The University of Alberta Students’ Union has officially adopted a policy affirming the organization’s nonpartisan nature.
On August 21, Students’ Council passed the second reading of the nonpartisan political policy, which official establishes the Students’ Union as a nonpartisan organization that does not support or oppose political candidates or parties. Instead, the Students’ Union commits to advocating to parties and candidates about issues of importance to students, engaging in efforts to educate students about political policies and platforms, and providing students with information about voting opportunities as well as access to polling.
“In practice, the Students’ Union has historically been nonpartisan, but before now that hasn’t been an official policy,” says Reed Larsen, the University of Alberta Students’ Union President. “Passing this policy won’t have a huge impact on our day-to-day operations, but it does formalize our neutrality and give us something to point to when we’re advocating on behalf of students.”
The University of Alberta Students’ Union works with a variety of political parties on issues important to students, including tuition increases, residence costs, provincial and federal legislation impacting students, student loans and granting, and more. Students’ Union representatives frequently meet with members of all provincial and federal political parties to discuss student concerns.
“It’s really important for us to maintain that neutrality, because we want to work with all parties and all levels of government. We can’t do that effectively if there’s an idea that we as an organization are supporting one party over another,” says Larsen.
The new policy means that as an organization, the Students’ Union is officially nonpartisan, and all representatives speaking or working on behalf of the organization are required to maintain that neutrality in their professional roles. However, student councillors, executives and other Students’ Union staff can still align with political parties as individuals, so long as they are not doing so in their professional capacity as representatives of the Students’ Union.
“We expect that individuals have their own political beliefs, and will continue to support their preferred political parties outside of the Students’ Union. Student councillors and executives can still be members of political parties, but they do have to keep that separate from their work on behalf of students,” says Larsen.