Marina Banister’s campaign promise to create a Student Charter of Rights has finished its initial stages of research, but the project will likely take multiple years to complete.
The aim of the charter is to create a single, concrete document that outlines the rights students are entitled to as members of the university. According to Banister, the president of the Students’ Union, many university documents outline aspects of student rights but their scattered nature can make it hard for students to access them.
“If you’re a student whose rights have been infringed upon, it can be hard to find information on what the process is and what the resources are,” Banister said. “Having this document would make that process easier.”
The project has been initiated by the Students’ Union this year, but the charter will be written by stakeholders on campus in upcoming years, including students, the University of Alberta, and possibly the Graduate Students’ Association.
As an interim solution, Banister said the Students’ Union will create a landing page on its website. The page will direct students to current university documents that outline their rights and will be available by March.
As of now, research and surveys that will be used to create the charter have been the main focus of the Students’ Union as well as the main source for student input.
The Students’ Union’s research has included finding the current documents outlining student rights and comparing them to other institutions, looking at the actions of other Students’ Unions on similar projects, and surveying students to learn their experiences with disciplinary rights.
Banister feels this research will set the project up for long-term success and is worth extending the project past its estimated duration.
“That research is the fundamental foundation for which this advocacy will happen,” she said. “The research made the process longer but it will make the process more effective because (the future committee) will be able to reflect on concrete data.”
The charter will consist of four types of rights. Fundamental rights will include freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination or harassment on campus. Procedural rights include the right to have a fair hearing by an impartial tribune, while representative rights would cover the right to have student representatives. Lastly, an academic right would involve the right for an explanation of an assigned grade.
As Banister’s term will end this spring, it will be up to the next Students’ Union president to continue this project. With past interest in the charter and support from Students’ Union Staff, Banister is confident the project will continue.
“I’m confident this is a priority for the Students’ Union,” she said. “As Students’ Union president, the rights of U of A students is a number one priority for myself and I see that continuing… I’m only here for a year and I think the best thing I could do as the president kicking off this initiative was really solid groundwork that will help the advocacy moving forward.”