March Update from the President

Hi everyone!

It's a bittersweet feeling to be writing one of my last monthly updates as OUSA President, but I'm proud of the accomplishments OUSA has made this year and happy for the chance to share them with you. Although March has been a relatively calmer month for OUSA than the previous two, it has still seen important moments in OUSA's advocacy, both in our internal operations as well as our lobbying to the province.

The largest events OUSA hosts each year are its General Assemblies, where delegates from every student association gather to receive updates, set OUSA’s future direction, and debate and ratify policy. This March OUSA hosted its 43rd General Assembly, which focused on OUSA’s Online Learning, Student Employment, and Students with Disabilities papers. My own delegation, McMaster, had a strong presence, including two policy paper authors and one editor. We were also able to bring the MSU President-Elect, Justin Monaco-Barnes, who was able to begin forming important relationships with incoming student union executives. Over the duration of the weekend we were able to welcome many members of the incoming Steering Committee, as well as approve important operational changes to ensure delegates play an even more active role in OUSA's policy development process. By the end of the weekend all three OUSA policy papers were adopted, containing many strong policy points that reflect the priorities of OUSA’s students - for my own part, I know that McMaster students will be especially proud of the Students with Disabilities paper.

During the event, OUSA’s Steering Committee also approved the organization's 2015 - 2018 long-term plan. After discussing and writing the plan for over 8 months I am extremely proud of its balance of idealism and pragmatism, and its willingness to push OUSA's boundaries in multiple different directions. The plan defines strategic direction and goals when advocating for change at different levels of government, as well as events-planning, research practices, and lobbying within the sector. I believe that the plan presents a strong long-term vision for OUSA, and will ensure the organization remains relevant, influential, and successful amid the changing landscape of post-secondary education in Ontario.

Lastly, I have had the pleasure to partake in two notable events in the last month that I believe are worth sharing. The first is my participation at the Advisory Council on Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training. This is a recently developed body hosted by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities that will work to improve the experience of Indigenous students in the post-secondary environment. The inaugural meeting was an important step for bringing an extremely varied group of people together to discuss the body's terms of reference and future steps, and I am excited to continue serving on this body and transition the incoming OUSA President into its work. The second notable opportunity has been the recent panel I attended with the Premier to discuss the budget changes regarding financial aid for students. I was able to ask the Premier questions that were tweeted by students, many of which related to the new financial aid changes. The Premier notably committed to indexing the new Ontario Student Grant to the new tuition framework, and also committed to continue advertising these financial aid changes to high school and university students. Overall it was a very important event, and one that demonstrated the partnership that student organizations have been able to form with government officials.

In the next week I hope to see many of you at OUSA's upcoming Partners in Higher Education Dinner! If you have any questions about OUSA's work this year or would like to get more involved, please reach out to me at president@ousa.ca

All the best,
Spencer Nestico-Semianiw
OUSA President