And then there were none in Alberta student candidate race
By Kevin Gale
University of Alberta Students' Union president Garret Poston did not want to be a hypocrite so he declined the opportunity to run in the March 11 Alberta election.
After nominations for provincial candidates closed Feb. 25, Poston had to decide whether or not to resign his position and run for office or stay and fight a 9.6 per cent tuition increase to $2,800 a year, to be voted on by the school's administration at a Board of Governors meeting today. "The timing was just too poor," he said. "It would have been too hypocritical to run on an education platform and miss the meeting."
Last fall, Poston and student leaders from the University's of Calgary, Lethbridge and Alberta toyed with the idea of either forming a political party or putting a candidate in the election with the goal of promoting awareness of educational issues.
However, Calgary had to withdraw because the Calgary Students' Union is a provincial corporation and is prohibited from financially supporting an election bid.
Both Lethbridge and Alberta held student referendums and the support at Lethbridge was too low, leaving Alberta to make the final decision after a successful referendum.
Poston said he has met with individual candidates in the area to try and promote educational issues. He added he believes there is a possibility the tuition increase could be lowered to five per cent and he wanted to do his part to make sure it happens.
Revenue from the full increase would total $6.5 million and a modest proposal of a five per cent increase would still see the university make $3.5 million, Poston said.
However, the school's VP-finance and administration Glenn Harris said the entire increase is necessary if the school is to recover from three straight years of provincial government cutbacks.
The school will see a one-and-three-quarters per cent increase in their $215 million provincial operating grant, but it will not allow them to meet the objectives of hiring 500 faculty over the next five years to replace those who will retire either because of cutbacks or have reached retirement age, Harris said. "If we entertain less than that we'll have to cut operating budgets," he said.
Poston said he understands the increase will be used to improve the quality of education through faculty recruitment and the upgrading of classrooms, but is concerned financially-constrained students will not see any of the money. "[I want to see] needs-based bursaries for your average student who isn't doing well enough to get a mega scholarship," he said.
He added the enhanced education by the new faculty is not enough to warrant the full increase.
However, Harris said money will be set aside for student scholarships and support once the budget is set for next year.