Good Policy Begins With a Willingness to Listen
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It is almost impossible to escape societal norms and expectations; everywhere you go it feels like someone is telling you what to do, what to wear, and how to act. Even in our educational system, it seems like there are expectations and unwritten rules as to how your post-secondary experience is supposed to be. It feels as though there are these expectations that you must finish your degree in four years, at one university, and if you don’t you did something wrong. During my post-secondary experience so far, I have met many people who have challenged these expectations and decided to make their post-secondary experience their own. Through these encounters, I have come to realize that there are so many different opportunities and pathways available and that it is possible to take a different path and still end up at the same place as everyone else. Your educational experience is a personal one and there are so many different paths that you can take, which is why I think it’s about time that we changed the way we think about post-secondary education and allow our experience to take us to wherever we want to be, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Award recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people. Successfully engaging individuals in the learning experience depends on an instructor's ability to spark students' curiosity and desire to learn. It is our pleasure to give these remarkable professionals the recognition they deserve.
The CBC recently investigated the availability of racial demographic data across Canadian universities. No surprise to anyone, they found that race-based data is severely limited (read almost non-existent) in the post-secondary sector. In the age of Big Data and the Information Economy, it is heartening to see serious discussion and concern about the ability to make evidence-based decisions in public discourse. Coming on the heels of on-going coverage of Toronto’s Children’s Aid Society’s and the Toronto District School Board’s efforts to show the value of race-based data, this investigation suggests at least some interest to expand this work.
Students’ concerns with housing and transit are generally considered local issues. Problems that exist in one municipality may not exist in another; solutions preferred by one community may be proven deficient elsewhere. These troubles are frequently reported on; it is easy to find news coverage about illegal student housing and the nuisance created by monster homes or about incomplete privately-owned student residences and inadequate interim accommodations. After combing through many articles like these and consulting with one another, our student leaders have grown increasingly confident that their constituents are experiencing common barriers to quality, affordable housing, and extensive inter-regional transit that warrant provincial responses.
The internationalization of higher education brings forth financial, political, and socio-cultural benefits to all stakeholders involved. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, along with the Council of Ontario Universities, among others, have made it clear that international students and, more broadly, international education, are of utmost importance to the Ontario university sector. Nevertheless, substantial financial and cultural barriers persist that raise concerns about the transparency, accountability, and competitiveness of our institutions.
Effective teaching is a crucial component of student learning. Great instructors are capable of elevating course content to engage and inspire students, while poor instructors can significantly detract from the learning experience. Though every university will always have some number of excellent and awful instructors, it is worthwhile to look at the institutional mechanisms that attract, grow, and retain the latter ahead of the former. What practices and policies underlie the establishment of a “culture of teaching” on a university campus, and how does a school without such a culture come to develop one? Despite having spent the better part of the past year in Waterloo’s Federation of Students evaluating this very topic on my own campus, I don’t have any hard answers to offer – but perhaps I can provide some general insights.
Financial barriers have a way of taking over discussions about post-secondary access. Perhaps it is because they are tangible and the solutions are (at least logically) straightforward. Students can’t afford to go to university? Let’s make it more affordable. But as the government continues implementing revolutionary reforms to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, we must continue to prioritize the issue of access in this sector. This year’s access policy paper discusses students’ vision for a comprehensive provincial access strategy--one that prioritizes non-financial barriers to university.
It is amazing to think that we are already in the month of March and that our year will be wrapping up shortly. We at OUSA really look forward to the next couple months as SC approaches its final time with the organization and we begin to start transition. I know speaking from my role as OUSA President that it is going to be a difficult goodbye but I also look forward to the amazing things the incoming team will do.
With the release of the highly skilled workforce report and a significant focus in the sector on work-integrated learning, I feel that there are two things missing from these conversations that need to be addressed.
I really wanted to celebrate Black History Month this year--you know, #BlackFutures. I really wanted to write an informative blog and empower people to learn more about Black history in Canada. But I’ve been doing research. And in thinking about what I wanted to write about and trying to come up with something that would be relevant to the post-secondary sector and informative to readers, I kept coming across this saddening assertion:
Black people in Canada are a heterogenous, disparate group brought together by the shared experience of racism and discrimination.