The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is a council composed of a body of students elected by their peers, who are tasked with running the Acadia Students’ Union (ASU). The SRC meets every Wednesday at 5:30 PM in the Beveridge Forum located off the Michener Lounge in the Students’ Union Building (SUB). Each meeting is open to the public and students are welcome to attend meetings to learn more about the decisions being made on their behalf.
This week, council met to discuss further the details of the ASU Investment Policy, reflect on climate change events being held on campus and recent progress with the federal government, as well as talk about support surrounding Indigenous students and the protests and the blockades happening in British Columbia.
Divesting for the Future
Brendan MacNeil, Vice President Finance and Operations, has been working alongside Sustainability Officer Max Abu-Laban to ensure the ASU Investment Policy is renewed to a standard that reflects Acadia University’s values.
Currently, one of Acadia’s mission statements is: “True to its institutional mission and vision, Acadia University will become one of Canada’s most environmentally and sustainability-focused universities”; however, MacNeil pointed out that most scholarships paid to students are currently funded by the oil and gas industry. MacNeil questioned whether this will be Acadia’s legacy in the future.
In order to give further context, MacNeil informed council of a statement that was made by NASA which says: “Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than 30% since the industrial revolution began. This is the most important long-lived forcing of climate change.”
MacNeil then added that 27% of carbon dioxide emissions come from oil and gasoline. While MacNeil fully recognizes the pushback that may be received from relocating funds from oil and gas companies. Currently, the biggest argument against divestment is the worry that if Acadia takes their investments out of the oil and gas industry it will increase the risk of our portfolio and decrease our returns; however, if you look at the annualized volatility of oil prices it’s actually 36%. To put this number into context MacNeil shared that the annual volatility of banks through two recessions (2001 and 2008) is only 28% which means that oil prices are 50% higher than that of banks through two recessions.
Councillor Jonah van Driesum applauds MacNeil and Abu-Laban for the work they are doing to make the university more environmentally friendly but asks if funds will also be taken out of mineral companies. Brendan MacNeil replied stating that the University would still have shares in Canadian Natural Resources. Additionally, Councillor van Driesum adds his worry about whether or not divestment will prevent the school from investing short term in individual companies [who’s programs could benefit us] that are working to become greener. MacNeil responded honestly stating, “The answer to that is yes. As long as the [company’s] main matter is oil and gas. However, all funds will be reinvested into renewable resources companies.”
Abu-Laban delicately raised the controversial matter of investing in military supply companies, sharing that divestment of oil and gas companies provides the opportunity to invest in these military supply companies. Abu-Laban asked council if they could see Acadia University in ammunitions. Councillor van Driesum commented in response, that he personally would not want his own company investing in selling arms, and as the SRC is advocates for morality, he cannot agree with Abu-Laban’s point. Gabrielle Bailey, VP Events and Promotions, diffused the conversation by suggesting the council take one thing at a time and the divestment plan will be brought to a vote next meeting.
MacNeil closed the presentation by asking council, “Do we want to be able to say Acadia University was one of the first Atlantic Canadian universities to divest from fossil fuels? That our scholarships are fossil fuel free? That we were a leader in environmentally sustainability endowment funds?”.
Let’s Talk About Climate Change
Sustainability Officer Max Abu-Laban reflected on the Let’s Talk About Climate Change event which he organized with the help of the town of Wolfville that took place on February 4th. Abu-Laban shared that the quality of the conversation was uplifting and inspiring and added that he appreciated the SRC council members who were able to show their support at the event. Around 25 people showed up to the event and they discussed in groups the different actions that can be taken as a community to limit climate change, any barriers that may prevent us from doing so and ways around them. Abu-Laban continued discussing that the discussion also talked about next steps and where else the community can direct all this fantastic energy surrounding climate change. After reflection, Abu-Laban concludes that the event was a success and the movement is always looking for continuous support from interested students and members of the community.
Viewing of The Office
First-Year Representative Menat Tahoun excitedly announced a stress-relieving activity happening on March 6th. She proposed a viewing of selected episodes of the TV show The Office for all students, noting that the event is not exclusive to first-year students. The event will take place in the KCIC auditorium from 7:00PM to 9:00PM. Tahoun informs council that snacks will be available, and students will be able to come and go as they please.
