By Mary Chan
More is known about the Students’ Union’s decision to pull out of tuition consultation with the University of Calgary. In early December, the Students’ Legislative Council voted in favour of pulling out of the consultation process, citing a lack of results from previous years’ consultations as the main reason.
SU President Paul Galbraith offered several reasons for the lack of results, including the lack of Board of Governors representation on the tuition consultation committee, the failure of the university to present its own position fully and the failure of the university to allow full presentation of the SU’s position.
"Consultation involves the decisionmaker fully informing the other side of its position, and the other, the students, being able to fully present their own side," said Galbraith. "The university has failed to inform the SU of critical developments in its tuition fee policy, such as advocacy of a system of differential tuition for the U of C."
Galbraith added that then-SU President Pat Cleary was not allowed to present to the BoG (the decisionmaking body that controls tuition increases) last year, although U of C Vicepresident Finance Keith Winter (an official but not a member of the Board) was allowed to present.
Galbraith also cited inaccurate and contradictory information from the university with respect to tuition, specifically how the university recalculates the percentage of tuition students pay to be lower and lower every year.
"The university claims it is merely refining its calculation methods," said Galbraith, "but it appears as though the university is just trying to make more room under the [tuition] cap by adopting accounting methods that make students pay more and the university look like it has more room than it really does."
Winter was unable to respond to SU claims of contradictory accounting results.
"We haven’t yet had a chance to find out what those figures are and where they come from," he said, adding that the SU cited many sources which have not been completely gathered yet.
Galbraith also emphasized the university’s critical misapprehension of the SU’s role in tuition consultation.
"President White, at a breakfast meeting, informed me and the SU that the university both could and would simply consult with other students," he said. "Misunderstanding the fact that the Universities Act is very clear-the SU is the official medium of consultation between the students and the university."
Winter stated that the university had not considered consulting only students, and that the opportunity for the SU to reenter the process still exists.
"We still have scheduled meetings," said Winter. "We are open to continuing [consultation]."
Galbraith, though not willing to completely rule out the option, is skeptical.
"The university has to present a legitimate consultation process to us, and we have to feel confident that the errors of the past have been rectified," he said. "We won’t allow the university to use the consultation process to pay lip service to students.
So unless it’s a quite substantial departure from previous consultations and more closely within the legal definition of consultation, we probably wouldn’t reenter."