The University Students’ Council meeting on Feb. 14 was attended by University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff and Patti McDougall, vice-provost teaching, learning and student experience. Council members had the opportunity to discuss questions regarding growth, indigenization and the provincial budget with the university officials.
The conversation began with talks about student-body growth. McDougall reiterated the university’s commitment to growing its population significantly over the next few years. However, this does not only apply to the main campus. McDougall says that, after years of lacking a common hub, the Prince Albert campus is ready for more students as well.
“We bought a property from the province, and it’s now our University of Saskatchewan Prince Albert campus,” McDougall said. “We don’t know yet how much growth to anticipate. We may get to a group that wants their own leader to sit at [USC meetings].”
U of S Students’ Union President Rollin Baldhead asked about the university’s plans for Indigenization with regards to the growing focus on internationalization. Baldhead specifically mentioned the need for international students to visit reserves, a suggestion which McDougall said will be passed on to the International Student and Study Abroad Centre.
Stoicheff says that study-abroad programs, which the university hopes to open up to more Indigenous students, are increasingly part of the university’s internationalization plan.
“I think we’ll be seeing, in Budget 2019 from the federal government in March, some support for universities to help mobilize students to take advantage of study-abroad programs,” Stoicheff said.
Regan Ratt-Misponas, Indigenous Students’ Council president, asked about the university’s commitment to decolonization and whether it includes supporting an Indigenous student union. Stoicheff declined to get involved in issues of student governance.
“I neither support it nor object to it,” Stoicheff said. “It’s entirely something that I think is in the purview of the USSU and the ISC.”
Sheldon Moellenbeck, USSU vice-president academic affairs, turned the conversation to the subject of the university’s budget, expressing concern over cuts to universities in Ontario. Stoicheff says that the situation in Saskatchewan is very different and that he is optimistic about the upcoming 2019 budget.
“The current government understands the value that this university brings to the province. I am optimistic about expressions of financial support,” Stoicheff said. “Our experience working with the current government most recently has been positive.”
After Stoicheff and McDougall left the meeting, Baldhead addressed the call from the University of Regina Students’ Union for a provincial tuition freeze. The USSU has chosen not to support it. Baldhead says the freeze is too risky without proper planning and resources.
“The fear is that a tuition freeze without increased money from other sources can lead to … an overall decrease in the quality of education and services provided to students at the U of S,” Baldhead said. “Asking for a freeze now without the proper consultation or planning seems to be a bit overzealous.”
Instead, the USSU executive is putting forward their own campaign, InvestInUs, which they hope will help the university secure government funding in the 2019 budget.
“Our team has come up with the plan InvestInUs to apply pressure to the provincial government in hopes to see increases in the budget for the university. I will be presenting this proposal on Monday at our next executive meeting,” Baldhead said. “We have a plan to increase awareness on campus with a poster, videos, [testimonials] and a table where students can give their input.
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: Riley Deacon, Photo Editor / File