Hello MRU students,
We hope your semester is progressing well and that you are keeping up with your classwork. Throughout the month of October, your Representation Executive Council (REC) has been hard at work advocating for changes and improvements in and around campus that matter most to you, our members!
REC is comprised of four MRU students just like you who were elected by MRU’s student body and hired by the Student Governing Board (SBG) to represent student issues to MRU and all levels of government.
From left to right, this year’s REC team is:
- REC Vice-President External Prabhjit Grewal (they/them)
- REC Vice-President Academic Tala Abu Hayyaneh (she/her)
- REC Vice-President Student Affairs Anisa Tilston (she/they)
- REC President Joseph Nguyen (he/him)
Keep reading to hear what your team has been up to during the month of October!
Qualifying for student financial aid through specialized situations
Joseph has been in discussions with the Federal Government about the need to provide more information about the ways that students are able to qualify for financial aid. Normally, if a student lives with parents, their ability to qualify for student aid is limited since it is expected that parents will help with their child’s education. There are some special exceptions, however, such as high-income parents who refuse to contribute to their child’s education.
If you think you may be in a situation that would qualify for a special exemption, visit this website for more information, or stop by SAMRU’s Peer Support Centre.
Limited study space on campus
Students have brought up their concerns with REC that with the increased number of students on campus, there is now a limited number of study spaces on campus for students to engage in group study sessions/projects. REC is planning advocacy around this by reviewing Library data on group room utilization rates.
On a similar note, REC advocated to MRU that they should leave classrooms unlocked outside of class times for student use, as well as for the return of program-specific 24/7 resource rooms in the EA building, and for Library group rooms to prioritize students over staff or faculty.
Prabhjit on the Ryan Jespersen show
On October 6, 2023, Prabhjit was a guest on the Jesperson show and advocated for the Alberta government to help universities through increased financial aid to reduce gender-based violence on campuses. Watch the full recording here!
Prabhjit attended the Government of Alberta Speech From The Throne
Prabhjit attended the Throne Speech on behalf of SAMRU, which occurs during the first sitting of a Legislature’s new session. The Speech outlines the government’s priorities for that sitting. During this visit, Prabhjit had an opportunity to advocate to MLAs Janice Irwin and Janet Eremenko regarding increased gender-based violence prevention funding.
Fall Reading Week
At October’s General Faculties Council (GFC) meeting, where academic issues are discussed, Tala spoke in favour of the Fall Reading Week being in October, but also spoke in favour of reviewing the nearly-decade-old data regarding an earlier Fall Reading Week to ensure its relevance.
Artificial Intelligence advocacy
Tala and Joseph have been advocating that MRU improve the ways in which they prepare students for the working world in the face of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT becoming popular. For example, to better prepare students for interviews, MRU should work closely with employers to identify how they are changing their interview/hiring processes.
Joseph also discussed the need to take notice of where artificial intelligence may be replacing student-level/intern/entry-level jobs so that MRU can stay ahead of the curve.
Joseph advocated to MRU that faculty needs to shift the way they assess students. Assessment styles that aren’t robot/AI-proof can create inequitable and inaccurate grading. There is now AI that ensures student work isn’t detectable by Turnitin.
Tala was invited by a colleague at MRU to participate in a Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) roundtable discussion on the topic of student perspectives around artificial intelligence in the classroom. The Roundtable featured students from across Canada. Watch the recording here!
Anisa met with MRU officials to discuss the impacts that poor transit access has on student behaviour. For example, students will try to arrange their schedules to stay on campus as little as possible, which ultimately hurts campus culture and limits student participation in extracurricular activities. Anisa suggested that increasing the availability of on-campus residences and advocating for more affordable housing near campus may aid in alleviating this issue.
Joseph advocated for the parking tower to have signage that indicates the direction of traffic (currently, the spiral is two lanes, but cars are only treating it as one lane).
Responses to the recent Middle East conflict
In response to the recent conflict in the Middle East, SAMRU released a statement. REC has also been advocating for additional security on campus for the upcoming weeks due to discrimination of certain student groups that may be associated with the conflict. REC also advocated for MRU faculty to refrain from taking a position on the current news, especially within classrooms.
BIPOC Student Art Festival happening throughout November
The BIPOC Student Art Festival is an initiative of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), a provincial student advocacy group that SAMRU is a member of. Prabhjit is serving as this year’s Vice-Chair of CAUS and the lead for this project, which has the goal of highlighting artwork from students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Colour (BIPOC).
Artwork will be displayed throughout the month of November in the Cultural Inclusion Centre in Wyckham House. Drop by anytime to check it out!
Tuition and Fees Consultation Committee (TFCC)
In October, MRU and SAMRU met for the final two meetings of the tuition and fees consultation process, which consists of three meetings to learn about and provide feedback on MRU’s plans for tuition and fee rates for next year. Your student representatives spoke about the importance of increasing services and awards opportunities, questioned why MRU feels the need to raise the Recreation fee and the Student Services fee so dramatically each year, and asked that MRU remove program-specific fees.
Access and inclusion advocacy
Anisa brought up concerns with MRU regarding little stairs around Lincoln Park and students with mobility issues, encouraging action to address these issues. MRU responded by saying that they are in the process of addressing barriers faced by students with mobility impairments.
Anisa is currently working on an MRU committee tasked with reviewing the Academic Accommodation Policy. At the October meeting, Anisa saw some survey results suggesting that students have a surprisingly low understanding of their academic accommodation rights. In response to this, Anisa suggested inconsistent responses from faculty could contribute to this confusion. She explained that professor engagement with students varies considerably, with some professors outright telling students that they do not need to provide certain kinds of accommodation.
As a potential solution to this issue, Anisa advocated that all faculty members should go to Access and Inclusion when they disagree with the accommodations listed on a letter, as opposed to verbally contradicting the letter to students.
Advocacy to improve MRU’s course delivery and evaluation methods
Anisa discussed with MRU the value of peer-based evaluation, stating that this type of skill is relevant to their future careers.
Anisa and Joseph both discussed with MRU about students who gravitate towards in-person mode delivery but who would like the option for asynchronous learning in case they cannot make it to class.
Anisa and Joseph both brought up the need for more collaborative forms of assessment, group tests, and group projects, to simulate the real-world working environment and to assess students in ways that are AI-proof, since assessment styles that aren’t AI-proof could create inequitable and inaccurate grading.
Improving MRU’s communication with students
Joseph discussed with MRU the need for the MRU website to be more user-friendly, less cluttered, less text heavy and more visually focused when providing information. He suggested the idea that MRU needs to integrate students’ D2L calendars into their Google Suite calendars.
Thanks for reading!
Your REC members are employed in their respective roles full-time for over a year, which means every day is full of advocacy and representation happening behind the scenes, dedicated to improving your student experience at MRU. You can visit this link to learn more about your student representatives this year, view updated position descriptions of each member of REC, view their position statements and advocacy priorities, and even learn how YOU could potentially become an elected student representative!
Keep your eyes open for updates, statements, and more on these and other upcoming initiatives on social media by following @samrurec on X (formerly Twitter). If you have questions, don’t hesitate to email your representatives at firstname.lastname@example.org.