A year’s worth of news in review

By Natalie Vacha

Federal budget good for students

A $3.2 billion government-spending package to create a “knowledge advantage,” was announced Tues., March 20, and included an additional $800 million in funding for post-secondary education.

The package included increased funding to graduate programs, elimination of limits on education savings plans, millions in research money and support for international students.

However, schools will not see the cash until the 2008/09 academic year.

U of C condemns denial of education to Bahá’ís

Several Bahá’í professors at the U of C made a push for action in May when they petitioned president Dr. Harvey Weingarten to take up the cause of Bahá’ís in Iran.

In February the U of C General Faculties Council sent a letter to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and to the United Nations. The letters stated that “access to knowledge is a fundamental human right,” and, “there is evidence that persons of the Bahá’í faith are being denied access to higher education in Iran.”

Rez students to lead SU next year

Students voted in new Students’ Union leaders in a tight race at the end of February. Three of the five executive elected in the SU general election are members of the Residence Students’ Association, including president-elect Julie Bogle, who edged out her nearest competitor by a mere 20 votes.

The vice-president operations and finance was an even tighter race than president, with Fraser Stuart edging out Kyle Olsen by just 16 votes.

Current SU external commissioner and RSA external manager Mike Selnes garnered 55 per cent of the vote to come out on top of Teale Phelps Bondaroff in the VP external race while Brittany Sargent took VP academic and current VP events Eric Jablonski was acclaimed for another term.

Pepsi contract extended

Although the U of C is preparing to accept bids for a new cold-beverage exclusivity contract, the current 10-year contract held by Pepsi was extended from its original expiry date of September 2007 until at least December 2007.

SU VP operations and finance Cody Wagner noted the SU’s decision to sign a new contract with the university will be dependent upon the share of money they receive in relation to the volume of sales that come from MacEwan Student Centre.

Ancillary Services director Peter Fraser noted scholarships are among the list of priorities supported by money from U of C’s contract with Pepsi, which has also been used to support the recent expansion of MSC, as well as Dinos athletic teams.

PeopleSoft launches

The Infonet was replaced in February by new software designed by PeopleSoft. The transition was plagued by a host of problems such as misreported pay cheques and numerous crashes.

Changes include reducing or eliminating wait times, adding course waiting lists and a course swap function where students can switch one course for another, rather than having to drop their class first. The new system will also be up all the time, rather than shutting down at 11 p.m.

Board of Governors votes for 3.3 per cent tuition hike

In what has become a yearly occurrence, the U of C board of governors raised tuition by 3.3 per cent for all undergraduate and graduate students in January. The final vote was 12 in favour of the increase and four against.

The increase was limited by a new government policy which ties increases to the rate of inflation, but this is the first time in three years students will notice an increase in tuition of $15 per half course. In 2005 and 2006 the provincial government paid for the increase of $62 per half course, meaning students still paid the 2004/05 rate of approximately $5,100 per year for a full course load.

Presidential review process draws criticism

U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten’s five-year contract was up for review last December, but faculty and students felt they were being left out of the process.

Traditionally, presidential terms are extended following the formation of a presidential review committee, which is composed of all stakeholders. However, for Weingarten’s extension a committee was not formed or consulted.

Instead the board of governors–the U of C’s highest governing body–bypassed this step and worked with the senior compensation committee, which usually determines compensation for senior officials and does not examine or review term extensions.

The board announced their decision to extend Weingarten’s term for five years January 29.

U of C announces nursing school in Qatar

The U of C announced plans to open a nursing faculty in Qatar, an oil-rich state in the Persian Gulf. The project is expected to top $1 billion, and will be funded by the Qatari government.

The program will begin with 40 Qatari students in September 2007 with plans to expand to 100 students annually and will offer both master’s and doctorate programs within 10 years. Expansion to other faculties is also likely.

U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten admitted the international branch will be an expensive undertaking, but explained that Qatar will provide both the physical and financial resources to do it.

Women’s Resource Centre opens

The U of C Women’s Resource Centre celebrated its official opening Wed., Oct. 18.

The centre, which is located on the third floor of MSC, opened with a buffet lunch, tours of the new space and a keynote speech delivered by Global television anchor Nirmala Naidoo.

“This has been the most rewarding experience and project I have ever worked on,” said Georgia Houston, who led the team of environmental design students who created the new space. “It is an incredible sense of fulfillment to know I contributed to such an important space for women on campus.”

Professor wins suit against U of C

In January 2005, professor Peter Bowal filed a lawsuit against the U of C, accusing the institution of wrongfully withholding salary and of breach of contract as a consequence of “arbitrary abuse of power and discretion.” Bowal won the suit in court this September 2006.

“The judge found that the university was negligent in payroll and that there was a breach of contract,” said Bowal.

A statement from U of C vice-president external relations Roman Cooney read: “Contrary to Dr. Bowal’s position, the court expressly stated that there had been no breach of trust and no acts of bad faith by the university.”

Bowal’s lawsuit stemmed from an incident in the 2001/2002 academic term when he was on sabbatical to take fellowship with the United States Supreme Court. The U of C told him he was required to return to campus in July, but Bowal remained in Washington until August to complete his fellowship.

The dispute led the U of C to terminate Bowal’s employment for failing to return to campus without approved leave, and issued an assessment for almost $50,000 in salary owing.

$2 million donated to new rez

Dr. Henry Fok Ying Tung, a philanthropist and entrepreneur, donated $2 million to create a new residence building for international students near the end of September.

“[My father] was very impressed with Calgary, the fastest growing city in Canada,” said Dr. Fok’s Son Ian Fok. “[He] thought it was a good idea for more international housing, to encourage more exchanges.”

The donation doesn’t cover the entire cost of the building, but will provide seed capital needed to move the project forward.

Dr. Fok passed away in October.

7,000 new spaces by 2010

The U of C announced an ambitious plan to add 7,000 new student spaces by 2010 at a groundbreaking ceremony on the first day of classes, Sept. 11, 2006.

Many of the new spaces will come through four capital projects: the Calgary Campus Digital Library, the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy, the Experiential Learning Centre and the Urban Campus, said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten.

To date, construction has not begun on any of the projects and only the digital library has partial government funding.

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