even more: $599,000.“
9:48am – 4.1% tuition increase passed. 17-3. Barely any debate from the Public Members of the Board. Alumni Representatives Dick Wilson and William Cheung voted for the increase. In 2008, Alumni Rep Ruth Kelly took a stand and voted against the increase.
10:15am – The presentations regarding residence rent increases are done. Good presentations all around. The University is still dealing with massive deferred maintenance costs caused by the cutbacks in the 1990s. Students are facing a 8% increase, giving students a 30%/$1000 increase since 2006 = $220 per month increase since 2006.
10:30am – Governor Michael Janz “the policy of student housing by our provincial government is unfortunate” “concerned that we are pricing students out” “original 6.4% increase in 2006 was supposed to be an emergency deferred maintenance cost. We are facing so much deferred maintenance costs that I’m afraid we’ll continue putting the cost onto students” “I’m concerned that this is contributing to an unsustainable levels of costs that we’re putting on students.“
10:32am – The meeting is still going. Call me a cynic, but I’m going to assume that the rent increase will pass with about the same amount of debate and similar vote tally as the tuition vote. Two and a half hours after the meeting began, life calls and I must depart. Thanks for tuning in!