Town Hall a “token gesture”

Most student representatives agree that Wednesday’s town hall meeting in the MacEwan Hall Ballroom was more a token gesture than anything else.
The meeting, intended to give students an opportunity to voice their concerns about tuition to administration, strayed from the mark–covering everything from faculty retention to wheelchair accessibility.

After 30 minutes of administration reports, students questioned administration. Graduate student Hugh Gibbons, confined to a wheelchair, wondered why the University of Calgary was one of few institutes that had no funding earmarked for accessibility.

"When will the University of Calgary finally acknowledge its legal and moral responsibilities towards providing funding to ensure a fully accessible campus for all those who use the campus?" asked Gibbons.

Dr. Keith Winter, University of Calgary Vice-president Finance, cited a lack of funding for such a program, but assured Gibbons that "we try to do what we can with the resources available to us, and we’ll do what we can to address the needs of the handicapped."

Other questions involved lack of classroom space, potential salary freezes to cover tuition increases and a campus building plan that was more sensitive to the environment.

But student leaders believe there wasn’t enough time to adequately cover everything. Graduate Students’ Association President Viola Cassis even detected a hint of sarcasm.

"If they really wanted to be responsive, they would spend more time discussing and having a town hall meeting like this for an hour every couple of months," said Cassis. "There’s no reason they can’t set something like that up."

Board of Governors student-at-large Drew Brown agreed and believed that the focus should have been solely on tuition.

"The forum was used for so many things other than tuition," he said. "Tuition alone should stand as a single forum."

Cassis thought administration was a little elusive in their answers.
"I think they should have listened to more questions and been more responsive to hear what [students] concerns are," she said.

Students’ Union President Toby White and Brown had differing opinions on the forum’s turnout.

"I think it was a good event because we had a lot of students out, and they were able to ask questions of the administration," said White.

"I think the forum was poorly attended because most students didn’t know about it," countered Brown. "Some members of the [SU] only started telling people this week about the forum."

Regardless, White doesn’t think the forum eased students’ minds on tuition increases.

"I don’t think that the university adequately defended the tuition increase. I think a lot of students are still convinced that they can do better," said White.
Cassis believed that the forum had some merit, but said Administration seemed insincere.

"I didn’t think that it was a fiasco, but I certainly think that it’s a token gesture to students to say that ‘we’re listening to you.’"

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