Promises made at student town hall

0
125
A photo is taken from behind the front row at a town hall with university executives. Jeff Keshen is pictured at a table on the stage.
“Do or do not, there is no ‘try’” Yoda[llister] lee lim

“We’ll try our best, okay?” states Keshen on projected 4 per cent tuition raise

Disclaimer: The Carillon is pledged to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest wherever and whenever possible. To uphold these values, editor-in-chief Holly Funk was not involved with any part of the writing, editing, or producing of coverage on this topic given their personal involvement in these matters. 

A town hall with university executives, organized by the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG), was held on Tuesday, Mar 5. The event which lasted for an hour and was held at the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) at the Riddell Centre. The event provided an open platform for all University of Regina (U of R) students to be able to be able to have a direct conversation with the University executives and ask questions and raise concerns. 

“Our mandate is to do advocacy in and outside of the campus. And in the past, we had done so by coordinating with different groups and advocacy procedures in terms of, you know, more wages, less tuition fees,” explained Tayef Ahmed, the Executive Director of RPIRG. “The budget…it affects and impacts all the students every single time. It impacts their education, it impacts the quality of education. But students aren’t in those discussions and then they don’t have any idea what’s going on,” Ahmed continued.  

While there is still representation in the Board of Governers, Ahmed understands that there is missing context for students, and thaat the representative “probably is not communicating with the rest of the students about what’s been going on.” This disconnect, according to Ahmed, was the primary motivator for the town hall. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for individuals to come and then answer these questions directly in public,” he explained. 

U of R students were informed about the event via emails sent out by RPIRG and Student Affairs approximately a week before the event. The email mentioned that the students will have the opportunity to ask questions directly from the university executives. Due to limited amount of time available, students were also encouraged to send their questions to RPIRG in advance. The event began at 1:30 in the afternoon of March 5 and lasted for an hour. The first thirty minutes were set aside for pre-designed questions and the students got the opportunity to ask on-the-spot questions for the last thirty minutes of the meeting. 

The university executives were represented by Dr. Jeff Keshen, President and Vice Chancellor U of R, who answered most of the questions. The presence of Dr. Alec Couros, Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning; Dianne Ford, Vice President (Administration); Dr. Isabelle Dostaler, Provost and Vice President (Academic); Glenys Sylvestre, Chief Governance Officer; John D. Smith, Associate Vice President (Students Affairs); and Dr. Christopher Yost, Vice President (Research) was also noted. 

Holly Funk, Editor-in-Chief at the Carillon acted as moderator for the event. 

 “I’m very happy to be here for students and others who are interested in asking questions and engaging about things that they are concerned about, things that they would like to address in the university context,” said Keshen.  

Although the event granted an opportunity to have a conversation with the university executives, student turnout was not significant. “It was not a super organized thing. We actually left it to the executive team to decide the day and time and the length of the meeting that would work for them. Unfortunately we were not able to take student availability into account this time,” explained Ahmed when discussing attendance.  

Questions revolved largely around student welfare in including concerns about rising tuition fees, cost of living, food insecurity, and the university’s role in maintaining student satisfaction and the quality of the services they offer.  

Surveys for assessing student satisfaction were mentioned by executives. How many students actively and honestly participate in these surveys were not taken into account. 

Questions regarding the recently announced cap on the number of study permits by the federal government and its effect on university’s revenue which depends a great deal on international student enrolment were also bought up. A full transcript of the answers provided by the executives can by accessed by sending a request to info@rpirg.org

One of the predetermined questions raised concerns about recruiting agencies in different countries which the U of R partners with for recruiting international students. These agencies reportedly lie to international students about jobs and other opportunities to exploit them. 

“I swear our for our recruiters…we have very clear contractual obligations upon our recruiters any of them that misrepresent are not used anymore by our institution. They have to take training through our UR International. Much of the recruiting that’s done by the [U of R] is not done by third parties. It’sdone by UR International…We have a team at UR International. So whereas we deal with some agents we ensure that the agents that we deal with are highly ethical if they misrepresent in any way whatsoever, we end the contractual relationship with them,” stated Keshen in response to the question. 

In light of predictions made by the proposed 2024-2025 budget that the tuition might rise again by another 4 per cent in the next academic year, questions regarding what alternative methods are being looked into to deal with budgetary issue other than a raise in tuition fees were raised.  

In response to these concerns Keshen said, “I think you deserve a very honest answer. When the government came forward with the four-year agreement that we had, they said that they were going to freeze the amount that we that we were going to get over those four years, but we could raise tuition up to 4 per cent.” While the university claims the government has frozen funding, the Minister for Advanced Education claimed in May 2023 that the university did not ask for additional funding regardless that year. 

 “We have a responsibility to our board to balance our budget each year. And we also have to deal with rising cost,” said Keshen. ”We’re trying our best to put more money into scholarships… You’re trying to make us aware of the fact that you are really having a tough time. We’ll try our best okay?” 

A number of promises and reassurances came from the university’s end regarding student welfare. “Students are interested in having these conversations… Future events like these are certainly in the picture so that the students can also follow-up on the promises that were made by the university executives in this meeting,” explained Ahmed. 

Tags66

Comments are closed.