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The University of Regina’s 2011-2012 school year in review

Sophie Long
News Writer

The 2011-2012 school year is almost done and this one was just as eventful as any other year.

The University of Regina was abundant with the activist spirit this year, led by the Unisversity of Regina Students’ Union and the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG), and some student leaders. The year started off with a bang, with the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping across the continent. There were Occupy protests throughout Regina and several were staged on campus. The “99 per cent” came to the Ad-Hum pit on Nov. 10 to educate the masses.

“Our main message at the teach-in is mostly around homelessness in our city,” one occupier said. Although the movement was widespread, it still tackled issues close to home.

Activism started closer to home with the Our Future is Now campaign led by URSU President Kent Peterson. This conveniently-timed movement was meant to  put pressure on provincial political parties to make changes on their platforms in order to encourage student voting for the fall election.

In the winter semester, Peterson continued to inspire the student body with the Feb. 1. All Out peaceful protest on the National Day of Action, which was held to ensure equal opportunities for current and prospective students. There was a march to the First Nations University, followed by some empowering speeches and a free lunch.

The All Out protest spoke out explicitly about making education more accessible for aboriginal students by raising a cap on funding. However, there was a greater focus on making changes to the current education system.

Julianne Beaudin-Herney began her petition to make Indigenous Studies a course requirement for all students on Nov. 7 and the petition has spread across the country. She continues to meet with deans and administrators at our university and others in Canada, with the slogan, “We need to learn about our own holocaust.”

In the winter semester, there was RPRIG’s annual Apathy into Action conference, which sought to educate students on social issues. Other winter events included Israeli Apartheid Week and Five Days for the Homeless.

In the 2011-2012 school year, students, faculty members, and administrators at the U of R made it clear they weren’t going to sit by and watch things happen.

Sadly, there were some situations where we didn’t have a choice but to do so. At the start of the year, many students and staff members were affected by the death of Dr. Lloyd Barber, the second president of the University of Regina. Over 800 people paid their respects at his memorial service, which signifies the impact Barber had on the University of Regina.

In other situations, however, students in particular stood up and made the university administration listen. In order to resolve growing difficulties with parking on campus, the university limited the number of parking passes issued this year and raised the fines for improper parking. In response to the huge number of complaints received, in part due to an URSU campaign launched during the first week of classes in the fall semester, the administration quickly agreed to hold an open forum on Sept. 23,, where students were given an opportunity to speak out about the parking troubles to university president Vianne Timmons.

Students suggested a variety of solutions, including a shuttle service from nearby landmarks, a rebate for students who carpool, and to lower the prices at parking meters. However, the second semester saw parking problems worsen, if anything, as winter semester parking passes sold out within 24 hours of going on sale.

Some of the issues that the university faced this year had their roots outside of the building.

Students at SIAST began their school year in a much more startling way – they arrived at their classes to find their instructors had gone on strike. The frustration educators felt at our neighbour’s campus caused some students to fear a similar strike was on its way at the university.

This year, the province celebrated an unwanted anniversary – five years had passed since a Maclean’s article dubbed Regina’s North Central as the worst neighbourhood in the country. However, the article had done some good things for the city, as it brought attention to some problems that had been pushed aside and brought out some rarely-seen loyalty to the city. The Maclean’s article simply drew attention to the fact that so much crime could be concentrated into such a small area.

However, despite the positive changes Regina has seen, another shocking statistic was released in co-ordination with National AIDS Day in December. The rates of HIV are almost twice the national average in our province and this is not a passing problem.

As All Nations Hope AIDS Network worker Margaret Poitras told the Carillon, “There is a lot of stigma, ignorance, and discrimination with addiction.”

More recently, Saskatchewan has been surprised by some of the decisions Brad Wall’s government has made with the budget for the province. A sizeable amount of money has been put towards increasing the number of politicians in the province and building a statue in front of the legislature. Trent Wotherspoon, ND finance critic, said the government is essentially “making cuts and reductions and impacts on everyday families across Saskatchewan.”

Similarly, there has been a wave of protest toward the government’s decision to cut the film tax credit, which has resulted in a multitude of videos and events to spark awareness of the impact this will have on Saskatchewan residents.

Despite the abundance of news hitting the province this year, there have been some major newsworthy events at the University of Regina, too.

In September, students saw the revitalized food services on campus as management moved from Aramark to Chartwells. Fewer vegetarian options were offered, prices were raised, and students on campus on weekends were discontent with a limited weekend selection for their mandatory meal cards. But, we did get another Tim Horton’s, which almost eased the glut at the one in Riddell Centre.

One story covered in the Carillon wound up, in part, involving the Carillon itself. After the university’s board of governors struck down a motion to make their meetings open to the public, the paper organized a sit-in. In response, the board moved the time of their meeting up by an hour and got campus security to escort board members to and from the boardroom. Shortly before the meeting commenced, board chair Paul McLellan came out to meet the assembled students and accept letters addressed on behalf of the Carillon to the board from members of the Canadian University Press.

Finally, unless you have somehow been living under a rock for the past three weeks, you must know that we have elected a new student union for next year. This year’s election saw a variety of candidates for president, with cartoon character Snowy Bear giving his competition a bit of a scare. The elected members of the union represent a split slate, but members from both slates have emphasized that they  plan to act not as two slates but one executive in the fall.

Well, we’ll see how that goes.

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