Senior administration visits SLC

With just over two weeks until impending tuition increases, University of Calgary President Dr. Harvey Weingarten and Vice-President Academic Dr. Ron Bond spoke to student officials, and engaged in a question and answer session.

Dr. Weingarten and Dr. Bond spoke at the Tue., Nov. 18 Students’ Legislative Council meeting. Dr. Weingarten waited to answer specific questions, but Dr. Bond addressed students first on his own.

“There was a real effort this year [during tuition consultation] to understand what common ground there was,” Dr. Bond said during his initial address. “I think it’s important to underscore that we do have a common agenda. We are interested in trying to get our message out to the public at large and to government.”

What followed was a series of questions from elected officials, ranging from the U of C’s performance in the Maclean’s magazine rankings (the U of C placed 14th out of 15 schools), the presence of a tuition cap, the value of a liberal arts education, and comparing Canada’s post-secondary system with American and European systems.

Dr. Weingarten repeatedly emphasized the importance of government funding, and mobilizing the public to encourage increased investment from the province.

“We spend a lot of time petitioning the government and making the case that there needs to be additional investment in universities,” he said, after stating provincial funding for universities isn’t keeping up with costs. “But as long as the lobbying for universities is only done by university administrations and students, we will not have the impact we need. What we need is the public to make some of this case for us.”

Members of the Students’ Union expressed skepticism comments. Afterward, SU President Jayna Gilchrist said Weingarten “spoke like a politician,” avoiding certain issues.

Specifically, she referred to a question asked by SU VP External Lauren Batiuk regarding the U of C’s position on the legislative tuition cap. In response, Dr. Weingarten said he did not think the U of C would reach the tuition cap, which faces changes under new provincial legislation, and therefore wasn’t worried about any changes.

Batiuk was also interested in Dr. Bond suggesting administration would cooperate more with students.

“One thing they did say is that they wanted to lobby the provincial government with students, and we’re going to hold them to that,” Batiuk said.

Other issues brought up by Dr. Weingarten and Dr. Bond included a $1 million fund set aside from the tuition increase for students to address quality concerns, the U of C’s commitment to undergraduate financial aid and recent investment in the Bachelor of Health Science and Biomedical Engineering Programs.

Bond repeated the U of C will recommend a 4.8 per cent tuition increase to the Board of Governors Fri., Dec. 5. He added the increase is the maximum allowed by law in Alberta.

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