Additionally, there will be a button making activity to fit the theme of The Office with all materials and craft supplies provided.
Indigenous Student Society of Acadia (ISSA) Letter
Soyini Edwards, Diversity and Inclusion Representative, voiced the concerns of the Indigenous students at Acadia regarding releasing a statement surrounding the blockade protests. The letter provided from the ISSA, which was addressed to ASU President Kyle Vandertoorn, discussed that a few other universities across Canada, such as Dalhousie University, University of Victoria and UNBC have sent out statements to say they stand with indigenous students, and the ISSA is asking the SRC to do the same. Edwards gave ISSA support by stating that Acadia does start every meeting and every event on campus with the acknowledgement that Acadia University is located in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq nation.
Edwards stressed, “It is necessary to stand in solidarity with people whose land is being taken away.”
President Vandertoorn informed the council that she has been in contact with the Coordinator of Indigenous Affairs, Sabrina Whitman, who has advised that since the Chiefs in the valley have not released a statement taking a position yet, so it may be a good idea to remain neutral and find out what other universities are doing within the province first. The President adds that a meeting with the Chiefs will be held next week to conduct further conversations about what the appropriate actions are to take. Vandertoorn continued sharing that the SRC will always support the indigenous students at Acadia, and are taking Sabrina’s advice on what she would do in our position very seriously.
Councillor Jonah van Driesum encouraged council to not take a position yet for fear of complicating the relationship with the Chiefs of the valley. The majority of people he has talked to on campus about the protests do not support the blockades and van Driesum sees it as unwise to be putting out a view that disagrees with the view of the students. Van Driesum stressed that he is not dismissing the importance of the event, he is simply split on the issue and thinks a lot of people are as well. In response, Vandertoorn stressed that when taking an action such as this, it is wise to do as much research as possible and reiterated that a decision will only be made after the meeting with the Chiefs next week.
Sustainability officer Max Abu-Laban rebutted van Driesums stance respectfully stating, “There is an expression, ‘We are all treated people’. We come here as settlers and it is our duty as settlers to stand in solidarity […] and I don’t know how many of you know what is going on in BC, but it is quite bad and there’s people being forcibly removed by the RCMP.”
Abu-Laban continued offering examples of student support at DAL and other major institutions that are hosting sit-ins and teach-ins in an effort to stand in solidarity with their fellow students. Finally, Abu-Laban shared that he understands there’s a lot of other complex things happening and we don’t necessarily want to implicate the Students Union, but the issue is something that we should all be thinking about as Canadian students.
Advocacy Asks for Parliament
Last week, President Kyle Vandertoorn travelled to Ottawa with CASA, an organization that represents students in post-secondary education. This was the fourth conference at Parliament Hill that Acadia has attended, and they were able to bring forward 6 advocacy asks. Vandertoorn shares exciting news with council that not even 24 hours after the last meeting, the inclusion council member of parliament live-streamed the participants, promising them that 3 of their advocacy asks are already being invested in on behalf of the Federal Government. These asks include:
- Increasing the Canadian student grant by 40%
- Resigning a loan repayment grace period post-grad from 6 months to 24 months.
- Implementing a pause on loaner payment for new parent grads with existing student debt until their children reach the age of 5.
Vandertoorn shared with council that it was a really great opportunity for everyone involved. She is extremely grateful that the Federal Government is considering some of the asks. Vandertoorn also stated that this is a really big accomplishment as this rarely happens, and she encourages the council to share the details on social media or any way they can because it is important for Acadia students to know that the ASU played a major role.
The Axe will be hosting a lip-sync battle next Thursday, March 5th at 8:00PM. Historically, it has been a very fun event and students can buy tickets in advance or pay at the door. Any students who wish to participate should contact VP Events and Promotions Gabrielle Bailey right away as there are only 3 or 4 spots left.
Leadership awards are being held on April 1st. Nominations are open now! A list of descriptions for each award was sent out to every students’ Acadia email. Get your nominations in as soon as possible to Gabrielle Bailey.
Lastly, Max Abu-Laban will be leading a student walk-out on March 4th from 10:45AM to 11:45AM with the Acadia Climate Action Club.