URSU hosts minister of advanced education

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The event was heavy on the carbs and light on change /Courtesy of URSU

Free food and minor conversation had in The Owl

The University of Regina Student Union hosted a number of major decision-makers at Tuesday Jan. 7’s Breakfast Club, including outgoing president Vianne Timmons and Regina University MLA Tina Beaudry-Mellor and minister of Advanced Education

“I think having the Minister at the breakfast is a real statement from her to our students, to say ‘I support the students,’ and she does,” Timmons said. “She is a minister that cares deeply about our students. She taught at the university, so she knows the university well, and knows many of our students quite well.”

Beaudry-Mellor was invited to attend one of the Breakfast Club mornings, where URSU provides a free breakfast to students twice a month, when she met with the Student Union executive back in the fall.

“In that meeting, we talked about a number of items, and they mentioned that – of the many things they do – they did this breakfast,” she said. “They said ‘you should come,’ and I said ‘well, sure, I’d be happy to come. Just let me know when and where, an I’ll be there.’ And when I got there yesterday, several members of the Board of Directors from the University of Regina including the Board chair was well as the chancellor, the president, the AVP of research and the provost [were all] there this week.”

President of the University of Regina Student’s Union Victor Oriola says the value of having people like Beaudry-Mellor visiting campus comes in the conversations they have with students while they’re there. For him, it’s more than just a photo-op.

“I don’t see it as having politicians coming to campus,” he said of Beaudry-Mellor’s Tuesday-morning visit. “The Minister of Advanced Education is an official of the provincial government, and uniquely suited to being on campus because part of her portfolio – being advanced education – is to influence, if not to dictate, how the province views universities and polytechnics and what have you . . . So it is beneficial to speak to the provincial government, and have the provincial government take a look at what it is we’re doing on campus. And if that means we invite the Minister of Advanced Education to come to campus and interact with students one-on-one in an uncontrolled setting, that’s an opportunity we would be remiss not to take.”

The Breakfast Clubs could be an interesting and useful place for politicians and members of the university administration to meet and talk with concerned students, especially since the breakfast club falls under the heading of URSU Cares and is one of the Student Union’s continued initiatives to increase food security on campus. The students who gravitate to the promise of a free meal – more than any other college student, that is – are likely to be the ones who are most impacted by rising tuition and housing costs and other related political, academic and social challenges.

Unfortunately, it seems as though meaningful conversations were in short supply on Tuesday morning, negating some of the potential impact this venue and group of students.

“I just basically asked [students] how their Christmas was and what they were looking forward to in the year – not any in-depth conversations, because the breakfast line was moving very quickly,” Timmons said. “But I did have a chance to chat with a few and see the excitement of people coming back. It was a cold day, so a lot of students were talking about the weather and how cold it was on that day.”

For her part, Beaudry-Mellor is proud of her party’s record on issues affecting university students, even as she is very clear about what is and is not the government’s responsibility.

“As you know, tuition costs are not set by the Government of Saskatchewan – they’re set by the University of Regina,” she said. “[And] we have some of the highest taxpayer-funded institutions in Canada. Relative to their peers in other part of the country, Saskatchewan universities are well-funded. … Also, for the fifth year I na row, we have invested in open textbooks and open educational resources, which is something we have been doing over the last five years that helps reduce the cost of textbooks for students. We have invested in a number of student aid pieces – one was to help shepherd in changes to the student loans program. … And then we also have a graduate retention program, which 71,000 students have taken advantage of and which I hear all about in the community.”

Students found more free food during Welcome Week at a veggie chili event taking place  the following Wednesday at 5:30 at The Owl, and at a grilled cheese and soup lunch on the 16th at noon in the Riddell Centre.

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