author: taylor balfour | news writer
The SPSA is unifying. Is this for the best?
Saskatchewan Polytechnic has four campuses across the province located in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and Regina. Before now, the Polytechnic has had their student association divided amongst campuses. However, the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students Association [SPSA] announced at the end of August that they will be unifying their organization to represent as many students as possible, and meet their needs.
“The SPSA represents Saskatoon and Prince Albert Saskatchewan Polytechnic students,” Vann Cortez, the president of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students’ Association, states.
“On July 1, we will be representing all four campuses, including Moose Jaw and Regina.”
In the summer of 2016, the Regina Students’ Association was vacated from the campus premises. An agreement between Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Students’ Association had expired and, not being able to come to a new agreement that satisfied both sides, the group was asked to vacate. Cortez had stated that it was “unfortunate that the former Moose Jaw and Regina Students’ Associations were not able to come up with a new agreement with the institution.”
He also claimed that “all the student representative groups were given a number of opportunities to come to the table and have a conversation with Saskatchewan Polytechnic Administration.”
An interim agreement was put into place to ensure that the Regina and Moose Jaw campuses still received services as negotiations continued. After being told to vacate, the student group attempted to appeal the eviction, but were dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
According to the Saskatchewan Polytechnic official website, the students’ association “provides peer support, services and organizes student activities and clubs, as well as locker rentals, in each campus city.”
The page also details information about extracurriculars on campus.
“Your time at Saskatchewan Polytechnic shouldn’t be limited to academic learning,” their website continues.
“Get more from your education by getting involved with our year-round activities. Join a club, be a part of student government, volunteer your time and skills – build confidence and have fun.”
However, at the end of August, Cortez stated that an arrangement had come together to establish a students’ association on all campuses, and that the SPSA would become a large organization overseeing all campuses and institutions.
In the SPSA’s press release describing the change, they stated that “Saskatchewan Polytechnic has issued a letter that contains commendation to the SPSA’s commitment and efforts in reaching a constructive Agreement and, further, recognizes the SPSA as the sole representative of students attending all Saskatchewan Polytechnic Campuses effective July 1, 2017.”
“Having one official representative for them, because there are 28,000 distinct students for Saskatchewan Polytechnic, could help lobby the students more effectively by numbers,” Cortez explained.
“Our structure was designed in a way to ensure Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon’s unique individuality and campus culture is retained.”
“There will be a vice president per campus and three directors for every campus. There will be equitable services, but there are some things in specific that we were able to adapt,” Cortez believes that this is the best step forward for the Students’ Association, and he also believes that it’s important for students to get involved in the by-election taking place in October.
“As a member, it makes sense to have a say on who is being elected on their behalf and who would be in charge of governance in their association. So as a member they should exercise that right to vote their representatives because this representative will be representing their best interests. It’s important,” he states.
Nominations are open from Sept. 25 to 29 for all student members. The election itself will take place on October 4th at all designated Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students’ Association campus offices.
“I believe this is the best step forward not just for the SPSA but for the students as well.” Cortez claims, spreading motivation and energy.
“We need to be represented in a way that has a unified voice for all the students and all general concerns that students have,” says Cortez.
Also in the press release, Cortez states, “It is our responsibility to safeguard the best interest of our members and that is why we were actively engaged and came to all discussions with the institution with an open mind.”
“With issues with declining support for funding and advanced education for Saskatchewan Polytechnic, it’s more vital now than ever to be unified and have a staff on the things that are important for the students,” he continues.
Declining funding has been an issue for not only the SPSA, but for Saskatchewan Polytechnic in general. In April of this year, news broke that Sask Polytech was letting go of 23 workers province wide. This was due to the provincial budget release earlier this year, cutting funding to technical institutes by $6 million.
The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and the Gabriel Dumont Institute are other institutes, like Sask Polytech, that are affected.
A month later, in May of 2017, four managers were hired despite the layoffs, causing anger amongst the union for front-line employees at Sask Polytech.
Exactly one year earlier, in April 2016, Sask Polytech had undergone more changes, with notice of 16 more employees being laid off. Fifteen of said positions were academic. The remaining one was an administrative position.
In response to this, Saskatchewan Polytechnic responded by saying that the layoffs were “part of an operational review” and that the manager positions had been listed on their website.
It was countered by the union that the institution should be using their funds to increase their management, they should be using it to keep existing staff positions or fill the positions that are vacant.
“This year is the turning point for the SPSA,” Cortez said in the SPSA’s press release.
“I am very excited to work with a full slate of General Council members that represent over 28,000 students across Saskatchewan.”